Today’s Christmas memory comes to us from Amber Smith, a sophomore at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Arkansas. I vividly remember “meeting” Amber for the first time as she toddled around a friend’s living room in Taichung, Taiwan. I couldn’t take my eyes off her as she looked so much like her dad.
Of course, they say that daughters who look like their fathers make the most beautiful women and for Amber, this is surely true. Yet, her beauty runs deep as she has a steadfastness and stamina born out of endurance. Hear Amber’s heart today as she shares teen experiences from war-torn Iraq.
“Living in Baghdad, Iraq during any American holiday season was difficult for my family and me.
“Thanksgiving and Christmas were not going to be the same as they were when we lived in the United States. In fact, I almost dreaded the holidays when it came time to celebrate because I was far away from my brothers and sister and other family members.
“I was 12-years-old when my parents went to the Middle East. It was hard from the day we moved there in April of 2006 until we left two years later.
“I thought it would be like any other country we lived in, full of friendships and traveling. But instead there were bombs, mortars, and military. It was a very scary place to sleep at night. I was the only American girl living in the country of southern Iraq.
“God did give me one Muslim friend my age, Hala. I was extremely thankful for her! Although I didn’t understand it at the time, I see now that Hala needed a girl her age to show her a Christian perspective on war. As difficult as it was, I was able to come back home from Iraq. My friend, Hala still endures.
“Being young in a warzone took a major toll on my spirit. To be honest, I formed such a mental block from my days in Baghdad that I can hardly remember much about it. But what I do remember is this…by that first Christmas I was so weary and missed my family back home so much that even waking was a chore. Facebook and emails depressed me rather than encouraged me, as everyone else seemed to have the Christmas spirit. Even family photos saddened as they excluded my parents and me.
“In Baghdad, the Christmas season was neither colorful, nor was it emphasized like it is at home.
“We did not have a Christmas tree, decorations, or festive music to brighten our home. We had smoke from bombs and dirt and hardship.
“Living in a Muslim country devoid of Christ was sad. Christmas was a hard time of the year, as the Iraqi people treated it just like any another day.
“As Christmas day neared that first year, we received packages from friends and family which brought so much joy to each of us. It made us feel like we were being remembered and loved through all of the hustle and bustle. One box we opened had a 1 foot tall Christmas tree inside and little ornaments! What a sweet surprise! Although it was a small gift, it spoke so much to us. It was a blessing that kept us going.
“I learned that living in a communist or Muslim country where Jesus has no sovereignty over the people means that Christmas or any other traditional American holiday are almost nonexistent. It shows me how desperate we should be to spread the love of Christ with other people so that they may understand the hope and joy we have with our families during special seasons.”
As I read Amber’s post, I was challenged to evaluate who I might know that is alone this Christmas. What action can I take to give them a blessing to keep them going?
Who do you know away from home this Christmas? What will you do about it?