Joe walked into the living room brightly
decorated for Christmas. The tree was glittering with all the decorations and packages underneath. He thought it odd how the
Gold Star on the tree matched the star on the window as the snow fell silently in the background. The dull pain in his chest
returned as he looked at the lone gold star on the window. Joe looked at his lovely wife of 27 yrs, wondering when he would
ever see that smile light her face again. He walked into the room all decorated for Christmas, minus the joy. She was wrapped
in her blanket with a cup of coffee looking at the picture that has become part of her hand.
“Merry Christmas honey”, wishing that it were true.
She looked up at him and said, “there
are no more Merry Christmases for me, they’ve been taken away. Iraq stole them from me.”
“I know, I miss him too. We have to
accept it and start to move on”
She didn’t even look up and said, “You can move on, but I never will. He was my only son and he
was taken from us for a silly war. I hate that he went off to a war that was unnecessary by a crazy policy. I hate Bush and
everything about him. He killed my son as far as I’m concerned. I hate him, I hate Christmas and I hate God for
punishing me this way.’
felt the agony she was going through, “Honey, you don’t really hate God, he gave us a wonderful son for 22 years.
I know it hurts, it will always hurt since he was such a perfect son, I wish was me rather than him. Its not fair to outlive
your son. You remember when Mark was born and you handed him to me the first time; to give him a bath, you remember
how while I was washing him he peed on me and the nurse laughed, he don’t like you much. The minute I saw him
I knew I loved him more than my own life and would walk in front of a train to protect him.
Joe knew he shouldn’t had said that since he could see the tears
starting to run down her cheeks. “You know what Maria, there is something I never told you. When Mark was born I was
never more terrified in my life.”
Mary looked up dabbing her eyes, “what were you afraid of?”
He grabbed her hand and looked into her watery eyes, “I was
afraid I wouldn’t be a good father. I have never been able to finish anything, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be
able to raise him as a son into a man. I didn’t know if I could stick with it or even if I could raise a child, it was
too big a responsibility.
She looked at Joe and said, “how could you think that, you were such a great Father, you know he loved
you so much. Remember how you would always read those stories to him when he went to bed. Remember those nights when he had
his ear infections and you would let him sleep on your chest while you stayed awake, he was such a happy baby. I miss him
so much, why did God punish me like this? Why did he have to sign up for that stupid war?”
“He’s not punishing you, Hon.
I was afraid I didn’t have it in me to love someone for that length of time. I have always been too independent and
not able to give myself away like I had to for a child for all those years. Now I wish I had twenty more. I was terrified
that if I failed I would destroy his and your lives, but Mark was so easy to love he was such a calm baby. Half the time he
was more patient then we were. Do you remember the puppet shows I would do for him before he went to sleep with Barney?
He would giggle all night as they talked to each other about baseball or eating spiders. Barney was his best friend.”
Look at this picture of him when he was five,
he was such a beautiful child who grew up to a handsome young man. Remember all those years on the sports fields? He was so
athletic, if it bounced, rolled or he could throw it, he was playing it. How many years did I play catch w/him and his friends.
They wore out the back yard playing baseball with all their silly rules if it rolled off the fence or bounced off a bush or
over the Green Monster. You know, I think coaching was some of the best times I had with him. I miss him too.’
She wiped a tear and gave him a smile. ‘He
only played all those games because of you. I really enjoyed going to them, he was such a natural leader in sports. I enjoyed
talking w/all the other moms in the stands even in the rain and cold. The kids always played so hard when he pitched. He was
such a bright boy, I will never forget his smiles and hugs. He would always know when to give me a hug, I wish I could have
just one more. Give me a hug honey, I miss him more than ever on Christmas.”
“Why was Mark always so generous with himself” Marie asked.
“He always went down to the homeless kitchen to feed the poor. He had such a big heart, remember his trip to Mexico
to feed and help the orphans? We were so scared that he would be kidnaped or hurt, but he knew that God called him to help
the helpless which is why he went to Iraq. I hate God for taking him there! Why did he have to go, THERE?”
“Why didn’t he go to college
like the other kids in his class. He had a scholarship and would be graduating this year. No, he wanted to serve his County
and free the Iraqis from Saddamn. Why did Bush have put us in that war and lie to us about it. He never cared about Mark or
any of the kids that died over there. I hate Bush. I hate War, I hate Iraq and I hate God. Why does he cause us so much pain?”
“How senseless to be killed by a sniper
in an illegal war.”
doorbell rings a Christmasy chime...
