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"Coyote" part 9 'If this is answered prayer?'
From the Author
Sorry we had to take a bit of a break last week, a few storms came down our way, least that's part of the reason.
Another part of the reason is this week's episode wasn't easy to write, it deals with a few questions that we believers sometimes need to take a moment to think about before claiming our 'answers' to prayer.
Samir's swindler has been caught, and justice seems so near, but not everything is as 'clear cut' as we sometimes think they are, what about the family left to 'pick up the pieces?' how do they put their lives back together?
Confused? read on and see what I mean.
Hope you enjoy this week's installment
“Where have you been?” Sara was frantic, she'd seen the little convoy arrive back a couple of hours before, father Boutros showed up not long after, but no Samir, that had been a worry.
She'd asked father Boutros, but all he'd said was someone from the authorities had wanted to talk to Samir, that thought terrified her.
“Sara, calm down” Samir held her close as she burst into tears, “I've got some news, I think it's good news” he didn't even sound convinced himself, let alone reassuring his wife.
She pushed away slightly, looking up into his face, tears in her cheeks, she held his eyes for a moment. “What news?”
He wasn't sure how to begin. “I think we better make ourselves comfortable” he looked sheepish, he guided her to the cushions round the rug in their main room, “this is pretty strange.”
It took them the best part of an hour, going over everything Haj Mustafa had said, and the things he hadn't, the fears they both had, the whole ridiculous hope of ever seeing the money again, and the fact Haj Mustafa had insisted Hamid would only be released when the money he stole was paid back.
Sara was just as 'gobsmacked’ as he'd been, they'd both given up hope of ever getting the money back, and with that, hope of a new life, far from the constant fear and persecution had died, but now, possibly, just possibly, hope was beginning to rise.
“When are you going, you know, to see Haj Mustafa?” she asked hesitantly, “to find out”
“He said Hamid is being transferred tomorrow,” Samir began, “the hearing is meant to be the day afterwards, with Hamid's family there, it's basically to tell them what they need to do to get him released, and make sure they understand they need to feed him while he's in prison.”
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.— Book of Hosea Chapter 6 verse 6
'At the office'
Haj Mustafa's 'office’ was close to the centre of town, where most of the main government 'offices’ were, though calling them 'offices’ was generous to say the least.
What had been the local police station had been taken over, a few alterations made, like rough cells, with one side open to the elements (only bars holding back the prisoners). No heating, almost no shelter and a 'squat pot’ in a corner functioned as a toilet, the squat pot was overflowing, even in the cold weather, the stench was nauseating.
The 'cell’ Hamid was in was fifteen feet by fifteen, the open part facing east, getting the worst of the weather, squat pot adding to the torture. He was in with ten others.
None of the inhabitants of the cell had more than a thin, worn out blanket, a filthy piece of foam wrapped in linen passed for a pillow was all they had for protection against the cold.
An enormous ornate desk dominated the room, a sign of the authority of the man behind it, with the exception of a small glass of tea, the desk was totally bare, a blank 'canvas’ shouting to all around, “this is the desk of a man who delegates, and gets his minions to do the work.”
Hamid's family were already in the office, his father, an old man in his seventies, he was dressed in a faded western suit that had seen better days.
“Please effendi” he implored, arms hanging down, slightly away from his body, palms turned upwards in an expression of submission, “we're a poor family, we have nothing!” The woman beside him, Samir guessed she was Hamid's mother, she was weeping.
There were eight of them altogether. Mother, Father, three brothers and three sisters, the men, all looking hopeless and despondent, the women, two were weeping, the other two had no more tears to give.
Haj Mustafa sat behind the desk, fingering his prayer beads, he looked thoroughly bored, not even slightly interested in the misery before him.
The moment Samir and Luka walked into the room, he seemed to come out of whatever he was thinking about, not interested and not listening to the poor people pleading their case before him, Hamid had done wrong, and that wrong needed to be put right, that’s all he was interested in.
The meeting stopped while each person in the room either was greeted by Samir or greeted him, even Hamid’s family took part in the greetings, Hamid wasn’t there, he was still in the cells.
