Real life stories

This thread describes real relationships and communities that follow the way of the healer. There is failure, and messy ambiguity, and hope.

We encourage you to submit a post telling us about a marriage, a family, a congregation, an organization, a community or an international situation you are aware of where the way of the healer is being attempted.

About the way of the healer

The root task of government is to meet our fears--to give us security, to keep social order, to deal with our enemies. We are testing a different way to meet those same needs, one not based
As a healer you gamble that even a terrible person has a trustworthy side, and you engage, betting that you can invoke that side. From Description: the healer at war.

We say a relationship or community is healthy when the people involved want a relationship even if they deeply disagree; they listen to each other, are respectful, voice their point of view, ask for what they want, gamble that the other is trustworthy, negotiate, don't avoid conflict, don't walk out, and don't use coercion. From Description: the healthy community.

A healer speaks to an enemy as if that enemy represented the very best that humanity can aspire to. From Description: the healer at war.

We negotiate. We live by asking. We ask, ask, and ask again. From Description: the healthy community.
on coercion (law) or violence (arms) or territory (state). We're provisionally calling it "relationship healing" or just healing.

A good mother wants a relationship with her grown children even if they have turned out very differently than she hoped. A healer wants and knows how to have a healthy relationship with people who are very different, even opponents.

The healer's strategy is to turn an enemy into a trustworthy opponent within a healthy relationship. They may remain adamantly divided, but they have a respectful relationship where their difference can be productive. This site reflects on ideas and experience in the tactics of healing.

Healing and coercion both carry risks. Arguably healing is riskier in the short term, while coercion is riskier in the long term--that's one of
Regardless of the way you follow—Buddhist, Muslim, Atheist, whatever—-if you want to join with those from other ways who believe we can profit from our differences to improve all our ways of healing the world, then we need your story and your texts, we need you to help us learn to live together even when we remain very different.
the things we want to test. Arguably both healing and coercion are called for, in different situations--that's one of the things we'd like to clarify.

This site is for those living in a conflict situation, great or small, who have lost faith in coercion and control, and are willing to take some risks gambling that their enemies potentially have a good side.


The Description of the way of the healer is written in terms of how humans should relate to each other, as a working document among different religious and secular traditions.


We encourage you to submit a post describing

a marriage, family, congregation, organization, community, movement or government where the way of the healer is being attempted,

the texts and stories of your particular tradition--secular or religious--to teach, expand or critique the way of the healer,

an application of the way of the healer to some current social problem.

John Fairfield founded, with much encouragement and critique by Larry Alderfer Fisher. Posts explaining where they are coming from are here.


A list of organizations that advocate and use the way of the healer.

Submit a post

Please help elaborate and critique the way of the healer by commenting on existing posts, or by submitting a post of your own.


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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The marriage of Ahmed and Muna

[To protect a very sensitive situation, the names of people and places have been changed.]

Ahmed got married.  It wasn't easy, and it won't be.

Ahmed is from a hot, mostly Muslim country we'll call Napur.  Napur's many ethnicities are grossly divided in two groupings we'll call the Tasil and the Solfians. The Tasil dominate the government. Ahmed is Tasil.

Ahmed has spent over a decade in the US, and got a Masters in Social Work from Ohio State, but for the last seven years he has been working out of Nokton, the sprawling city across the river from the capital of Napur.  He's traveled to the massively violence-ridden Pagun region many times for many months, doing AIDS education and post trauma counseling in the refugee camps there, and also worked with displaced Solfians living in Nokton from the troubled Zelk mountains region.

Some people see Ahmed as both a Christian and a Muslim, drawing from the strengths of both, and repenting of some of the weaknesses.

Ahmed's situation is precarious, ambiguous, compromised, and intricate. He teaches Muslims to be disciples of Jesus, Issa. Much of his funding comes from evangelical Christians in the US, who see him as a relief worker and Christian church planter. The following is excerpted from emails he sends to supporters and friends in the US, so you will have to read between the lines.  This is not a story of proselytizing, it is a story of the value of inconsistency.

