Gears turning, lens adjusting, beeping, then a sharp flash. I lifted my head from our community prayer Friday morning and looked over my shoulder to discover that our courtyard was so overflowing with people that they had spilled into the tiny alcove that leads to the living room where we sat praying. The tiny alcove was so full that it reminded me of a phone booth bursting with people. But these people were armed with cameras. Realizing that we needed to respond to this crowd of people, I left the nearly finished prayer and walked into our office. There I found even more people that had scattered through our office into the back room and even up the stairs to our bedrooms. It felt like an army of ants that had received their orders to spread out and invade. And they were carrying out their orders successfully.
As I began to engage the crowd, and others in our group also, a slow but sure sense of order took place. But I chuckled to myself as different volunteers finished their prayers, and humbly attempted to return to their desks as usual, only to have their eyes bug out by the swarming people preventing their passage (please note that my pictures don't do justice to the large amounts of people that were here. By the time I started taking pictures, the initial storm had passed).
Kristina and I ran upstairs to the Kurdish mothers to give them notice that today was a special "Open House" day in Jerusalem for people from all over the country to explore the city's buildings, and that our house was considered special and historic. The mothers were very gracious and understanding, although a bit confused at first. Today was also the Muslim holiday El Adha, and they had been preparing a special lunch meal for us all to enjoy in the celebration. With lunch still a few hours off, the Kurdish mothers graciously opened their door to the throng of people waiting and curious to see the families we helped. Kristina and I did our best to welcome them in, but also guided them in appropriate ways to pass through their living area respectfully (“please no shoes on the rug,” keeping the bedroom shut as a personal space, translating kind words for those that expressed it, etc). The mothers gradually even engaged the visitors, either through interpretation, or (for one of them) through the common language of Arabic.
I must admit, my initial feeling of invasion was softened and eventually released as I discovered time and again how kind these people were. Countless people expressed how touched they were by the ministry, how happy they were for the children to be receiving surgery, and how encouraging it was to know this good news exists in a land strewn with bad news.
As lunch approached and the sheer number of new people coming in to see our building did not dwindle, we decided that some should stay out in the courtyard to greet and engage, while others closed the door upstairs and sat with the Kurdish families for the El Adha feast. Encouraging connections and conversations were made outside the door, while inside a unique moment was unfolding.
You see, El Adha celebrates the willingness and faith of Abraham to sacrifice his son, the fact that the Lord provided a lamb in his place, and that Abraham then became the father of many nations through his son. While many of us partook in the special meal, Kristina engaged the Kurdish mothers on this topic, knowing that the story of father Abraham was a common denominator between our two faiths. The mothers were all excited to be engaged in the purpose of celebrating El Adha, but very quickly admitted that they did not know the story of Abraham! Only one mother knew the story! Upon hearing this, Kristina dove into a beautiful rendition of the story in her best Kurdish.
Now, for those of you that haven’t volunteered with us, let me explain that in all my time here, I have observed how very difficult it is to have complete attention from the Kurdish mothers. It is very common to have one mother loudly scolding her child in the middle of a prayer, talking openly on her phone while someone is trying to address the whole group, or even simply losing interest in the conversation and begin talking about something else. But let me tell you, I sat there in total shock and awe as every single Kurdish woman was absolutely captivated by Kristina’s story of Abraham. For at least 10 minutes, no one else spoke, moved a muscle or even looked anywhere but at Kristina. Even the children were still. She had complete, undivided attention. The Holy Spirit was doing His job. I was in awe.
The one mother who did know about the sacrifice of Abraham’s son helped Kristina tell the story. Almost in a beautiful, child-like, “ooh, ooh, I know! I know! I know what happened next!” kind of way. The whole experience was unlike any I have ever been a part of at Shevet Achim.
We reopened the upstairs later in the day, and around 2:00 the visitors dwindled and eventually stopped. We closed our front gate, and all looked at each like, “What just happened?”
The visitors came. The visitors saw. But ultimately, God conquered.