I’ve known him since I was 5 years old. I’ve always been struck by his love for Jesus, simple as it is. Over and over, he would joyfully sing, the Arabic words to the fast-beat song: “Be victorious! Be victorious! Through Jesus’ precious blood, we will overcome!” He sang it like no one else ever does: clapping his hands, closing his eyes and shaking his head, causing more compassion to rise in my small heart.
This was Farah (Arabic for joy), our neighbour and regular church attendee. He is now 38 years old; physically and mentally handicapped and has always been. Farah eats unconsciously and has thus become massively overweight. Wrinkles have started to sneak on his dark-coloured face, but His love for Jesus has witnessed no wrinkles whatsoever.
Farah never misses a church service and is never ashamed to talk to Jesus or about Him as much as his understanding allows. When he prays, he says over and over: “Jesus heal me. Amen” Although Jesus has not yet physically healed him; He is definitely working in his child-like heart and giving him joy for the journey. I sometimes wonder why it is difficult for those of us not physically or mentally challenged to simply love Jesus for who He is. Why do we sometimes mumble when we seek to express our love and prayers to Him? Why do our circumstances determine our heart’s attitude towards the Lord?
I was thinking of Farah and trying to answer these questions whilst sitting on the roof of our house under the burning sun. Needless to say, the heat of the summer is scorching in good old Bethlehem. The temperature can soar to 38 Celsius degrees some days. Looking across, I watched the interesting procedure of supplying our neighbours with water from private tank dealers. There wasn’t a single drop left in their water tap. As part of the ongoing conflict, many inhabitants of Bethlehem are facing severe water shortages this summer. Some people can be without a regular water supply for continuous days. To cope with simple daily needs like drinking, washing dishes and clothes, showering and watering plants, the only solution is to either buy bottled water or purchase it from tank dealers. Purchasing water poses a huge financial burden for people on low incomes…
As I watched the water being hosed from road level to the tank on our neighbour’s roof, Farah’s song was still playing in my mind. Can we be victorious even when it feels like the dryness and heat of the desert have literally invaded our houses? In many homes, a metaphorical desert blows in, when there are Farah-type people in the house adding to the myriad of other pressures, and there are no means or places available to care for them.
The other day I overheard Farah’s father asking for some water to shave his son’s beard. Farah’s father has a hunchback and a broken heart. Life is not easy for him either. Living all his life with a son who has severe challenges requires lots of patience, especially in a place like Bethlehem where medical help (or in fact, any kind of help) is hardly ever at its best.
The sun was too much to bear now. I went to sit in the shade but my mind was still thinking of Farah and his family. When I consider what some people have to go through, I am all the more thankful for my own life. This reality also prompts me to think and pray for others like Farah’s family and think of ways in which I could be a shining testimony to my neighbours. After all shouldn’t I love my neighbour like myself? Shouldn’t I remember those going through difficulties as though I was going through them myself? Aren’t we, in Christ’s church and family, supposed to be one body? When one part suffers or rejoices, the other parts should naturally feel the same.
As I write this, the singing voice of Farah continues to echo in my ears – he even gets the tune better than I do – but getting the tune right is not my number one challenge! My and your challenge is whether today we can look at things in the eyes of faith and proclaim as Farah does: “Through Jesus’ previous blood we will overcome.” Can we proclaim this fact in our lives, difficult and challenging as they might be? Water or no water, health or no health, income or no income, handicaps or the lack of them?!
Each us must answer this question in our own hearts. But the smile and the joy on Farah’s face says it all. I wonder: do we actually need people like Farah in our lives to remind us to be joyous in the Lord NOT in our circumstances? I find nothing more relevant than to quote Paul saying in Romans 12: 2: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
Blessings and peace