...I spent my birthday in a war torn area and among refugees. Many of them do not even remember their birthday. This time I was in the largest refugee camp [in Pagun] where I have been training case workers in how to provide individual and group counselling and how to keep their confidentiality. More than Eighty percent of the residents of this particular camp suffer post traumatic stress as a direct result of the war, and sexual violence. I praise God for the training I have in Clinical Social Work so I can meet such a need and be a blessing to many....during this trip I got to visit my parents for a couple of days, my father is fine, he makes cheese so he travels a lot to buy milk from the nomads, but my mother is feeling depressed and lonely becasue all of us children and grand children are away, so the Lord laid in my heart to visit her more often and try to cheer her up.

thank you for praying for a wife, just want to update you, i got to know Alena [an American] through a mutual friends who knew both of us and our needs for a good match, and I have talking, emailing for the last couple of month,and I got to see her when I came to the States, and she really looked like an angel to me, later on I discovered that she's a fallen angel :) I told her that and she laughed her self silly. the sad part is due to commitment I could not prolong my stay in the States to let my relationship with Alena ripen. and I know this is a very big decision. I have been feeling overly pressured to make a decision too quickly. over the course of the last 10 weeks since I was introduced to her, I got to know a little bit about Alena's and her family, her parents got divorced when Alena was 13s.   I once heard a man of God say "When you get married you are not marrying just an individual you are marrying a family." I tried to test some of Alena's specific capabilities in term of her her relational skills, ministering to mulims is a very great challenge, so I prayed about Alena's and I was able to discern that God is NOT calling us together as partners...I concluded this after I had asked her to share with me about her life journey...and how the Lord has lived and worked in her life...what did she love to do...what gives her the greatest I had listened to the details of her story, this young woman had been through a lot, at the age of 13s she was abandoned by her mom and she got to live with her dad, she told me that she is dealing with many issues, and I must confess that scared me a lot. I myslef is dealing with similar issues, I am very distant from dad. well this side of eternity is full of horrors of rejection. so anyway I talked with Alena an hour ago and I told her that I am not the right one for her, and just let it go, and that was really hard, I just learned from some good counslers of mine that I can't marry someone and fix them or hope that she will change. so I am still committed to be single and pleasing to God.

Greetings in Jesus name from HOT Napur, it has been over 100 and many muslims are not drinking water or eating becasue of Ramadan. My friend, a visiting American, walked the extra mile and decided to visit my folks in my home area, that was a long drive. my parents and my tribe enjoyed knowing him and they loved him. Please continue to pray for our growing church, it is squatters in the slum in north Nokton, where the majority are displaced from Pagun and the Zelk mountains, these noble people suffered very severe ethinic cleansings, raping, and all of them are Solfians, and the miltias who are infliciting these terrible atrocties of raping and killings are Tasils. The LORD open the hearts of these solfians to the gospel through their suffering.

Three and a half years ago I joined this small house fellowship in this displaced village in Nokton, we grew up from a handful to over sixty. I always feel the spirit of God real mighty in that place, I have been telling our church about the teaching of the kingdom of God and simple obedinece to the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles, though our church memebers are still babies in christ faith but they excude great joy in the LORD...

... 4 years ago I went to Pagun, I thought the conditions were bad then but this year has been much much worse.  I work with people with HIV/AIDS and with those who are traumatized by war and violence. This year we have been blessed with a new community center. Generally speaking the Muslim People are interested in Jesus.  The Muslim people don’t have a trouble with Jesus, they have a problem with Christianity. When they hear the word "Christian" they think of all the wars in the name of Christ, and Hollywood...

It is my birthday this month... I will turn 40.  So my family is trying to arrange a wedding for me.  This is the expected cultural and family duty, and now made more urgent since I will be 40 intwo weeks.  Up to now, I have turned down many attempts by my family toget me married, and now my relational capital has waned greatly in regards to marriage.

As a westerner, it may be hard for you to understand how important an arranged marriage is and how being single brings great shame to one's family.  Honor and shame are core values in my culture.  It is shameful for the family to have an otherwise respected son like myself not married.  It is a great honor for the family to choose a good wife from my tribe for me. I am not agreeing with the idea, but it is common for the arrangment for the marriage to be done without the bride and groom present.

