The year was 1993. We were living in Damascus, Syria. I look up from my computer and out my window, thinking how long ago that seems. Yet the memory is clear.
Her name was Kaokub. In English, it meant planet. I always thought that was a funny name to name a child, but some thirty years later, I can now say, it’s not too bad compared with others I’ve heard.
Kaokub wasn’t a child though, she was a wife and mother of seven. We met her through one of her daughters, who’d been begging in our neighborhood. Now, after several months, we knew the entire family. They lived on the outskirts of the city, their cement block house surrounded by a wall. A metal, industrial-type door led guests into a small courtyard — a patch of dirt really, no grass. Their family home was composed of two rooms and a minute kitchen and bath.
I remember when we made our first visit to their home. Her daughter, Mona, was so happy to show me her drawer in the family wardrobe. It was the one place where she could put “her” things and lock it up. The privacy in community was confined to a single drawer, but that’s another story.
It would be New Year’s Day, 1993, when Kaokub gave her life to Jesus. When she prayed, she prayed that all of her children would have what she had. Over the next several months, her prayer was answered.
Yet, there was one thing Kaokub didn’t have, that she so desperately wanted — to learn to read. The same day that she began her new life, she asked for help to learn to read. Why? So that she could read the Bible for herself. Until that day came, she would have to rely on her children to read to her. A short month later, one of her children died. She’d been a vegetable since birth, but Kaokub had loved and cared for her for seven years without complaint.
On the night she died, we saw the anguish of a mother’s heart. Yet, as she later washed and prepared her child’s body for burial, Kaokub had another daughter reading to her from the Bible. She now found comfort for her soul in the Word of God.
Beginning 1993 as a new creation in Christ did not mean that life got easier for Kaokub or her family, but it did mean that she found hope and comfort in the trials of life. I was touched by the simple, deep faith of a woman so utterly other than me and yet, so like me; a woman leaning on the Word of God for strength and peace in a troubled world.
Do you have a person who demonstrates what it means to be a Christian? Are you that person for others?
May we all be able to pray that our children will have what we have.
Grace and Peace