Desert Found Faith – Part 4 – The Conclusion
By Tammie Chang
(If you have missed the first two installments of this gripping true life story, you can find them here – Part One, Part Two, and Part Three)
"Allah u Akbar, Allah u Akbar," Allah is great, Allah is great," the muezzin’s harmonious voice echoed throughout the border of Egypt and Libya. This was the last and final call to prayer of the day. In view of the situation, I couldn’t help but wonder if this would be the last time I heard the Islamic call to prayer, either by deliverance or death.
There were several spotlights that illuminated parts of the desert. I watched in fascination as numerous Bedouins and guards begun to face Mecca and pray. Even in the desolate desert, men still were brought to prayer by the words of the muezzin. I watched in awe as men dropped their assault rifles and knelt to worship Allah. I was not Muslim but took a slight comfort in the consistent prayer in a not so consistent and dangerous country. I smiled faintly despite of my treacherous situation.
"Hmm," the guard cleared his throat. His face was solemn; I watched at his right trigger finger twitched back and forth in a caressing movement over the trigger. "Papers?" he asked me in Arabic.
I gave him a blank look, my hands trembled slightly as I held the scarf securely over my mouth and nose, the gold I wore on my wrists clanked back and forth.
"Do you have Libyan traveling papers?" he asked again in Arabic.
I never broke eye contact with the guard, "No," I whispered unexpectedly in English.
The guard was noticeably surprised when I answered in English. "Oh no," I thought to myself. "Now he knows that I am an American."
Nassar looked at me for a moment and then stared at the guard, watching his every move.
"Petrol! Petrol!" Men standing in the towers started to shout over the speakers. Red and orange flames sparked the air. A "whooshing" sound penetrated the desert and the fire spread instantaneously. Clouds and clouds of grey smoke arose quickly.
The sound of machine gun fire filled the air; people were firing aimlessly into the sky. I could hear women and children screaming and running for cover. The guard spoke rapidly in Arabic to several of the guards who surrounded the sedan. I could hear Nassar inhale and exhale very softly; Ali fidgeted apprehensively in the front seat, his tailored Armani clothes looked disheveled. The driver sat motionless his hands glued to the steering wheel.
"Please Jesus, we’ve come this far…" I quietly asked God to soften the guard’s heart and to allow me to leave Libya without traveling papers and with all three of my children.
My heart sunk as I watched another American flag consumed by flames. Men, women and children screamed words of destruction to the United States of America. I had seen the destruction of my flag numerous times but I never got used to it or the pain it caused in my heart. I tried to control the tears that flooded my eyes; "Not now," I told myself as I accidentally let go of my scarf and tried to push on my eyes to stop the tears.
The guard cleared his throat again. "Oh no, what have I done?" I quickly tried to cover my face but I realized the guard had already seen me. He stared at me for a moment; puzzled by my tears at first until he turned and saw the flag being burned.
"Are you an American?" the guard asked quietly in heavily accented English. His question was more of a statement rather than a question.
I nodded my head slightly. The violence of the demonstration was escalating, there were people running in the direction of the sedan. I prayed quietly in my heart that the machine gun fire would not strike the car or injure one of the children. Nassar must have sensed my fear and he quickly turned and checked on the children. I could hear him speak softly and gently to them; Nassar loved the children more than Ali.
"Your children?" the guard asked, while watching Nassar interact with them.
"Na’am," I replied. I turned to motion to the children and realized that all three of their little beautiful faces were not underneath the blanket but looking straight at the guard. "Please, they are just children, they are so tired and hungry, please…"
The guard raised his hand to silence me. He looked at each one of the children and then at me. He dismissed the guards that hovered over the sedan. The heavily armed men ran in the direction of the fire; it appeared that several men had already been struck by machine gun fire. The guard turned as if to join the others but stopped and gave me a peculiar look. His face seemed softer, his eyes kinder; he moved his free hand slightly and pointed toward the border gate. I thought my mind was playing tricks on me; I blinked my eyes several times to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. Again he moved his hand and waved it toward the border. Ali was oblivious to this but Nassar noticed everything. The guard looked one last time at the children and then at me, he then abruptly turned and ran to join the others.
"Thank you Jesus, thank you," I prayed with my heart.
"Hayya, hayya," Nassar shouted to the driver to go.
Ali was infuriated that the guard had left; he began to curse in Arabic at me and the United States. Nassar instructed the driver to proceed forward. The driver looked confused and hesitated for a moment; he looked at Ali and then back towards Nassar. Nassar spoke rapid Arabic to the driver while restraining Ali. Whatever Nassar said made the driver stomp on the gas. The sedan swerved, and spun in the desert sand and through the checkpoint. Machine-gun fire riddled the air past the sedan; one bullet caused a shower of glass to explode throughout the car.
"Our Father," I began to whisper the Lord’s Prayer. A scream from my youngest daughter, Kali, pierced the air as glass shattered all around us. The driver kept his foot on the accelerator and the accelerator pressed to the floor. "Dear God, protect us."
As we crossed the border into no man’s land between Libya and Egypt, the gunfire slowed and faded. A whimper from the rear made my heart flutter. Through tears of fear I anxiously pulled each child over the seat and examined them for blood. Their tiny bodies where shaking uncontrollably; I tried to cradle each one into my arms. As I searched the children’s bodies I could hear Ali swearing and yelling at me. Nassar told Ali to be quiet and not move.
I held the children close as they shivered in my arms. I was relieved to find that as far as their flesh was concerned they were not injured. Other than minor scratches from broken glass they were unharmed; they were physically safe. "I love you, I love you," I whispered over and over again to my children. As the car descended down the hill I could see the boarder gates; we were in Egypt. "Thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus," tears of relief poured down my face.
"Mamma," Alexandria spoke softly, "why are you crying?" She asked in Arabic while questioning me with her eyes. Long black eyelashes surrounded huge hazel eyes; dark brown hair surrounded a flawless olive skin face. Delicate and slender fingers reached upwards toward my face and wiped away some of my tears.
I tried to speak but emotions choked my words.
"Don’t cry Mamma," Anthony’s tanned little face was filled with concern, his big brown eyes started to tear. "You said Jesus would protect us and…" he nervously began to twirl his light brown hair streaked golden by the hot Sahara sun. "You said Jesus would help us like the man with the big lions. Remember Mamma, the stories you told us about Jesus and how much He loved us?"
I couldn’t speak but I nodded my head up and down.
Kali lifted her round face toward me. She looked similar to her older sister but her hair was a light golden brown and her face was a darker olive. "You said Jesus can do anything…remember the baby in the river…?"
"Yes I do," I smiled slightly. I realized at that moment that my children’s faith in Jesus was more than mine was or ever had been. They were scared but not surprised at being delivered by Jesus.
"Mamma," Anthony’s voice was sweet but wise, "You said that we should always pray and believe in Jesus…" Anthony stopped twirling his hair and leaned over to whisper in my ears. "Well, Mamma, stop crying then," he tenderly kissed my cheek. "I always knew Jesus would help us and He did."
Tammi Chang is the mother of three beautiful teenagers and works part time for the State of Missouri with youths who have been incarcerated. She is completing her Master’s of Education Degree and writes because she is driven and passionate about the subjects. Tammi is grateful to live in a country where Jesus can be worshiped freely and knows that with Him, she cannot fall – only stumble to her knees in prayer. You can contact Tammi via the Letters page of this Magazine.
Send this Page To a friend!