Five years ago I returned to Napur with a passion to reach my family and other Muslims with the saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. To see the gospel advance here, it seems that now an important step is to comply with my family's wishes for a bride.  This is not just an issue formy immediate family but also for aunts, uncles, cousins and a host of other extended relatives.  They pick no Christians girls for me.  Because of this, I need your prayers so much.

Greetings from Napur, where the weather is pleasantly cool, and lovely.  It gets cold and sometimes we get snow on nearby mountains.  Last weekend, my girl friend Rachel and I decided to celebrate our belated spring break by going for skiing, but a mean polar bear attack Rachel.  Thank God she is safe and only got a couple of scratches, so you do not need to pray for her. By the way, I am attaching a picture of that mean polar bear who managed to escape all the way from the the Arctic Ocean to Napur to hurt my cup cake.

Happy April’s fool day! :) :)

...The goal of [Ahmed's American Christian support organization] is to share the good news of Jesus without extracting people from their cultural context.  For example, believers avoid pork, use Islamic names like Mohamed and Ahmed, and dress in Muslim clothes.  In Pagun, the entire community is from a Muslim background.  In our ministry we encourage believers to call themselves "followers of Jesus the Messiah”.

...I recently visited one of the oldest refugee camps in Pagun .. where I did a workshop on counseling.  It was so overwhelming to be here and hear how the refugees ended up in thisparticular camp. Here is the sad story:

Some Solfian shepherds from Pagun stole some cattle from Tasil herdsmen, murdering a few herdsmen in the process.  The Tasils decided to retaliate with machine guns given to them by the Napuri government.  They planned to murder everyone in the village where the thieves supposedly lived.  When the villagers learned of this plan, they fled--many by train, some on foot.  The Tasils caught up with the train.  They unhooked the passenger cars--old wooden ones--from the engine.  The Tasils poured gasoline over the cars and set them on fire, burning alive 1000 men, women, and children.

Some Tasils from this area protested this outrageous act of violence.  They said it was anti-Islam, that only Allah has the power to take lives by burning.  They demanded a government investigation.  The Napuri government investigated and, threatening them with jail orworse for stirring up ethnic division, forced those who burned the train to say the entire incident never happened.  Only one man refused to remain silent.  He is now a political refugee in America and will never see his family again.

Please share your joy and concerns with me, I love to pray for you.

Thank God that you are living in individualistic culture, I am living in a collective culture and I feel like every time I turn around my family or my friends are going on and on and on about how they want to meet the right girl for me, and assist me to settle down and have a family. My mother told me that she wants to be young enough to hold her grandkids.

Let me give you two recent attempts of how my family tried to arranged a marriage for me and how God intervened in a very amazing way.

Two months ago, they asked a girl from our tribe who has a college degree in Public Health and her name is Ghadir and she is 23. Two days after the wedding was planned my aunt died suddently of a heart attack, in our family tradition we have to mourn her for 40 days before we can have any wedding, and by the time the 40 days were up my cousin Ghadir was drafted in the militrary to do her selective service for two years, so that plan plan fell apart.

And last week, my uncle talked to his cousin and asked him to give his daughter Durriyah who is only 16 years old to marry me. Everybody said yes including the girl, and they set August 19th to be the wedding day, but today the girl's great aunt demanded a higher dowry of 20 camels (becasue the girl is tall and young), like $10,000. Of course neither me or anyone in my family has that money to spend on the girl's dowry.

As my folks plan, all I do with my friends is just praying and asking God to intervene and God always take my prayer seriously.

I know beyound any shadow of a doubt that my family and my friends want me to be happy, and they mean well, but I am so tired of the pressure to get married, and I feel like I'm being smothered by singleness and the pressure of marriage. Pray God will send the right wife soon.

