A country belongs to God, and as long as we believe in Him, no matter where we are it is our home. For the first time in years this arid desert felt like home. It was miles away from family and unbearably humid than the Ethiopian air, but it still felt like home. A home for sixteen days. Living with God is like slowly flying away from the earth. Everything down becomes so small, so irrelevant. That’s what everyone felt during the lent. Everyone was looking up.
At August 20th I, together with the head priest, was circling the houses of pilgrims that came from all over the Emirates to stay in Fujairah for the lent of Our Mother the Virgin Mary. Over 50 women arrived in the Emirate a day before the lent for a ‘’suba’e”- a week, or sets of weeks spent in the premises of a church. During a “suba’e”, a pilgrim forsakes all worldly belongings and moves into small, designated rooms with barely a sleeping mat and praying books. One decides to “hold as suba’e” when one has a question unanswered, or needs to rekindle the love for God at times of lent. Here in the Middle Eastern the only possible way for it to be held was by having the pilgrims to stay with their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ residing in the same Emirate. Each were put in a group and given a room deprived of furniture in each house near the church. Transportation was prepared for them to commute from and to the church at times of Service.
I was to interview and shoot a few of the faithful from each house to later make a video for their farewell ceremony. At first it seemed to me that it was just another project to fuel my passion for photography. The people I was to interview were nothing but subjects that appear in the LCD screen and arranged according to the rule of thirds and other photography rules that applied to the occasion. But upon arriving and conversing with them it was the contrary.
The conversations I held with them helped me in so many ways than the help I was entitled to provide by shooting and interviewing. Each of them had stories to tell and words of encouragement to give. Listening to how they first came here, what they went through – good and bad, and the tomorrow they have entrusted to God made me reflect on myself. They have figured to live in God in a harsh world that forsakes it. They are out there, fighting the world and scoring against it. They have grown to be the epitomes of the kind of hope, faith and love St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians. The words they spoke could no longer be ‘elements’ to my video; they spoke to me and left a deep hole.
“Power is God’s. We don’t have power. All we can do is pray.”
When I looked beyond the lens, I saw women with power. I saw women with God. I saw women that have never met before but care for each other like sisters. Understanding pains of one another and waking each other up at times of prayer. I saw beautiful women whose smiles hid the freckles the harsh sun put on their faces. I saw honest women that weren’t afraid to shed tears. I saw brave, zealous women that came to an Emirate they’ve never been to for God. I saw women that quit their jobs for God in hope that he’ll give them a better one. I saw women that put God in the center of their lives, something I strive to do.
God became our home, a place we can run to. God became our oasis amidst the harsh desert. He reached out and gathered us all.
The 17th day, the day after the end of the lent, was the one no one looked forward to. It was day of going back to daily problems. A day everyone shed tears- tears of love. Tears of not wanting to part, tears of not wanting to leave what has now become home. For moments everyone was embracing one another, both people who knew each other for years and people who just met at the lent, both people that were going hundreds of kilometers apart and people who were going to the same place. Everyone shed tears in remembrance of sixteen days of love, sixteen days of home.
God is home because a country belongs to God.