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Eastern adventure

10 July 2015

Sarah Meyrick reads postcards from the Middle East

Young shepherds at work, the West Bekaa, Lebanon: a photo from Postcards from the Middle East

Young shepherds at work, the West Bekaa, Lebanon: a photo from Postcards from the Middle East

SOON AFTER their marriage, Chris Naylor and his wife Susanna left the UK for a new life in the Arab world. They were motivated by a strong vocation to "cross-cultural living".

They dipped their toes in the waters of the Arab world by going out to Kuwait as teachers. But this was in 1989, just before the first Gulf War. Before long, Iraqi forces invaded the country, and it became clear that life would never be the same again. The couple returned to the UK for a brief respite, but soon realised that they would not be returning.

(At this point, the author tells a curious anecdote of God’s provision. They lost all their possessions when the retreating Iraqi army looted their building. Their one sadness was the loss of their wedding album. Months later, they came home from work in the UK to find an unstamped package waiting for them, inside their locked house. Inside the parcel they found their album, sandy and marked with the footprint of a soldier’s boot.)

In spite of this unpromising start, the sense of calling remained. Three years later, Susanna and Chris and their family returned to the Middle East, first to Jordan, where they studied Arabic, and then to the Lebanon, where they settled in the Bekaa Valley. Sponsored by Interserve, Chris worked as a teacher before moving into pioneering environmental work with A Rocha.

Chris Naylor’s Postcards from the Middle East: How our family fell in love with the Arab world (Lion, £8.99 (£8.10); 978-0-7459-5649-7) is hard to define. It is a book about living through turbulent times in a troubled part of the world. It includes the author’s reflections on the challenges of bringing up a Western family in an unfamiliar culture, and his thoughts on the events of the 1990s and first decade of this century. They lived through the aftershock of 9/11, and experienced first-hand the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War. Susanna witnessed the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri from a few hundred metres.

Eventually, the family returned "home", and now live in Oxfordshire, which has required a whole new adjustment again. If a little uneven at times, this book speaks of the Arab world with sympathy and affection, and will particularly appeal to those with an interest in ecology.


Sarah Meyrick
Director of Communications for the diocese of Oxford

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