...Napur borders richer country Rasan, and Rasan borders even richer country Sumar. There were three dogs, one from Sumar, one from Rasan, and one from Napur.  They were visiting. The Sumari dog told how things were in his country. He said that if you bark long enough somebody comes along and give you some meat.  The Rasani dog asked, "What's meat?"  The Napuri dog asked, "What's bark?" :) :) :)

For six years humor has been a key part of what I do in Napur.  There is much distress and pain among the refugees I work with and they like to laugh....1/ Please pray for my extended family.  I hear irritating comments at family reunions, and family gatherings about my singleness.  Ask God that my response will be gentle. 2/ We are looking for a place to rent for a community center.  Pray thatwe will find one in a good location. 3/ In three weeks time the mennonite guy who led me to Christ seventeen years ago is coming to visit me.  Please pray for his safety.

Continue to let me know how I can pray for you.

A servant of the living Jesus,


...I am writing this newsletter at a time of a great tension between the West and the Muslim world – tension rooted in historical and religious wars like the crusades.  More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights of freedom and education to many Muslims.  In addition, the support the West give to Israel, and the war on terror has led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to Islam.  Some muslim extremists have engaged in violence against innocent civilians.  This has led some in the West to view Islam as inevitably hostile." I am not defending the Muslims I am just refelcting what I have been observing over the years, after all I am a Social Worker :)".

I know the biggest issue in the Muslim world today is violent extremism.  I came to know Jesus out of a Muslim background.  Because of this I know to present Jesus to a Muslim.  Many of the Muslims with whom I shared Jesus did not come to beleive, but their attitudes towards Christianity have changed for the better.  I help them dismantle negative stereotypes helping them move closer to Jesus. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

Since I lived in the west for more than a decade I like bringing understanding between Muslims and the West.  When I visit the West I also like to dismantle negative stereotypes that the Western world has about Muslims. I tell my friends in the West that It was a muslims innovation that developed algebra; magnetic compass and tools of navigation; understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. and tons and tons of poems.

Greetings in the name of Christ. I have a huge conflict with my family over the issue of my arranged marriage. We reached the point where my family and I do not talk anymore.

This is how it got started. Last month my family arranged for me to marry my cousin Hadiyyah. Two weeks after my family's visit, elders from my tribe went to Hadiyyah's family and made an official request for Hadiyyah to marry me, and Hadiyyah's family agreed and blessed that marriage and they threw a little party for the elders. And then they decided to set a date for me to receive my bride sometime this July. I had a chance to talk with Hadiyyah and I discovered that we have zero compatibility. No wonder because I am over 20 years her senior. And the biggest issue is that she is not a follower of Jesus.

I stood up to my family and the elders and I demanded that they should dissolve this marriage. The only way for my folks to dissolve this marriage is for my family and the elders to go again to Hadiyyah's family and dissolve the marriage request. And my family feel ashamed of doing this, my mother says it is too late for us to turn back. And now my sister came from the Persian Gulf to attend the wedding and my uncle and cousins and my nephews are here for the wedding too. When I said no, my mother cried for three days and later she got sick and she was diagnosed for diabetes, and now everybody in my family is blaming me for making her sick.

The best way for me to save my family’s face is if the girl decides or her family decide not to proceed with this wedding, and I do not think this is going to happen because they think I will be a good husband to their daughter and I can provide for her.

Thank you for praying for me during my battle with my family regarding my marriage saga. God heard your prayers and gave me sufficient grace nd wisdom to break the silence barrier with my folks, now we are talking and we go shopping and visiting other extended family members whom they blame me for making my mother sick. I prayed a lot about Hadiyyah, and now I discern from the LORD that Hadiyyah is not the right one for me to marry. And I think my discernment seems to be from God; because it has the best interests of both me and Hadiyyah. so I talked to Hadiyyah and I urged her to tell her family not to go forward with the marriage plan. I think it is the best for her to stay in school and pursue her education, and I am open to support her after all she is my cousin. The best way for me to save my family’s face is if I could convince the girl and make her decide not to proceed with this wedding, and I do not think this is going to happen because the girl and her family think I am a good man and I am a man of honor will be a good their daughter and I can provide for her. Couple of weeks ago, Hadiyyah texted me and wrote me that she loves me, and she thinks about me all the time. I know the marriage could still take place even in my absence however I am not going to allow any confirmation of that ceremony in any way. And I know this will be agonizing, embarrassing, and painful for my family. I told my mother after I talked with Hadiyyah I determined that she is not the right one for me to marry. but my mother said it is too late to dissolve this marriage now. She added that the family and the elders from the tribe will not go again to Hadiyyah's family and dissolve the marriage request. Because such a deed will bring nothing but shame. But during the complex of all situation, the fasting month of Ramadan is just around the corner and during Ramadan Muslims refrain from eating, drinking and sexual activities from dawn until sunset. therefore people do not get married during Ramadan, so my family just left my house to celebrate Ramadan in my hometown, Fasting is meant to teach the Muslim patience, modesty and spirituality. So I hope I can convince my family or Hadiyyah’s family to stop this marriage. But at least I know I have 40 days not having to worry about marriage issues...

