“We have to go to the basement. There is a missile headed our way.”
It was Christmas day in Syria. Aziz’s demeanor was calm as he directed these words to me. His facial expression was normal like he was telling me dinner was ready. It took a couple of seconds to register what he was actually saying to me.
Missiles are headed our way! That did not take long, I thought. I had only been in Syria for three days. I followed him, his parents, and his little sister to the basement where we sought shelter. Thirty minutes later, he got the all clear from someone on the other line of his walkie-talkie; we returned upstairs to eat our dinner that had been interrupted. The missile was not headed our way after all. It was headed to a nearby town.
Heading into a War Zone
Spending Christmas in a war zone was something I had never imagined would be part of my life. But on the contrary, I found myself purchasing my own plane ticket to go and spend Christmas in a war zone. Perhaps, it would have been more conceivable to be spending Christmas in a war zone if the war had come home to me, but this was the other way around.
So there I was, spending Christmas with the persecuted Christians in Syria, a country in the middle of war! Yet, I was full of joy and elated to be in the country where Saint Luke said in the Acts of the Apostles that the followers of Jesus were first called “Christians”.
Answering God’s Call
In 2017, I answered what I believed was a call from God to spend Christmas with the persecuted Christians of Syria whom I had been praying for, for quite some time. The experience was unforgettable. Hearing bombs detonate during Christmas morning Mass was a first for me but “normal” for the Syrians. Their peace gave me peace. Their joy gave me a new meaning of joy. Their faith strengthened my faith. Their courage made me feel like a wimp!
When I left Syria that December, it felt as if I had left a piece of myself behind. I knew that I had to go back. I believed Our Lord was calling me to return. But the question was when, since I had a job here in the states. In the end, God gave me the grace to answer this call in a radical way by resigning from my position and becoming a full-time missionary. I left everything behind because God called, and I knew better than to say no to God.
The Spirit of Service
Spending four and a half months in Syria and subsequently six weeks in Iraq in 2018 through 2019 inscribed, deeper on my heart, the spirit of service that will forever be part of my life. Some of the activities which formed part of my service were: I visited and prayed with the Christians in their homes and in their churches, I listened to their stories of suffering and loss, I rebuilt homes destroyed by missiles and mortars, I taught English and French to school children, I played with orphans, I helped with the renovation of the regional museum of the city of Homs, and I recorded the history of the Christian martyrs and survivors so that it would not be lost.
Serving in a war-torn country has its hardships. There were frequent power outages and the ever-present threat of bombs, even though I served in areas secured by the Syrian government.
The hardships during my time of service made me appreciate even more the things I took for granted at home. For example at home, every time I take a shower, I turn the water faucet and expect warm water to flow out and it does. Or when it is cold I turn on the heater and the room warms up. Not so on mission. With the frequent power outages, the hot water tank became a cold water tank. Consequently, extremely cold showers were the standard. The heater was a mere fixture on the wall, as it was rarely put to use. Despite the hardships, serving persecuted Christians was, and continues to be, one of the greatest joys of my life.
The Source of Peace
Our Lord has put the desire in my heart to work with families in war-torn and distressed countries, to bring about authentic and lasting peace which can only come from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. There are many such countries in our world today; and with God’s grace, I shall spread the love of Christ there.
There is much work to be done; however, it was prudent for me to begin in Syria and Iraq. So, that is where I have served and continue to serve at this time. This is a daunting apostolate. Yet, I am comforted in knowing that when Our good Lord gives us a task, He gives us the grace to accomplish it.
Radical Trust in God
I never imagined that I would resign from a job, that I found very professionally satisfying, in order to become a missionary of love. I worked as the Director of the Conflict Resolution and Mediation program at a large university in North Carolina for three years and forty days. I was hired to establish and run the program and I enjoyed helping people resolve their disputes and conflicts. In the end, I had to resign because the call to love and spread Christ’s love was stronger than professional satisfaction and the paycheck I earned.
Our good Lord has been gracious in helping me understand what He is asking of me. He is asking me to be an apostle of His Love. I recognize my inadequacy in this task. I am a mere jar of clay (2 Cor: 4:7); and I am comforted in knowing that God has the track record of using broken instruments to do His most perfect Will.
My mission is to Love and I want to spend the rest of my life spreading the love of Christ around the world. I kindly ask for your prayers that I may be faithful to what God is asking of me. If you would like to read more about my mission, visit www.myvocationislove.com. If you would like to send me a note, send it to Nkaze@myvocationislove.com. If you would like to support me and my mission, kindly make a donation by clicking on this link https://goget.fund/2SChky4. I thank you for your prayers and your generosity.