Linda* tells us how the political crisis in Yemen is affecting everyday life there…
The political crisis in Yemen has affected us in various ways. Our neighbourhood has been transformed over the past few months with barbed wire, army soldiers, walled-in streets and numerous tents that fill the demonstration areas. Every Friday, we expect some big demonstration that will end all other demonstrations, and each Saturday the political turmoil goes on.
Another way the crisis has affected Yemen is that it has created shortages of water, electricity, petrol (gas for driving) and natural gas (used for cooking). Yemen doesn’t need a potential civil war to create shortages, but the shortage on cooking gas has gone on for about two months now.

Ready for Action

It got to the point where we needed to exchange our empty gas bottle for a full one. For several days, a truck had entered our neighbourhood with only a few gas bottles, leaving most people without gas.
One morning, we heard that there would be another truck coming in a few hours, so while my husband was at work, my daughter and I began preparing! As soon as we heard the neighbours rolling their gas bottles along the street, Naomi* and I rushed outside to get in line. We watched the truck come down the road, already with 15 neighbours on the sides and top, clamouring to exchange their bottles. We knew we were going to be in for a real ‘cultural experience’.
Naomi grabbed our empty gas bottle and got into line with a bunch of women. It was more like a huddle than a line. One of the neighbours told her where to stand; I stood at a distance, since it was already crowded enough. The truck driver backed into the gas bottle dealer and started to unload the full bottles. There was shouting and shoving and heavy gas bottles being tossed in every direction. In the end, the gas bottle owner said there were only twenty full bottles to be exchanged, though, of course, there were at least a hundred people with empty bottles!

Chaos Ensues

The women, along with Naomi, huddled still closer to the entrance of the building. Men grabbed, shoved and squeezed past them, trying to get into the building. The gas bottle owner yelled and screamed at everyone with a bright, red face and finally said they were shutting the doors until an army guard would come to help sort out the mess. As they tried to close the doors, some tried to keep them open. As he was trying to shut the last door, it slid off its hinges. Everyone laughed and clapped their approval!
One lone soldier eventually came from around the corner – where he had been guarding the demonstration zone – with his Kalashnikov, and guarded the entrance to the building. It was decided that they would alternate the distribution of the bottles between men and women – one to a man, the next to a woman, and so on. The women tried their best to form some sort of line, with various women butting in front. The men didn’t even bother forming a line, however, some men formed a human chain to ‘protect’ the women in their line, which was hilarious!
Of course, the men were still fighting and arguing over who should get a bottle. The soldier got so frustrated with all the chaos, that he pointed his gun straight in the air and shot it! That cleared away some of the people. Everyone backed off while shouting at his stupidity! Fortunately, someone in the crowd encouraged him not to shoot again; otherwise, the whole place could have blown up. That’s when I thought getting a gas bottle right now possibly wasn’t such a good idea. However, Naomi didn’t show any sign of turning away. So she waited and I prayed.

Perseverance

I was sure Naomi wasn’t going to get a gas bottle. Everyone was crowding in and I thought by the time she made it to the front, there would be no more full bottles to exchange. However, she managed to keep moving up and before I knew it she’d paid and received a new gas bottle. I could hardly believe it. For us, the whole process took only 45 minutes. I felt so proud of Naomi as we laughed our way back home with our treasure!
From a sociological point of view, the whole scene was fascinating. How do people react when they’re desperate for a necessity like cooking gas and there are only a few bottles around to spare?
Jesus said, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.’ (Matthew 13:44)
What a concept: to surrender something that is empty and worthless in exchange for a valued treasure! Please pray that our friends and neighbours would surrender their empty lives for the full life of Christ, which He paid for with His blood – surely the greatest exchange we’ll ever know.

Post-script

Gas bottles seem to be a bit more available these days. However, our problem now is petrol for cars and electricity. Yesterday we had only one and a half hours of electricity. The petrol lines literally go on for miles with cars parked there for days.

* Name has been changed.
Photo courtesy of Sallam, available under a Creative Commons Attribution license. The author is in no way connected to Arab World Media.