In regard to my marriage situation I am enjoying "cease fire" reprieve due to Ramadan! Now I have 30 days left. I need to find a Godly wife before Ramadan is over. Pray harder and harder please.

It is Ramadan in the Muslim world. I am fasting in spirit and truth to glorify God. Fasting from food and drink helps me to focus on spiritual growth, go deeper in my prayer life, and focus deeper on God. It also helps to prevent sexual thoughts. I also get a lot of health benefit from fasting like lowering of my blood sugar, lowering of cholesterol, and weight management.

Fasting helps me to bond with people in my community and identify with those who are starving in the refugee camps. At sunset we all eat together potluck style. It gives me the opportunity to talk about spiritual issues with muslim friends.

While I am fasting I am also praying for two women. I am praying for the American woman, Suzanna Schmidt, who was abducted by armed men in Pagun more than three months ago. She is in a distressful and dangerous situation. Food and drinking water are scarce and her living conditions are very primative. Now she is living in a dried river bed with about 20 ungodly men. God only knows what they are doing to her! She is sleeping in the rain. She drinks rain water. She is surviving by drinking camel’s milk. The situation has become a living nightmare for her.

The other young lady I am praying for and cousneling is a 16 years old from our church. She was raped and impregnated by a Muslim relative who is 20 years her senior. Later he married her to cover up the shame. He refuses to allow her to go to school or church. He started physcially and emotionally abusing her. After seeing bruises on her I realized that her life is in danger, and I asked her to flee to her parents home, and pursue her high school education.

I am so close to both of these two sisters. I feel that my marriage situation is nothing compared to what they are going through.

God heard our prayers and delivered our sister Suzanna Schmidt. She spent 105 days in a distressful and dangerous situation, and while she was in captivity she was bitten by a scorpion. She is a free woman now, but her release was the fruit of " long tedious negotiations with the abductors." I had the privilege of doing the translation, and teaching her Tasilic over the phone so she could communicate with her kidnappers. I felt honored to play a part in such an operation. I never thought that I could be used in this capacity. It was very hard work, because the abductors spoke very fast like a machine gun, and the phone connection was very poor. I was honored to help Suzanna, because when I was a stranger in America many people helped and entertained me. “Remember you were a stranger in America.” the LORD was telling me. There is a high escalation of insecurity for relief workers in Pagun. The violence and kidnappings have severely restricted the relief operations, and most foreign staff have moved back to the major city from the remote and needy areas.

cease fire was over and I got married and I will share more with you in the near future.

After resisting arranged marriage for 8 years Ahmed is now a married man. You may be thinking, this is one of my practical jokes (but it is not April yet)! I am still feeling overwhelmed and I'm sure you are feeling the same way at hearing my news. You can’t comprehend what I am going through as our culture is so very different.  Marriage is perhaps My greatest assignment now, you can only imagine what my bride must also be going through. Since I got married to her I pray everyday for God’s joy, mercy and love for our marriage.

I really wish I could have had you all here to support me. I will try to fill you in on the events of the past few weeks.

My engagement to Hadiyyah was called off after her wicked cousin Sumaiyah told her that Ahmed has got a love child in America, and that Ahmed will move her to western Napur “hardship area”. The motive of Sumaiyah was she wanted Hadiyyah to reject me and marry her brother, that was why she made such lies. And Hadiyyah is a naiive she beleived these lies.

