“Sometimes as I reflect on my life of 82 years, it can be like looking through binoculars the wrong way. Some visions of my past look so far away. But, like turning the binoculars around to the right direction, some remain quite vivid still.
“I was born in 1935 in northern Iraq, close to Turkey in the shadow of Mt. Ararat, entering life between two world wars. For a Christian family living in an Islamic world, it was fertile ground for danger. The massacres that occurred during WWI against my people remained fresh in the memory of my parent’s generation. That genocide has been admitted and documented. My grandfather was dispossessed of his property and killed along with many others. We became a people without a country, always on guard for the next strike. My dilemma: How can I explain such horrors to church brethren living in America who have always known freedom?
“Persecution was a daily occurrence for most, and we experienced our share. It went beyond name calling and deprivation. I can still recall the feeling of rocks hitting my back as I walked down the street and the fear of being dragged down an alley by the enemy and killed. Thankfully, the British Royal Air Force (RAF) was looking for men from the local population to augment their ranks. My father was among those chosen, enabling us to move onto the air base at Habbaniyah in Iraq’s Anbar province. Although far from ideal, we were safe from the immediate reach of the Islamic population. We lived in our own community on base and knew a certain semblance of normalcy as we attended school, participated in sports and Boy Scouts. On occasion, the family was able to visit relatives at a summer camp, high up on Mt. Ararat, giving us a reprieve, for a short time, from the daily concerns of the war. Many of our people were sheepherders and had found safety in the remote mountain areas.
“With our fathers away at war, boys in the family were expected to begin working at an early age to help support the family. My brother, Aprim, was working four hours a day for a loaf of bread, and at the age of 12 I tried to find work to help. After much discouragement, I was hired as a messenger for Corporal Helps of the RAF. In my struggle to fill a man’s shoes there were many challenges. Each paycheck, whether large or small, was turned over to our mother with no question or expectation of spending money. The excitement a youth might experience in earning that first paycheck and the fantasies of what to spend it on did not exist.
“As the war ended, we were returned to life in the general population of Iraq; the air base closed, and our respite ended. It did not take long for our tormentors to find us. Fortunately, after many long months of trying, I was able to land a job in Kirkuk at an oil production station to train as a medical assistant to the doctor. I cared for employees injured on the job and for many people in the local population. The education in this field provided the means for me to come to America in 1956 as a student with ambitions of becoming a doctor.
“With my family back in Iraq, my dreams of a career in medicine were short-lived. While attending college, I worked to provide my basic needs and sent what I could back to my family in Iraq for their survival. I worked two full-time jobs in the summer and one when I was attending school, which soon proved to be too expensive for me to continue. By a twist of fate or necessity, I found myself in the restaurant business starting as a food service waiter. Through hard work and determination, I worked my way through promotions until I was managing the food and beverage operation for hotels and airports for many years. I eventually owned my own cafe before retirement. There are many more stories between these lines that space does not permit telling here.
“The greatest blessing in my life has been my calling into God’s Church in 1974. Now I see how God used my life’s experiences, even the ones that seem so far away, to prepare me for this calling. Learning to live God’s way while looking forward to the amazing future that lies ahead for us privileged to be called is a blessing beyond imagination. The Potter shapes and molds each of us throughout our lives to His purpose. Our future is assured if we keep on the path to His Kingdom. As I study, pray and rely on God’s promises, the focus through those binoculars is becoming sharper. Now, as I reach my later years and reflect, the purpose for my life is ever clearer, like looking through the binoculars in the right direction.”
Andy Diemer, Manny and Diane Purdo