Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | October 29, 2008

Dust on My Shoes

A Page from My Journal
Kurdistan, October 29, 2008

   Zawee Spi is the name of a place that is not written on a map. But, it’s there. Located outside of Harmoda, it’s one of several camps that Kurds displaced from Iran call home. This huddle of bland, earth-colored houses is barely noticeable against the barren backdrop of the surrounding hills. But, it’s there. Zawee Spi is a simple place powdered with dust, pock-marked by time, and governed by despair. However, if you listen carefully, you can still hear the faint pulse of hope. It’s there.

   Those who live in Zawee Spi share more in common than the poverty that tethers them to this spot. Every family is on a first-name basis with Death. The shrouded specter is no stranger here. I listened to widows mourn the untimely departure of husbands and providers. I looked into the eyes of children penalized for a lifetime by Death’s unwelcomed intrusion into their homes. I walked with a father to the grave of a daughter near an ancient olive tree on a rocky hillside. We stood silently. He wiped his tears and then slowly touched his forehead and shoulders as he made the sign of the cross. The cross: the ultimate symbol of death and, for this grieving father, the only hope for life.

   Death continues to employ despair in an attempt to kill the people of Zawee Spi before they actually die. In fact, many of those living there are already lifeless. But, Death will not have the final word. Members of our team immunized the hurting with compassionate touches and injections of prayer. Our team members played with children … children running and laughing while rows of headstones standing in the adjacent cemetery looked on in silence. The presence of children: the fruit of those lying silent beneath the field of death.

   Death has encamped among the Kurds for centuries and refuses to leave. Most recently, Death paid the rent with the currency of Saddam Hussein’s initiatives against the Kurds. I listened to a man describe what it was like to watch Saddam’s military make an example of two of his childhood friends, boys he had once laughed and played with. Those are the guys who were pushed out of a helicopter to their deaths (see post entitled “Field of Death”). “I love George Bush,” he said, accenting every word with a raised finger, “because he removed Saddam.” This was an oft-repeated theme among the Kurds.

   For the past several days, my friends and I have walked slowly among the Kurds and looked for every opportunity to wipe away the suffocating film of death from their hearts. We have talked about life and the life-giver and watched smiles return to vacant faces. We have served in the name of the One who has defeated death. We have liberally planted seeds of life in the places death has marked off-limits. The life-giver is at work here and His harvest is coming.

   We are on our way home as I write this final journal entry. The Kurds have purchased real estate in my heart with their open arms, gracious hospitality, and persevering spirit. I will pray daily and often for the triumph of life, the kind of life that only Jesus can give, among this people accustomed to death. I also return home with the dust of Kurdistan on my shoes. I like that and I won’t wipe it off (Luke 10:8-12). The dust on my shoes will remind me of the open-armed welcome I received among the people of Kurdistan – a wonderful people who live in a terrible place.


  1. We’ve been back in Houston for about 8 hours now. In that time I have reconnected with my greatly missed family and I’ve gotten some much needed deep sleep in the comfort of my own bed. The dust of Kurdistan remains on all my belongs from the trip, but it will be rinsed away as soon as I unpack my suitcase and wash my clothes. What will never be washed away is the love, respect, and burden I now have in my heart for the Iraqi Kurds. They are a dignified and gracious people, even in the midst of war and poverty. They hunger, just as we do, for the love of our Maker. God is at work in Iraq and I pray that God would speak to the hearts of others and draw them to that wonderful land.
    And, Omar … thank you for your leadership. You are a model for all.

  2. You inspire me to try blogging and share what I see. But, your way with words may have set the standard too high. Man! I feel like I have been to Kurdistan and want to go back. I find myself wanting to find you wherever you are just so I can get some of the dust off your shoes. I probably won’t get the dust but I am more excited about my trip to Afghanistan next week! Thank you!!

  3. Omar!
    I am so glad you are back! Welcome home! That being said, I know that home is wherever you happen to be at any moment in time. You have a unique gift and love for people. Being a bit of a gypsy certainly helps!


  4. Omar,

    As I understans that, are you back to your Home in USA, Am I right? I am glad that are you back.

    you have wrote about kurdistan. where is it? is it in iraq, iran, or another country?

    another thing you have said that, a kurdi translater become a believer in Jesus? Halleluia!

    my last trip in India, in (December-06) Delhe, I have meet to some afgans and irani MBBs, at the Home group Church.

    I am trying to lerning from your journal,whatever you put in online.


  5. Mortuza…

    The Kurds are a people scattered across five nations: Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Armenia. They call themselves “the orphans of the universe and those who have no friends but the mountains.” With a population of 25 million, the Kurds are the largest people group in the world without a homeland. They live in a region that stretches across Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey that is called Kurdistan.

    Yes, I had the privilege of leading one of our translators to faith in Christ. He is a nice young man who had many questions about Jesus. He is now a brother in Christ. Please pray for him. His name is Woodia.

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