The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Seeking peace in hard times

As stress relief, Sureya Sayadi runs long distances “like Forrest Gump,” she says, with a laugh. Crossing physical distances is one thing—it’s the emotional ones that keep the medical doctor and instructor up at night.

Peace often comes as Sayadi walks the labyrinth at her congregation, Peace Lutheran, Danville, Calif. “Church isn’t only a structure,” she said. “It’s a symbol of the things that give me peace in these hard times.”

After her family was expelled from Iraq 29 years ago, she came to the United States as a Kurdish refugee. She was sponsored by a Lutheran pastor, the late James Pedersen and his wife, JoAnn, and attended a Northwood, N.D., high school. It wasn’t until 1998, amid a difficult divorce, that Sayadi decided to be baptized. Then, she said, “I started doing all things possible to enrich my life spiritually.”

As the war continues, spiritual practices and talking to her pastor help Sayadi cope with worry for her sister’s family who lives in Baghdad. But she’s also concerned for her sisters in Kurdistan and Turkey.

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