These stuffed animals, placed on the porch of the house my church owns, the house that became a home for a Syrian refugee family till a short time ago, moved me to tears in a way that was unexpected, as I arrived at the church last Friday to make the final preparations for the community vigil we were hosting that night.
You see, the children of the family, the Barho family, that lived there all died last week in a tragic housefire, seven of them. Seven. Ages 3 months to 14 year. And they were moving back in a couple of weeks, they missed the sense of community in the small town. While I wasn’t part of the organization that sponsored them, we interacted on a fairly regular basis; they came to the church for English lessons each day with one of my parishioners, my office overlooks the parking lot and I watched the children learn to ride bikes and I marvelled at their resilience. There is something SO wrong about surviving a civil war in their home country, and then dying in a house fire in Canada!
I shared these words from Psalm 139 at the vigil:
7 Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
The children were Muslim, but as one of the Abrahamic faiths, I felt our sacred words were appropriate, as most of the gathered community is nominally Christian. And the Muslim sheik shared words from the Koran.
The funeral was last Saturday, I did not attend, I haven’t even been able to watch the recording of it. But these words, spoken at the funeral by Sheikh Hamza Mangera, imam at Ummah Mosque have been my prayer since then, “Life is so short, there isn’t enough time to love. I don’t know where people find time to hate.”