The following is actually Sarah's story. It's a true story. One that she experienced in the Moria refugee camp in Greece. A story that still has a grip on her heart. Although I was present when it was happening, I wasn't close enough to the conversation to realize exactly what was occuring. Sarah shared the details with me later.
A young Syrian man,*Ali, was painting with us one day. On his artwork, he painted a black heart. One of the volunteers asked him, "Why? Don't do that!" She reached over with her paint brush and painted over the black heart with red paint.
He seemed disappointed and he didn't respond. He just sat there in silence for a bit. The volunteer went back to talking and painting with other refugees.
After a few minutes, *Ali painted over the red heart with black paint. Again, the other volunteer said, "No. Don't do that. Black hearts are not good. Use red." And she painted over it again.
A few moments later, he repainted the heart with his black paint. So the volunteer said, "Why? Why do you keep doing this?"
*Ali answered, "This is my heart now."
"Why? Why do you say that?", asked the volunteer.
He replied, "I lost the love of my life in a bomb attack." His fiance was killed in Syria during a bombing. He began to cry at the table. Everyone was silent. Everyone could feel the pain, even though not everyone was aware of the story. Every one of those men at that table has a similar story and sadness, and when tears break through and fall, everyone just knows and falls silent. Everyone has lost someone in these wars. Everyone has something in common with *Ali.
A few moments later, the volunteer picked up her paintbrush and dipped it in white paint and covered the black heart with white. *Ali watched. The volunteer then painted flowers in and around the heart. A smile started to form on his face as he watched her paint. He wiped his eyes and said, "Thank you, Sister".
The interesting thing here, and I believe that God played a part in intervening in the situation, is that the one thing I hear over and over and over again in the camps is a desire to see clean hearts, to know people with clean hearts, and to have a clean heart. It is a prominent piece of religion and culture for Muslims, and without even realizing it, the volunteer painted a depiction of a clean heart for *Ali, a future for him that included a clean heart and happiness and beauty that would come again.
This is not exactly how art therapy should go, obviously. This volunteer was not trained and just happened to be at the table at this moment. But at the same time, there was breakthrough. God used this moment for love. He intervened, I'm positive! There were emotions shared. A story was told. Something that was bottled up was allowed in to the light. Pain was exposed and a sacred space was created for a few moments. Only in these moments of vulnerability and openness can we truly see each other and learn to love each other well. Only in these moments do we come close and realize that we are not alone - *Ali is not alone, and there is hope.
Who am I? In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a Southern Living / Martha Stewart wannabe, a soccer mom, and a short term mission team coordinator / intern director for missions in Mexico... you name it, I probably tried it!
In 2006, my husband Billy and I became cross-cultural workers (CCWs) with TMS Global. For five years, we served in three rural Quechua Wanca villages in the Andes of Peru. And when I say rural, I mean RURAL - like no potty! We have three incredible children... two adult boys who live in Texas, and the Sarah (14) lives with us in whatever country we are serving. I'm still teaching, still taking photos, still leading teams and mentoring, I just do it all in full-time service now! And I'm working hard at giving Southern Living and Martha Stewart a run for their money! I spent my days in Peru learning to live a Quechua lifestyle in a rustic adobe house - cooking Peruvian foods, sewing with Quechua women, raising my chickens and goats and pigs, and planting my gardens. Now I live my life in small town Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers and immigrant peoples, writing, and trying to figure out what life looks like for a Texas girl serving Christ in Southern Europe. Life in His service is AWESOME! I'm happy to share it with you here... Enjoy!