Lebanon/Syria Day Seven/Part Two: And We Are Still Living

Syria Appeal 2017 MO.JPG

by Jim Wood, for the team

As he speaks, I strain to hear over the shelling. Relentless, less than a mile away. New for me but daily – 2,300 straight days daily – for him and the 180 or so beautiful bright smiling preschoolers romping around us. Knowing the question on my face, Pastor Ma’an Bitar looks at the children and says, “They sleep hearing voices and they wake hearing voices.”

“Only our city remained,” he speaks with deep pride. Mhardeh, his rural town of 23,000, all Christian, three hours north of Damascus is the only town or village where all chose – choose – not to flee. Stubborn defiance. The photos of the martyrs, those young and old killed by the crisis, memorially ensconced on his Presbyterian church walls. A growing roll call of saints. “And we are still living.” His words bring chills.

This idyllic rural village of hard-working good people – Middle America Syria – caught in a ceaseless battle not of their own. Resistant in their stubbornness to abandon what they know and love: The land and each other. “And we are still living.”

Children laughing and skipping. “And we are still living.”

Women siting in the mulberry shade on old plastic chairs, sharing recipes and stories. “And we are still living.”

Men shuffling their feet, spitting in the dirt, celebrating Barcelona’s winning streak. “And we are still living.”

Streets filled at night under street lamps of defiance. The young bashful in their flirting. “And we are still living.”

Christians gathered, praying for peace. “And we are still living.”

Perhaps the greatest protest to death and proclamation of life is simply to say, “And we are still living.”

Rev. Jim Wood
First Presbyterian Church, Norfolk, Virginia