Dear friends, my sisters and brothers,
Epiphany is often co-celebrated with the flight into Egypt and the slaughter of the innocents; a mixed collection of celebrations. I was so touched by a story and devotional at our recent Calgary Office staff Christmas gathering from our newest staff member Majd Ajji. I would like to share some of it with you in my newsletter. Majd will be working with Rod Olson (and with us) for the next few months, helping churches get matched with refugee families and helping sponsors with paperwork and applications. Below is a Q&A based on his devotional to give you an opportunity to get to know him.
Where were you born, and where have you lived much of your life?
I was born in Aleppo, Syria and was raised in Lebanon for the first 12 years of my life. Then as a family we moved back to Aleppo and spend the other half of my life.
Your family has been in ministry and your father was pastor of a Baptist church in one of the most heavily destroyed cities in the world; could you tell us about that?
My father studied theology in ABTS with my mother back in the 90’s and in the beginning of 2000’s my parents felt that God is calling them to go back Aleppo and plant a Baptist church over there. And that was it, we left everything in Lebanon and moved to Syria. We had a great ministry in the church of Aleppo that took place in an area filled with Muslims and we had a great ministry among them. In 2012 the war started in Aleppo and the church was affected badly by it and an explosion once took place in front of the church and it was deeply destroyed. However, despite all of this, the ministry continued and flourished.
You have been a student at an institution well known to us. Can you tell us about your time in that seminary in Lebanon?
I left to Lebanon in 2012 and started my theological studies in ABTS, 25 years after my parents graduated. It was a great experience for me and I learned a lot. It was a dream for me to study theology and I still have the dream to have further studies in church history.
What brought you to Canada, and to this work with the CBWC?
I was privately sponsored to come to Canada and arrived here in the summer of 2015. Since I was in Lebanon I was in touch with Rod Olson via emails and when I landed I met Rod and we felt that we can make a good team together. I came several times to the office to help Rod with some of the work he is doing and then was asked by CBWC to work for a longer term.
Please tell us a little bit about the work that you and Rod do.
Working with refugees was my ministry in Lebanon. I was working with LSESD leading a team of 4 people there in order to reach 500 families. It was a great experience and it is just my passion in life. Coming here I found that Rod had the same heart and the same passion. We are working on encouraging the churches of western Canada to get involved and sponsor families in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Since I am familiar with all the topics related to culture, resettlement, religion and paperwork, I am able to help Rod that is leading this ministry in a great way.
Thank you so much for all that you do with us, and in the Lord’s strength, together. But finally, Majd, please tell us about the discernment of your parents and in-laws when they simultaneously gave you a wonderful scripture.
The reason of me being in Canada after all those hard years before was ambiguous. Couple of weeks ago my parents and my in-laws simultaneously gave me the idea of thinking about Joseph. I went to my bible and started reading the story of Joseph and found out that I am just like him. I was having a great life back in Syria, and then I was obliged to leave and be suffering in Lebanon for a long time, and then coming to Canada for another ambiguous part of my life. But then we read that Joseph tells his brothers that God has brought him to Egypt in order that he gives hope to his people. And here I found that God was directly telling me that I am here for a specific reason, hope to my people.
In a world of turmoil, strife, and worry, there are lights that are afire which no wind can blow out. The fire of the Holy Spirit is in Majd, and in Rod, and the holy work we do together, with and through them.
Thanks be to God.
Refugee by Malcolm Guite
(This sonnet, familiar to some, sums up so much of the refuges experience in the flight of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus to Egypt.)
We think of him as safe beneath the steeple,
Or cosy in a crib beside the font,
But he is with a million displaced people
On the long road of weariness and want.
For even as we sing our final carol
His family is up and on that road,
Fleeing the wrath of someone else’s quarrel,
Glancing behind and shouldering their load.
Whilst Herod rages still from his dark tower,
Christ clings to Mary, fingers tightly curled,
The lambs are slaughtered by the men of power,
And death squads spread their curse across the world.
But every Herod dies, and comes alone
To stand before the Lamb upon the throne.
(Permission kindly granted in 2012.)