Joe answered the door only to find a young attractive dark haired girl who he had never seen before. She appeared
to be Middle Eastern with a scarf over her hair to protect her from the snow and looked kinda lost. Hopefully, not another
sales person, but certainly not on Christmas?
‘Yes, may I help you?” Mark asked cautiously
She looked up and her face beamed when she asked, “are you Mr
he said looking puzzled as Maria walked up behind him asking, ‘who is it Joe?’
The girl looked up at her and asked, “Are you Maria Christianson,
Sgt Christianson’s mother?”
Maria burst into tears hearing her son’s name and said, “yes why do you ask, do you know Mark?”
The girl said, “yes I do, he is my
hero and saved my life and many in our village. I came to tell you how much he meant to me and my people. Your son is a hero
to my family and all of my village”
Joe became puzzled looking at her and said to come in from this snow and have something warm to drink. He
took her flimsy coat and scarf and hung them in the closet as she looked in amazement at their simple home all decorated for
Christmas. Mary fixed her some hot chocolate and cookies as she set them in front of the strange young woman. What could she
possibly be talking about?
name is Sanaa Malik and I live in a village just north of Baghdad named Arab Jabar that was part of Sgt Christianson’s
patrol. He was a very nice young soldier that everyone in the village liked and he really worked hard for us. When he first
got there his Company made sure we had generators for electricity and helped fix the water system. He was always trying to
make our village better and we all became good friends of his and the other American soldiers. He not only watched after us
when he was patrolling but he helped fix up the only Christian church in our village St Augusta. He had a very strong faith
looked bewildered and said, ‘yes he did have faith, but what does....”
“You don’t understand Mrs Christianson...
“Please call me Maria.”
“Thank You, Maria, our country has
been under brutal dictators for centuries and we have never had any leaders who cared about their people. We only had corrupt
monsters like Sadamn and his sons who stole from the people and repaid us with rape and torture if you questioned his rule.
Anybody who spoke out might be found out by his Royal Guard and they could kill you on the spot to make an example. People
in my village would be picked up by the police to never be seen again. We have never had anybody who cared about our village,
so when the Americans came and not only made things better but protected us from the Al Queda we had never seen anything like
that before. We thought they would just leave, but they stayed and protected us from Al Queda. Your son never stopped trying
to make our village and lives better, he worked so hard and cared so much.”
Our pastor sent this letter for you to tell a little about how much
he loved working with your son. He would always come on Sundays to set up all sorts of games for the kids. Sgt Christianson
had a burning heart for the kids of my village and was always playing soccer or trying to teach them how to play American
baseball while they tried to teach him how to play our games, which was very funny to watch. Here is a picture of my brother
and Sgt Christianson playing soccer!” My brother loved him like his older brother, they would work and talk about Iraq
and America or sports for hours with his friends.
Mark also helped the pastor by playing guitar and helped teach youth group that I helped him
by translating his message to the kids who couldn’t speak English. All the boys enjoyed Sgt Christianson and he loved
them, many came to Christ even though their parents forbid it as did the Army which he kept getting in trouble for sharing
his faith. Many of those parents later came to Christ when they would see the Christ in their dreams, much of the village
converted to where the Church had to be moved. Christ’s salvation swept through our village.We could see how Sgt Christianson
was filled w/the Holy Spirit and we wanted to be filled too. I came here to tell you how sorry we are that your son gave his
life for us.
do you mean? Maria asked. He was shot on patrol by a sniper”.
What, no that isn’t what happened at all, he saved our lives. Sanaa responded. The Army
had to keep the truth quiet since he was sharing his faith with our village.
Maria pulled out the letter she was holding and said, ‘the Army
sent this letter that said he was killed by a sniper while patrolling your village.”
Sanaa looked at her and said, I was there and that’s not what
happened, Sgt Christianson saved me and my brother when we were attacked by the Magdis. The Islamic Magdis noticed the growth
of our Christian church and they didn’t want it to get any bigger or more villagers to convert.
The day Sgt Christianson was killed we were
having a Wednesday night service and potluck even though there were threats that there would be a Muslim attack by the Magdis.
We had lots of those threats so we really didn’t think much of it and especially with Sgt Christianson there. He and
the boys were playing soccer in the street in front of the church.
