Recently, I was allowed the honor of sitting with a young Middle Eastern girl named Maya*. She was pure joy to be with.
Maya’s sister was kidnapped last year. Sadly, kidnapping of young girls in this area is not uncommon. Christian girls are prime targets. Her sister, Hanna*, was 14 years old at the time. Her captors planned to force her to convert and marry her kidnapper, a man her father’s age. Maya and Hanna are the daughters of a Christian pastor from a poor village. The family lacked the money demanded by their daughter’s kidnappers.
The Middle East is rich in family bonds and loyal communities. Hanna’s ransom was raised by her extended family, and she was rescued. She was swiftly moved far from home and into a safe house for young girls.
Maya and Hanna’s father succumbed to a broken heart and died shortly after the ransom was paid and Hanna was safe. The weight of pain that rested upon him proved too heavy a burden to shoulder. The Middle East is a shame and honor society, and even victims bear the shame from atrocities committed against them.
Hanna continues to live in a safe house for her protection and that of her family. She is able to have regular visits with her mother, Maya, and other relatives. As for Maya and her mother, they’ve relocated to the home of her uncle.
One would think that Maya would be withered from the trauma she’s met head on in her young life. To the contrary, she shines with a special grace afforded those who’ve traversed through the precipice of suffering and loss. Amidst her heartache, God has graced her with joy and happiness. The fires of suffering having produced in her the purest of gold.
I’ll not soon forget Maya—or her story. Her brown eyes and beautiful smile are forever seared upon my heart. I would have traveled half way around the world to sit with her. We laughed, talked, and cried together. She held my arm tight and laid her head upon my shoulder while saying to me, “I love you,” or in Arabic, “أحب.”
*Names have been changed for security reasons.