Brayin Candy

Christmas at the Christiansens

Joe walked into the living room brightly decorated for Christmas. The tree glittered 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 stuck on the window. Joe looked at his lovely wife of 27 years, 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” he said, 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.’

Joe 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 ache since he was such a perfect son, I wish it was me rather than him. It’s 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 pissed 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 have 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 with 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 kidnapped 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 it was to be killed by an unseen sniper in an illegal war.”

“Honey its Christmas...”

The doorbell rings a Christmassy 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 kind of lost. Hopefully she's 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 Christiansen?”

“Yes”, 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 Christiansen, Sgt Christiansen’s mother?”

Maria burst into tears hearing her son’s name and said, “Yes why do you ask, did 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 my entire 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?

“My name is Sanaa Malik and I live in a village just north of Baghdad named Arab Jabar that was part of Sgt Christiansen’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 in Jesus.’

Maria looked bewildered and said, ‘yes he did have faith, but what does....”

“You don’t understand Mrs Christiansen...

“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 madmen 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 about us.”

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 Christiansen 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 as we all laughed. Here is a picture of my brother and Sgt Christiansen 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 which I helped him by translating his message to the kids who couldn’t speak English. All the boys enjoyed Sgt Christiansen 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 Christiansen 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.

“What do you mean? Maria asked. He was shot on patrol by a sniper”.

“What, no that is not 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 Christiansen 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 like it getting any bigger or more villagers converting to Jesus.”

“The day Sgt Christiansen 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 Christiansen there. He and the boys were playing soccer in the street in front of the church.

He had given 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 Christiansen 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 .45 on his thigh which was always there. He told us all to get in the church and had we 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 an RPG came through the window and blew him back 10 feet. That’s when they rushed the door thinking he was dead and were 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 Christiansen suddenly jumped up and killed another 4 Magdis with his first burst of gunfire and wounded another one while they ran out the door as the Army hummers started arriving killing many more Magdis driving them away.

When 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 and 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 had died. There were 6 boys killed and 10 wounded in the attack yet none was loved as much Sgt Christiansen. 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.

We had a memorial service the following Sunday 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. 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 churches in surrounding villages and is making a difference in the area. Much of our church’s growth is from the story of Sgt Christiansen giving his life for our people.”

Maria was sobbing from the story and through teary eyes asked Sanaa, “did you, ah, were you and Mark in love?”

“Oh, no Mrs Christiansen, 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 Christiansen. He saved my life so I wanted to name my son Christian to remember him.

I 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 or yours.”

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 sobbing 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 bit brighter now.

Merry Christmas Friends