On the couch in the office of a Christian day nursery sits a little girl of about three. She is playing contentedly with a soft toy – Ernie from Sesame Street. The battery-operated toy begins to talk and asks the girl to help him put on his pajamas.
At first glance, this is an ordinary moment at a childcare facility…but for this little girl, in this place, this moment is anything but ordinary; until very recent she was shy and withdrawn, says Aran, the director of the nursery. “Her grandfather was killed in Mosul. After that, her father and mother had to flee and ended up here. But her mother had become so scared that she no longer dared to leave the house. So the little girl stayed indoors all the time, until her mother decided to bring her here. At first she cried all the time and was very frightened. Now things are going better.”
The staff here is providing this little girl with the huge amounts of love and personal attention needed to heal from her trauma. Aran (not his real name) and his wife sometimes even allow her to play in the office to ensure that she gets extra attention. The couple explains that this little girl is just one of the dozens of children struggling to heal from trauma to whom they minister at the nursery.
The day nursery is much more than a business; it is a means to minister hope and healing to the community. Last June, however, after months of conflict with authorities over trifle infractions, Aran was told that they had to close their doors. In spite of the nursery’s location in a Christian neighborhood and policy of welcoming both Christian and Muslim children, authorities in the city continually targeted them for harassment. “The inspectors who are sent by the government to check up on us sometimes come up with stupid things. For example, the carpet has not been vacuumed well enough, or they think that we haven’t given the children the proper meals. Then the sign we have outside is no good, and the next time there’s something else,” says Aran.
Aran continues saying, “We teach the children a number of Christian verses, and also some short prayers. All the parents know this and agree to it,” says Aran. “The parents are very satisfied. Here we already teach the children some things that are useful for them to know at primary school. We hear that the children that attended the nursery get into good schools.”
Aran is no stranger to conflict: a few years ago he and his family were forced to flee from Baghdad. “We left Baghdad because it became too dangerous for us there. They were threatening to kill my son and it wasn’t safe for my wife anymore either. So we got out of Baghdad. We weren’t able to take anything with us.” Traveling to the north of Iraq, he was able to set up the nursery and begin a new life for his family. Constant opposition from authorities, however, has made the dream of peace seem illusive. To date, the nursery has not been able to obtain a permit. According to Aran, it is not possible to arrange this. “It’s because we’re Christians. No more, no less. Another nursery near us doesn’t have these problems.”
Aran and his wife are continuing to trust the Lord. “God enabled this nursery to be opened. Only He will close it, if that’s what must happen,” says Aran. In spite of the conflict, the children are still coming every day. With the threat of closure looming, however, the situation has become increasingly stressful for the Christian couple. Please pray for them.
Father, we lift up Aran and his family and thank You for their powerful testimony through their day nursery. Thank You for the heart they have for the children and the excellent care they provide. We pray Your protection over them and over the nursery. As they live each day wondering when the inspectors will call again, calm their fears with Your peace that “transcends all understanding.” And we pray that the work Aran and his family are doing will bear much fruit as the children learn about the Lord Jesus. In the name of Jesus who gathered the children to Himself in Judea long ago, Amen.