Desert Found Faith Ė Part 3
By Tammie Chang
(If you have missed the first two installments of this gripping true life story, you can find them here Ė Part One and Part Two)
"Madame," Nassarís raspy voice startled me, "please Madame, donít."
I lifted my head slightly. I avoided eye contact with Ali and looked at my guardís pleading face. My hand still clutched the cold metal handle. My thoughts were racing; everything in my world was happening so fast, yet at this moment time seemed to stand still.
We had hurriedly left the villa this morning after the cars were deemed ready to travel. I had hastily prepared the children and grabbed some of our belongings. Now, ten hours later, I was on the border of Egypt and Libya in the middle of an Anti-American Demonstration. My childrenís lives were in danger. The only thing I could think of was to surrender myself to save them; my life held little meaning compared to theirs. I only hoped that they would hold close to their heart all of the stories and songs I had taught them about Jesus and never forget Him. I started to tear but forced myself to be strong.
I just wish I had taught them more of my God and of Jesusí love and mercy. I wiped away a lone tear. Now was not the time to cry; I had to be brave for the sakes of my children. I didnít want their last memory of their mother to be of me crying and pleading for my life.
"Curse you," Ali swore at me in Arabic. His eyes were wild with detest. He seemed to morph from a man into a trapped animal. Several times I had to open and close my eyes to assure myself that I was actually looking at my husband. His face was red; his neck bulged with protruding veins. His usual dark eyes were aglow. I shuddered; the hairs on the back of my neck and arm stood straight up. I tried to look away but couldnít.
"Up!" The revolutionary guard angrily demanded that I look at him, and his voice broke the stupor that Ali held over me.
"Madame," I felt a slight tug on my garment. Nassar had broken the strict Islamic rules about touching a woman. I could feel his fingertips holding onto my elbow. "Look," he whispered.
I didnít want to look at him. I knew that his face could possibly deter me from doing what I knew needed to be done. I could hear Ali swearing and could feel the hatred from his stare.
Nassar gently squeezed my elbow again, "Please," he said in English.
I lowered my eyes and looked over at my guard. I was still determined to do what must be done. I could not allow his eyes to convince me otherwise. He moved his left hand slightly; I looked at the movement and noticed that he held something blue securely in his grasp. I couldnít really see what it was because it was hidden mostly underneath his jacket. He moved his jacket slightly; my eyes opened wide when I saw the gold embossed Eagle. It appeared to be my passport; my breathing became shallow. He moved his hand again and revealed what appeared to be several American passports.
"America," he whispered in English.
All of this happened in several moments but it felt like an eternity. I looked at his hands again. His long fingers held a blue document that resembled my passport. I peered closely and saw the word, "Passport."
"Oh," I inhaled. A closer look revealed the majestic American Eagle, and the words, "United States of America." At the sight of the passports I wanted to hug Nassar but I knew the danger if I did. Ali was just looking for a reason to dispose of me. I had to keep myself from smiling so I bit my lower lip and nodded my head.
"Madame," he smiled slightly, then added in Arabic, "home."
I did not know what to do. Could it really be possible that this time I was going home to my beloved country? I had always known that Ali held our passports but had never found them. I knew that Ali never got me the appropriate documents to travel and I knew I had never been issued a Libyan passport. I looked at my guard again; his face was solemn but his eyes twinkled. To possess American passports was very dangerous Ė punishable by imprisonment or death. I was grateful that Nassar held the childrenís passports and mine. If Ali had them in his possession he would probably have already handed me over to the guards with my passport.
The demonstration outside the car seemed to be winding up again. One of the guards yelled for further assistance. I could see five or six additional guards surround the sedan; their AK-47ís were aimed directly at us. This did not faze me. Numerous times over the last year Iíd had machine guns held and cocked against my head. I was numb to such tactics.
I could hear the driver mumbling to the guard outside his window but couldnít understand what was being said. Ali just sat motionless; a look of disgust on his face. I watched as Nassar covertly placed the passports securely in his inside jacket pocket. He withdrew about four hundred dinars and proceeded to instruct the driver to hand the money over to the guard at his window.
I could hear the revolutionary guard tapping his machine gun against my window. I took a deep breath and exhaled. Nassar gave me a questioning look. I smiled faintly and withdrew my hand from the door handle. My children deserved to be raised with a mother that would teach them forever about Jesus. I was not going to go down without a fight. I was not going to surrender myself here in the dark desolate Sahara desert. If they wanted me they would have to physically remove me from the sedan. After all I was raised to be an American and would not disgrace my culture by surrendering without a battle. More importantly, I knew that if my Godís will was for me to return home, then who could stand against Him? My Godís will would be done this time, not mine.
I firmly placed my silk scarf over my nose and mouth; thankful that I had brown eyes as most Arabic women do. I ignored Aliís venomous curses and lifted my head and looked into Aliís eyes. "Dear God," I prayed with my heart, "give me courage." A boldness surged through me; I felt as if God was standing there with me. I straightened my shoulders and tilted my chin upwards. I dismissed Aliís glare and turned my head.
I inhaled one last time. "Marhaba," I greeted the revolutionary guard in Arabic staring directly into his eyes.
To Be Continued Ö
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 Masterís 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 Ė only stumble to her knees in prayer. You can contact Tammi via the Your Letters page of this Magazine.
LIFE LESSONS FROM 2004:
Each day while the kids are in school, I proceed to the den where I can view beautiful pine and oak trees and lush landscape--what a writing inspiration He has provided for me! This past fall, from the second-story of my home where I write, the tree tops go on for a great expanse and have provided a magnitude of magnificent colors. From this, I've learned it's the little things (like the turning leaves) that offer the greatest gift.
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