I would kill myself if it wasn't for my children, I must stay alive, for them.
We walked up to the abandoned building where they were living, not knowing their names and not knowing their stories.
Their "house" is a shell of concrete, without walls, it was most likely abandoned by the contractors when the war became just too unstable for investors. Buildings like this are scattered throughout this city and many are now occupied by families just like this one. Ones who've lost everything because of war and tragedy.
We took our shoes off as we walked onto the concrete slab and greeted them. As if we were old friends they invited us to sit down on the neatly placed mats so that we could talk.
We soon found out their story.
He was a successful businessman in Syria. He had a nice house, a good car, and his family was healthy and whole. On top of his business he owned a few farms. He said that life was perfect until... until war. He was in one of the main cities that was destroyed when Assad decided to start bombing his own people. He told stories of bullets flying near him and his family the day they decided to flee.
He ended up here in Kurdistan with almost everything they owned left in Syria. He had enough money to rent a house here for a while and like most they expected that the bombings would stop and soon they would be able to go back to HOME. Home the place I hear about over and over again as we work with refugees. The place they all long to be, but instead must prioritize the safety of their children over their deep yearning for home.
The family sold the car they drove here, they sold all the jewelry, one by one they sold everything they owned and yet still eventually it all ran out as they waited for their home to become safe again.
This successful businessman does what he can selling things on the side of the road to provide for his family. As he shared his story of heartache and war, he made the statement that stuck me in my heart. "I'd kill myself if it wasn't for my children."
It's not the first time we've heard things like this and honestly, it's just not too shocking in response to the things they've endured.
I look at this man and my heart breaks with compassion. He was living a normal life. He sounds all too much like many families I know and care about. Working a great job, making a great income, supporting his growing family, loving his children and grandchildren.
Just. Living. Life.
And then bombing by his own government.
Most of the stories are similar. Just living life, then ISIS came. Just living life, then they killed him. Just living life, then we had to flee.
Of course the incredible missionaries here loved on him and his family. They gave them some food, cooking oil, and other supplies. They prayed for his wife's illness. They did what they do so well, they stopped for the one. As they do over. and over. and over again.
This isn't the first family they stopped for and it won't be the last. They'll continue to visit, they'll continue to help, and they'll continue to love. As love does, I'm sure next time I return this man who couldn't find the strength to smile will be smiling and laughing. Because that is what love does.
Love breaks through the walls of pain. Love breaks into the heart of trauma. Love brings hope in the most devastating situations. Love is able to bring joy even in the most dark places. It doesn't always happen in an instant. It doesn't always look exactly how we want it to look. But make no mistake about it, Love. is. the. answer.
Love that doesn't need anything in return. Love that is patient. Love that is kind. Love that bears up under all things. Love that is forever unconditional.
When we begin to stop for the one in front of us and love with absolute pure love, just like Jesus did, then we will see people transformed.
My heart breaks over the reality that this man's story is more normal than what we want to admit. There are many families who have seen violence first hand and have lost everything because of it. My heart breaks because many of these have never felt the love of Jesus. It has never been presented to them. They've never known what it is like to be loved by someone who desired nothing, but the honor of loving.
We must reach out to those who are hurting. We must be the hands and feet of Jesus. We must choose love.