Paulding, Ohio is the county seat of Paulding County.It’s the county that is directly south of the county I grew up in, Defiance County, Ohio; both counties nestled in Northwest Ohio. Paulding has been on my mind since I found out this weekend that US NavyPetty Officer Second Class Randall Smith, who died from his wounds on Saturday, the fifth victim in the terrorist attack at a Recruiting Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee,was from Paulding. I told my husband and we found out that Smith had graduated from Paulding High School, that he had wrestled and played baseball there, and that he enrolled at Defiance College on a baseball scholarship. After a year in college, Smith decided to join the US Navy and serve his country, just like one of his grandfather’s had done. US flags around NW Ohio have been flying at half-mast. I also saw on a friend’s facebook page a shared announcement, that Amercian Legion members in NW Ohio were being called upon to ride their motorcycles to help escort the body of Smith to Paulding.
With a son who is finished with his 4 years of service in the US Marines, I was heartsick when I got home from work last Thursday and found out that 4 Marines had been killed by a young man of the Muslim faith. I didn’t realize then that our military forbids recruiters to be armed while on their job. It doesn’t make any sense that military personnel, whether they are on their base or at a recruitment office, cannot have a gun on their person for protection! I saw in the news since this horrible terrorist act, that citizens with conceal carry permits have been volunteering to stand guard at recruitment offices across the country and that some states governors’ have announced that their National Guardsmen can carry weapons for protection. A friend who served proudly in the US Navy, whom I was discussing this policy about “no guns” with, I mentioned that common sense would seem to dictate letting military personnel be armed and he said sadly common sense seems to be lacking.
Rolla, Missouri, where I now live, is home to Missouri University of Science and Technology, a premier school for educating engineers, scientists, mathemeticians: all careers that rely heavily on math and science. We have a lot of students who come here from other parts of the world, and many are from Asia. I would say that several times a week I see Middle Eastern students, the females wearing their head coverings, or Middle Eastern male students out shopping with their wives and kids in tow. I haven’t had any bad encounters with those students, but I have found myself wondering, just wondering, if any of those male students, the one’s without a wife and kids, are susceptible to joining in with some terrorist organization? Our oldest daughter, during her senior year at Rolla High School, took a class that let her work at a preschool held at the high school and several of her students were Middle Eastern children, as their parents didn’t want to enroll their kids in the other preschools in our community that are Christian based and held at churches. One day our daughter came home with a sort of funny tale, their craft for the day involved gluing marshmallows down on paper and one little girl began screaming that the marshmallows weren’t “halal”. None of the teachers or student helpers could figure out why marshmallows would freak out a 4 year old, so we asked a friend who had done mission work with Muslims in Detroit and she explained that some marshmallows are made with animal gelatin, from hooves or bones, and that that’s not “halal” or proper food for a Muslim to eat. (Here’s an interesting link I found about what is and isn’t halal food.) In that same preschool class, my daughter said one boy was always scowling and one day he said he and his family hated America, it’s a bad place, and as soon as his dad had his degree, they’d be moving back to where they were originally from! I wonder to myself, if America is such a “bad place”, then why come here at all?? Child #4 in our family of 7 kids, is a Senior at Rolla High and last year as a junior he wrote a very thoughtful piece for his school’s newspaper. He decided to interview Muslim students at the high school to ask them what it’s like to live in America and to practice their religious faith. My son’s article was well-done and helped me to see that not all Muslims here think America is “bad”.
My twin daughters, since 8th grade when they left homeschooling and enrolled at Rolla Junior High, have several friends who are Muslims. The girls are bright, practice their beliefs including the headdress and food rules, and my daughters get along with them really well. They know from our girls that we are active at our church, Greentree Christian, so there is an air of mutual respect for each other’s beliefs. One of their friends, they told me, is a bit sad though as her father announced that in another year their family will be moving back to their native country so Dad can work there with his new degree from MS&T. The country they’ll move back to is having a lot of internal troubles and the girl has confided to my daughters that she doesn’t want to leave America. I told my girls that all we can do is pray for her friend, that God will keep her and her family safe, and perhaps she can come back to America when she is an adult.
With all of these thoughts swirling around in my head this week due to the tragedy in Chattanooga, I give it all to God: my anxiety, my wrong-headed prejudicial thoughts, my concerns with our government and how they are dealing with these crises, those grieving families who lost their loved ones suddenly in Chattanooga, the family of the shooter and the pain they are dealing with. Life is full of many events that we can only ask “Why?” about and we realize that the answers may never come to us in this life. From looking at the book of Job on the Sunday sermons at our church, I have been reminded that Job was dealt an awful hand: his wealth, his children, his health were all taken from him. With horrible advice from his suffering wife, friends with bad assumptions, he too cried out “Why?” Ultimately, Job was reminded how great is our God, how far above He is from what mere mortal man can comprehend, and that despite the disasters that befell Job, he didn’t give up in his belief in God. Job 27:1-6, Job states how he won’t give up his belief, no matter what else may happen to him in this life. I, too, pray that I can hang on and deepen my faith no matter what this life may present to me.