“We’re here to discuss the reparations that need to be made to secure Hamid’s release” Haj Mustafa began, making it plain that there wasn’t going to be a trial, or even a hearing, all pleas was falling on deaf ears, his fate had been decided, and all that remained was the working out of the punishment.
Take a moment to meditate on these lyrics
“But sir” Hamid’s father began, “we’re not rich, how can we” he didn’t have chance to finish.
“SILENCE” Haj Mustafa cut him off, “This isn’t a hearing to determine guilt” he came back, “Hamid stole money from Samir and a number of other good Iraqi citizens, some of whom were Kurds, we can’t right that wrong, but we can right the wrong done to Samir, and that’s what we’re going to do!” he was emphatic.
The old man was almost collapsing under the strain, all the responsibility was sitting squarely on his shoulders, a burden too great for him, but not one that was going away anytime soon, Samir actually felt sorry for the family, it wasn’t them who’d done the wrong, it was Hamid, but they’d bear the responsibility to put it right!
“Please’ sit down” Haj Mustafa’s tone softened slightly, two guards, who’d been stood by the door advanced and gently led the man back to a chair, one stood just behind him, one arm gently resting on his shoulder, partly to reassure him, and partly to hold him in place and prevent further outbursts.
“Dilshad” Haj Mustafa turned to the clerk at a smaller desk off to the right, “what is the present exchange rate for Iraqi dinars?”
“Forty five to the US dollar effendi” the clerk replied.
“And Samir, how much did Hamid take from you?” Haj Mustafa asked.
“Six thousand American dollars effendi” Samir was almost terrified for the family, but it was matter of record.
“That’s how much in dinars?”
“Two hundred and seventy thousand dinars effendi” it was Dilshad that replied.
“All of which needs to be repaid for Hamid to walk free” Haj Mustafa said with an air of finality, the sheer hopelessness of the situation hitting everyone, there was no way the family could ever afford to repay the money, even selling everything they had wouldn’t raise a quarter of what was needed.
Is this really an 'answer'?
The rest of the meeting lasted only a few minutes more as Haj Mustafa explained that the family would have to take care of Hamid’s needs, they’d be allowed to meet with him as much as they needed to, and would be expected to take care of feeding and clothing him as nothing would be supplied by the guards. That raised protests from the family as they lived at least an hour’s drive away in Dohuk, but Samir stepped in and said he’d help out with bringing food for him on a couple of days a week, it wouldn’t be much, but he’d make sure he got food, even Luka agreed with that, after all you can’t get money out of a man if he starves to death!
Samir left the meeting with a sick feeling, sick at the fact that Hamid’s greed had created such a huge burden for his family, sick that even though revenge is supposed to ‘taste sweet’ it was a sickly sweet that made him want to vomit! He’d never entertained thoughts of revenge, mainly because he never thought it possible, but now, with it within his grasp, he realized just how empty it was, it leaves you hollow and bitter, was this the way God answers prayer? And if so, did he really want to follow one that answers one prayer by creating misery for others?
“It’s only a step brother” Luka was saying as they left the building, “It’s only a step, it’s not the answer, God doesn’t do things like this, he’s got another plan, we just need to keep watching and follow through with where it leads!”
There's times when I've heard people claim an 'answer' to their prayer and they never realized the pain caused by that answer, sometimes it's in the next street, or at times in another country, but someone, somewhere is paying the price of that 'answer'.
My question this week' is the same one that Samir had to face when he left that building, does God really answer one prayer by causing pain for someone else, even if that person is a different religion?
There's a few more questions we're going to be asking as we go through the book, and there aren't any straightforward answers, but next time you ask God for something, look out for an answer, it just might not come the way you expect, and if it hurt's someone else, then is it really an answer you want, in that case give it back and ask for one that glorifies him!
Strange I know, but is it really?
While you're waiting for the answer, sing this song.
If you're interested
The church in the picture is called 'The church of the good shepherd' on Lake Tekapo in New Zealand's south island, just thought I'd add that.