He had giving a sermon to the boys on sexual purity and how you need to wait until you’re
married before you give up your virginity. He told the boys how he was waiting for God to provide him with a wife and that
was God’s plan. He told them that a Father in the family is the most important part of God’s plan for men. He
explained to them that they were to love their wives like Christ loved the church. How the husband and wife had two roles
and that the Father is the disciplinarian who is hard so he can set the boundaries. He told them that the wife is soft so
she can nourish the children and children can grow inside those boundaries.
Later, while they were playing soccer in the street a car drove by
when all of the sudden it swerved towards some of the boys and exploded killing many of them and throwing Sgt Christianson
against the front of the church. Then two trucks raced in filled with Magdi soldiers firing guns into our group.
Right then your son became our protector.
He only had his pistol on his thigh which was always there. He told us all to get in the church and had us all get on
the floor and behind the walls. He went straight at the attackers and fired right into them stopping the first two. There
were around a dozen of them and he stayed between them and us fighting with everything he had emptying clip after clip.
He stayed at the doorway shooting any that
tried to get to the door. He shot 4 that we could tell and maybe more when he was shot in the neck and the leg. It was a miracle
watching him since he only had his pistol against men with rifles. Even though he was wounded he worked his way back to the
entrance when a grenade came through the window and blew him back 10 feet. That’s when they rushed the door thinking
he was dead and was going to kill all of us.
They were coming into the area we were in, screaming that they were going to rape and behead
us in the name of Allah. We knew we were all dead when Sgt Christianson suddenly revived and killed another 4 Mahdis with
his first burst of gunfire and wounded another one while they ran out the door as the Army hummvees started arriving killing
the smoke and dust cleared I looked over at your son to see him collapsing onto the floor as his pistol fell out of his hand.
I ran over to him to held his head and prayed as he was getting weaker, he told me to tell his mother and father that he loved
them and that he was following Jesus completely. He said he loved you both more than anything and slowly slipped away.
The medics tried to revive him but they couldn’t
as they loaded him into a hummer then took him to the hospital but we heard the next day that he died on the way. There were
6 boys killed and 10 wounded in the attack yet none was loved as much Sgt Christianson. We were all heartbroken from the death
of him since he did so much for the entire village and especially our church. He saved so many of us by putting himself between
us and the terrorists.
had a memorial service that Saturday for Sgt Christianson and the entire village turned out for him. We asked the pastor if
we could name our church in memory of your son since he meant so much to us as a church. Over half of us came to Jesus since
he arrived in our village and has grown the church to over 1000. We know he was sent by God to our village. It was unanimous
that we would do it, so we renamed our church to St Mark’s Chapel. We hope that is good with you.
St mark has continued to grow and my husband
is the youth pastor there now, following Mark’s example. The church has built 5 more villages in surrounding villages
and is making a difference in the Baghdad area. Much of our church’s growth from the story of Sgt Christianson giving
his life for our people.
was sobbing from the story and through teary eyes asked Sanaa, did you, ah, were you and Mark in love?”
Oh, no Mrs Christianson. He loved me like
a sister and he was my brother. But that is part of the reason I came here. My husband and daughter are still at home since
we can’t afford all of us to come. I knew I needed to come now on Christmas to let you know that I am pregnant
and we are going to name our son Christian after your son, Sgt Christianson. He saved my life so I wanted to name my son Christian
to remember him.
hope you understand how thankful we are that you sent your son to do God’s work in our village. He showed through his
words and his life what Christ meant to him. He cared about the poorest, weakest boy as he did about the richest in our village.
He only cared about our hearts and our souls which is nothing we ever heard from Islam. He showed us love when all we ever
saw was hatred and terror.
We had never seen anybody like your son in our lives and he has completely changed our village. The Holy Spirit
was alive in your son and now it is burning bright at St Mark’s and our village. We just want to thank you and let you
know how sorry your son had to give his life for us, we can never repay you for his sacrifice for us.
Joe looked over at Sanaa holding Maria’s
moist hand while tears ran down his cheeks and said, “Sanaa darling, you have no idea what an answer to prayers you
are. God is so good to have you come here and tell us what happened to Mark. He was a special son to us and now we find that
he was a special person to you and your church. Let me ask you this, would it be possible to go back with you to your village
and see your church St Mark’s? Maria, what do you think?”
Maria was sobbing as she looked up through watery eyes clutching the picture of her son and
slowly smiling as she reached for her husband. Joe hugged the two women and cried out, “Merry Christmas Mark. We will
never forget you and thank you Jesus for the gift you gave us and the village of Arab Jabar”. He asked“Sanaa please
have Christmas dinner with us tonight.
Looking at the Gold Star in the window, Joe thought it looked a little brighter now.