Reflections from Missionary Bonnie Greydanus
Laba Diena, Dear Friends,
One of the questions that I am asked most frequently when I am back in the States is how do students from over 43 different countries hear about LCC International University in Lithuania. This fall I asked that question of my freshman students, and I would like to share some of their stories with you. As I listen to their stories, I am constantly reminded of the following:
- The tenacity of the human spirit and the hope that God places in each one of us. Students affected by war especially evidence this tenacity and hope.
- I lose hope as I hear the news from the States with more and more enmity between people. The history of the former Soviet held countries and the current wars in other countries remind me of how that divisiveness can increase until thousands of innocent people suffer.
- However, the stories of the students reveals the quiet power and strength of humans helping humans to survive evil and to flourish. People working with people, people praying, people sending money – all creates brilliant connections around the world that bring a student, a parent, a husband, a child out of despair into light. As I listen to the stories, I see the brilliant connections and I have hope.
Three years ago, the board of LCC University felt the call to help young adults from war torn countries to continue their university studies which had been interrupted by war. The Middle East Scholars Program was begun. Through contacts in the Middle East and brave recruiters who were sent to war torn areas and to refugee camps, interested young adults were identified and led through the college application process. To date, around 25 Middle Eastern scholars have entered the program, and the Lithuanian government must be applauded as they allowed these students to receive visas and provided a grant for their education. Scholarships from donors and professors like myself working without salary help to provide the rest of their costs.
One of these students is Khalid. He is a Yazidi, a Kurdish religious minority which in August 2014 was attacked by ISIS. Many fled up Mount Sinjar where they were surrounded for days, and in the attack thousands were killed and tortured. Khalid was there. Before the war, Khalid herded his family’s sheep everyday, until one day when he was 12, his grandfather suggested that he go to school. He entered primary school at the age of 12. Following is Khalid’s story as he tells it:
Finishing High School by Khalid
When I started my intermediate school I had been told that I had to go to evening school because I began primary school late. The problem there was not any evening school in my area and my family had not enough time to send me to town or city.
First, my teacher – the manager of school – went to talafer, registered my name there and accepted me in his school as what we call it ”guest student” which mean I will study in his school, doing exams there and in the end he will take my grades to evening in the town. After one year he transferred my name to town shingal – my town – because it was easier for me to go there for final exams. The other issue was the distance between my house and school, I remember most of the times I was not able to study anything before I take nap at least for 40 minutes because of tiredness and stress
Second, I had to go to my aunt house in one of the villages close to the town that was going to do my final exams. It was very scary and stressful because it was the first time for me to be away from my family. In spite of that I graduated from Shingal evening intermediate school as the first student among 400 students with GPA 91%.
Next, I went to high school – secondary school – but this time in the same village where I started and finished my primary school. After three years of study and stress we got to do the national exam again, we did the first one which was Arabic, a day after that ISIS – a terrorist group – attacked Mosul – my city – so the government canceled exams. A month after that ISIS attacked my town too. They killed and captured more than 7000 of my people, they killed men, used children for training on using weapon and also suicide attacks after they force them to convert to Islam and washed their brain, and they took girls and women as sex slaves and sold them in markets. After eight days of struggling in mountain Shingal which was surround by ISIS we found our way to go to safe place in Kurdistan.
Then, when we got Kurdistan, we stayed in unfinished house in a Christian village after we used wood and plastic to cover windows and doors. After five days I had been told that next day was our first exam. I was still shocked because of what happened to us and it had been two months that I had not read anything, also we were unconscious of what was going on. We did not know withier we were going to stay there or we were going to leave the country or there will be any hope for us to return to our villages again, that is why I did not go to do my exams, basically there was not any sign of hope for good future for me and my family there in Iraq.
After that, in next year, I started again to continue my study. But in the middle of year I had been told that I had to go to the evening school again, so I took my documents from that school to evening secondary school in Duhok, a city in Kurdistan. The other sad surprise was that after all that study I did they canceled exams at evening schools I think because they were not able to control it because of what the country was going through with its war with ISIS. I was shocked, that was very stressful, somehow I gave up and worked as volunteer with an American NGO, we were helping refuge and displaced people. The year after that I did not apply to school because I had to help my family, so I worked as glass cutter with one of organization in Shingal far away from my family about four hours.
Finally, in 2016, I applied to high school by what we call it in Iraq ” external school ”, that means I will study at home and only go to do my middle year and final exams. I studied while I was working to help my family. I graduated from secondary school in 2017 with GPA 71%. After that I worked as volunteer teacher in one of intermediate school in the same village where I started my primary school. I was teaching students mathematic one of my previous teacher told me about LCC. He was working with Yazda NGO, which cares about students and trying to help them to continue their study beside their main work which is about Yazidi case and last genocide. So they share the study opportunities through media so that students know about especially scholarships. My teacher sent me the link and that is how I heard about LCC and applied to the Middle East Program and I am so glad that I did.
See this video on the Middle East Scholars program: https://youtu.be/SWxt-TwQ-bQ