Cairo, Misrata, Benghazi, Busra – these cities have been at the forefront of my mind the last few months.
This term has become equivalent to breathing. Yet the heaviness of the reality of that term is the yoke that working in ministry in the Middle East and North Africa bears. It taints everything. Because the term UNREST does not just involve masses of people, challenging ideas and military actions. It carries with it the reality of mothers, fathers, daughters, sons and dear friends pressed to the point of breaking, pressed even to death. And, if we stop and ponder just for a minute the grief each one must experience, we can realize that no one chooses revolution and conflict easily. Yet, there are causes that warrant the sacrifice of UNREST. Mere existence, freedom of breath and expression, ability of spiritual brothers and sisters gathering for encouragement and worship together, these are worthy morsels worth putting on the line hearts, relationships, homes and life.
Let’s pause now and not just think of these situations as news stories, as happenings from afar. Let’s approach these as intimate, tactile, dirt under the fingernails, tear or blood matted hair – real situations. Unlike the typical headline: More Unrest in the Middle East, we should refer to UNREST in a different light. A more realistic headline should read: Breaking News – More Unrest in the lives of Bushra and her daughter Daliyah who can’t find one another amidst the acrid smoke of tear gas and smell of burning tires, who can’t return home because the way is blocked and even if they did, their home now has a gaping hole in the southwest corner from an errant mortar. And, tomorrow they will need to begin finding a way to scrape together enough money to buy bread since Ali their husband and father was slain as he returned from gathering supplies, in the Middle East town of Misrata, Libya. This is the meaning of UNREST.
I bring this to you today because I’ve just had my perspective hit with a 7.2 temblor. While my work requires me to think often about the above scenarios, I found myself this weekend on a furlough in the USA, on the American Independence day. In some respects it is the most joyful time to re-enter my previous habitat. This independence celebration is newly joyful but also weightily pensive in contrast to my new region of domicile.
We took the kids to the 4th of July parade in a local Michigan town. It was festive, colorful, peaceful. Celebrating freedom that was won on the backs of hard fighting men and women from long ago is such good place to be. Sitting in the sun, watching the flags, veterans, kids and candy is so sweet. I soaked it in with my inner being.
It also became clear that there is a strong correlation between the sight and sounds of this celebration and the UNREST still on-going in the Middle East and North Africa. In the midst of a fight ending in either an uncertain freedom or certain death is the pinnacle of tribulation. The people fighting now are not any less loved by God, are not any less diligent in their struggle, nor less deserving of their freedom. And, they may or may not actually obtain their goal despite fighting as hard as our forefathers did.
So, as it turns out our return at this time was a blessing. The freedom in the USA is a blessing. But, these blessings are not deserved, nor a privilege of being from a certain location, nor for being righteous. It is undeserved favor. If this is true, receiving these blessings without uttering words of intercession on behalf of those enduring or even succumbing to the struggle is far short of the mark set before us. This idea is causing me to be in a state of UNREST. Time to pray. Will you join me?