It had been nearly five years since Stephanie had seen these streets. The last fifty-eight months had been a constant struggle, full of pain, prayers and progress. Just weeks after her encounter with Farrah, Amed and her family, she had been a victim of the same type of violence as that family. However, almost no memory of that time in her life remained. After this long period of recovery, she had been encouraged to travel with her new husband, Vince, to the country where she had previously served in the military.
The neighborhood looked vaguely familiar as they traveled by taxi. But, something was very different. Beautiful flowers were in hanging planters on street signs. Families strolled along the clean streets and the buildings had that freshly remodeled look. She almost wondered if they were in the correct location. Suddenly, her gaze was directed to a specific location ahead on the right.
“Vince, I need to get out here,” she said.
The taxi driver was asked to pull over to the side of the street. As Vince helped Stephanie out of the car, a strange sense of peace seemed to envelop her. Then, they saw the small building just a few yards from the street, nearly hidden in the dusk. A sign at the front of the property, written in English, asked the question, “What Is Christmas?”. At the sight of those words, a bit of Stephanie’s memory which had been seemingly non-existent for nearly five years came to life.
She had been to numerous specialists in the states over the previous months. They had helped her adjust to living in a wheel chair, but no one could seem to help her recover from the memory loss that she had encountered. She had received occasional letters from someone she could not recall knowing. They were always signed by someone named Farrah, and she knew they came from the country where she had served. Something would not allow her to respond to the letters, although the person seemed to think that Stephanie had been some type of heroine in her eyes. Then, her doctors, almost as a last resort, had encouraged her to travel to this foreign country and here she was on Christmas Day.
When they had arrived at the airport, it was almost as if she and Vince were royalty. The officials, and for that matter, everyone they came in contact with, seemed to be in awe of the Americans. It gave Stephanie great pride to know that she had done her part to liberate this country. The last few days had been a breath of fresh air to her, and she had begun to regain some of her memory from years ago. Could she take that final step tonight?
She seemed to be drawn to the little building. As they approached, it became obvious that it was a small church. Stephanie became aware that their taxi driver had joined them as Vince pushed her wheel chair up the walk to the front door. Their driver opened the door and Vince pushed Stephanie’s chair into the small foyer. As they entered, the small congregation began singing a beautiful Christmas tune. It was unmistakably “Silent Night”. The words were sung in the native language, but it had been a long time since Stephanie had heard a song so beautifully sung. They found a place to listen from the back of the room. When the song was finished, the preacher made his way to the podium.
The preacher had the full attention of everyone in the room that evening. He spoke in English from his wheel chair, and that fact alone was enough to keep Stephanie’s eyes glued to him. There were huge amounts of her memory returning as the preacher spoke on the topic “What Is Christmas?”. Yes, she remembered relating this same story in this same country to a little girl and then to a family and that family had a father who had no legs! The preacher had finished speaking, and now he announced that his daughter would be singing the final song for the evening.
When beautiful, dark-haired, seventeen-year-old Farrah, in a flowing white gown, entered from a side room, the journey was complete for Stephanie. As Farrah’s mother played the small organ, Farrah sang the three verses of “Away In A Manger”, in English, just as she had been taught five years ago. When Farrah was partly through verse two, her eyes locked onto a person sitting in the back. The audience watched as Farrah walked slowly to the person, never missing a note in her beautiful rendition of this well-loved carol.
She reached Stephanie as she sang the last words of verse three, “and love me, I pray Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care And take us to Heaven To live with Thee there.” There were no dry eyes in the little sanctuary that evening. The two were lost in each other’s embrace for what seemed like hours. Farrah’s father dismissed the service, making a statement that they had all found out a little more of what Christmas really means this evening, or something to that effect, as emotions had overcome him, also.
Much later that evening, as Stephanie and Vince visited Farrah and her family in their modest home, they were told that the little church where they worshipped was built on the site from which the grenade had been launched that had changed Farrah’s family’s life forever. Oh, it had caused pain, but it also had brought them to a place where they could minister to others in their neighborhood.
“Come and see my room,” Farrah begged Stephanie.
Stephanie allowed herself to be pushed down the hallway. At the first door on the right, Farrah opened the door. Stephanie looked into a small, neat room. She noticed the walls were full of pictures. Smiling boys. A singing group. Pictures of their quaint little neighborhood. The little church where her father was pastor. Then, her gaze was drawn upward. On the ceiling, directly above Farrah’s bed, was a picture of a little girl in a hospital bed. Beside the bed was an American soldier. The two were holding hands.
Closing the bedroom door behind her, Farrah spoke, “Every night, before I go to sleep, I look at that picture. I have prayed for you every night that I can remember, and, now, you’re here! Will you sing that song for me again?”
In the living room, the rest of the family and Vince could only listen in awe as two angelic voices joined together to sing the song that had helped to change lives in that part of the country over the last few years.
As the last notes of the song were being voiced, Farrah pushed Stephanie back into the living room. When they finished, Farrah’s father announced loudly, “It is officially CHRISTMAS!”