Meanwhile there was another girl named Muna whom my family had inquired about for me. While I was celebrating the release of Suzanna the American hostage, four of my aunts, three uncles and one cousin went on behalf of my family and proposed to Muna. She was born and raised in a tiny country on the Persian Gulf. She came to Napur to pursue her education. I have seen Muna only 3 times in my life and all of these times combined do not exceed one hour. 5 days prior to the wedding I did not know for sure if there was going to be a wedding or not. There are no words in the English Language that could explain what I have been going through. Muna also did not have an option whether to get married or not. She was however allowed to choose a husband from the ones who had proposed to her and she seems to feel comfortable with her fate. "After all, it is God’s will", she said.

The marriage took place very quickly because the bride’s father had to leave for his work in the Persian Gulf. My brother in law took me to a sauna and gave me a Turkish bath which made my skin so light. Then they dressed me up and said, "go and receive your bride". So, I went to the hair dresser where she was waiting for me. I picked her up from there and we drove off to the reception. When we arrived everybody was expecting us to dance slow. The bride would not dance with me saying that I am a stranger. I told her, "I agree with you I am a stranger but I am also your husband". After some pressure she danced with me but I was sweating and also stepped on her feet several times so we stopped the dance. The party was really crowded. We had many wedding crashers.

After the reception I took my bride to the honeymooners hotel. 10 minutes after we got into our room we heard a very loud scream and a cry, coming from the room next to us. A groom there had injured his new bride while entering her for the first time. In Napur, female circumcision is common. It is also legal for men to beat their wives. My bride heard all the screaming and the crying and was quite traumatized. I felt it necessary to move from that hotel that night. The next day we went to a Christian specialist for help. My bride was asking me if I will abuse her like the man who abused his wife in the hotel. She was so nervous and scared that she has been sick for two weeks. She also asked if I will take another wife after her. I said to her, "I am a disciple of Jesus and Jesus forbids me from doing these things to you or to anyone else". Then she said to me, "I know Jesus was a great prophet but I did not know he taught about such a thing". I told her that I am answering to a higher authority and would never hurt her. That made her feel comfortable. Muna went with me to the church twice and she is so open to the gospel. Kindness and love drew me to Jesus 17 years ago, I pray they will draw her to Jesus too. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers my friends. Pray for me as I learn how to show my new bride the love of God. May God be so near to me as I take this journey.


I am still overwhelmed.

What God is doing in my country and my life is wonderful and more than amazing. For many years you and I have been praying that God will give me a godly wife -- and I believe God is answering that prayer, my wife is seeking the kingdom of God, the first time she ever heard the gospel is after she had married me. It's beautiful for me to see how she is joining me in my ministry. happy thanksgiving to you,  too bad that I can NOT get a turkey here but I ate a lots of lamb the last couple of weeks

[Being featured on] is going to be a real stretch for me.  But I am so into this movement, I believe it is high time to present Jesus without any western churchianity, Yes this is the time, Jesus said it so let it be done, "Follow me" Jesus did not say change your religion, Jesus only say repent from sin.

I AGREE with you strongly that the church in Napur and surrounding countries has a difficult relationship to Islam and there are many bad Muslims, and many bad Christians, and there is a bad spirit of competition. I often prayed that my marriage will bring glory to God's name. feel free to take my marriage as a microcosm. I told Muna, that Jesus never ask anyone to leave their religion all Jesus was asking for was to trust and follow him, I told her that she can be a Muslim who a true follower of Jesus.

I do not expect Muna to convert, I just pray she will come to respond to Jesus love, and sacrifice and eventually have the same opinion, and live and share the same vision. As a Tasil girl she was raised to be obedient to her husband but I told her many times I do not want her to obey me blindly. as a result now are having a bible study together, and we also read from the Quran. Muna told her family that she went with me to the church, her family was upset but now her family do not have power over her anymore, but her family was happy when she told them that I treat her with me love and that I did not make her go I just ask her to go. we have been married for few weeks now the picture is not very clear, after we returned from the Zelk mountains, the picture is becoming more clearer, now she knows what my work means to me and how I value it,

[This article was posted in December 2010.  May Ahmed and Muna continue to submit their lives to God.  John Fairfield]

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