We worked until sundown and beyond last night to complete our new roof at the Horses for Hope land in the village. Our landscape was dotted with men working, some singing, some pausing to pray but all focused on the synchronization and team coordination that building a roof takes.
For the past week a skilled Arab friend, Mr Otman has tirelessly labored to put wood between the new foundations and that which would be our roof. It is a fascinating process, one that appears to be quite higgledy piggledly but actually is far from random and literally pulls heaven and earth together. He knows structure, he knows weight bearing, he knows loads. He knows where reinforcements are needed.
He had to be there when the cement guys arrived. They build upon his structure which they inspect prior to rolling the cement trucks across the neighbour’s fields. Once the roof is laid, we wait, one week ,two weeks depending upon the weather. Then Mr Otman will return to begin the painstaking process of removing the wooden structure bit by bit, not all at once. Putting a roof in place takes much time, time, wisdom, strong foundations, the knowledge of structure, respect for structure, continual watering of the cement, the close observation of every piece of wood and patience.
“The very least you can do in life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admiring it from a distance but living right in it, under its roof.”
- Barbara Kingsolver: Animal Dreams
Earlier this week Our Tribe celebrated my birthday. We made breakfast accompanied by a bottle of Champagne that a friend had purchased in Dubai. We were laughing and chatting but Salam our artist, was missing from our breakfast table in the Hope Centre kitchen.
I found him sitting alone outside, deep in thoughts. “Ah, he’s the artist” everyone said, but his distance and withdrawnness worried me. Later that day he presented me with a painting, which he had entitled “The Roof of Hope.” Then I understood. He was concerned that I would not like his painting.
When he presented it to me I was stunned into silence. Overwhelmed by the depth and breadth of his vision. He had been able to grasp hold of a word that is usually so nebulous and define it. HOPE. He had made the connection between the foundation builder, the wood man, and all the cement guys. He saw the roof, he saw its unity, its diversity, its nature and character. He saw its oneness. He saw its strength and he saw its future.
Salam is no stranger to death, persecution, rampage and devastation. They became his and his family’s roof for many a year thanks to the public executions of the Baath regime. When I first met Salam his paintings were dark, I wanted to lower my eyes, I wanted to not see that total void and emptiness. But Salam, like all of Our Tribe is being healed, is being restored and has is living under a new roof. The Roof of Hope.
Three days after the wife of a leader in Christian circles died, he said these words. “Any area of our lives for which we have no hope is under the influence of a lie. Mourning can lead you to comfort or it can lead you to unbelief. Hope is the joyful anticipation of good.”
This is Salam’s story. It is our anthem. We live in the joyful anticipation of good. That is Hope. That is our Roof.
My simple message this week is to share the painting, The Roof of Hope with you. It depicts an eight year journey, it depicts the putting away of mourning, the rejection of the lie. It depicts the flame of human resilience. It shouts, that these three things remain, Faith, Hope and Love.
“Hope is the thing with feathers That perches in the soul And sings the tune without the words And never stops at all.”
- Emily Dickinson
So as I raise my paper cup with oversweet Dubai champagne, my toast is “To the tune without words that never stops. To our anthem of the joyful anticipation of good. To the finality of the influence of lies. To being covered with his feathers and finding refuge under his wings, To the Roof of Hope."