Middle East STM 2017 - Update #2
Dear friends and family,
Hello from Zakho! On Friday, we wrapped up our last day based out of the Duhok area. In the area that I mentioned in my previous blog, Sharya, we set up our clinic in a small schoolhouse where the tables and benches that we arranged to make our setup were covered with a thin film of dust and dirt. To me (and my public health background), this was so concerning because the amount of dust floating around in the air the entire time made it harder to breathe--and there are children who have to go to school every day in this environment. At this site, around 80-100 children showed up--I hope we can pray against respiratory illnesses, and that they would have good health. At first, the children piled into two spare classrooms on the side, where they colored some pictures, sang songs at the top of their lungs, and made bead bracelets. I'll never forget their beaming faces showing off their drawings to me and their sweet smiles as I held up my hand to give them high fives. Something striking that happened today was that we had an encounter with some spiritual leaders of the Yazidi faith. A woman walked into our clinic and fell on the floor and into a very loud, demonic-seeming trance that only stopped when another lady, apparently from the Sheikh class, drew a line on her forehead with her saliva. We had no idea that this occurrence had a spiritual tie to the Yazidi faith until afterwards, when one of our translators explained to us that these women are extremely powerful among the Yazidis and that they periodically go into these trances at certain times. Many Yazidis go to them for guidance and answers to major life events, and our own translators fully believe in this--please pray for the spiritual warfare that is going on and for Yazidi people so that they would not be blinded by the evil one.
As we wrapped up seeing patients around dinnertime, I got to play soccer with some of the kids as the sun set. We said goodbye to our Duhok translators that night after dinner, and the next day we got to have a rest day where we visited the tomb of minor prophet Nahum in an ancient Christian village, a mountain top monastery near Mosul, and Lalish, which is a temple that is the essentially the Yazidi "mecca"; the holiest temple of the Yazidi faith where all the Yazidi people travel to at least once or twice each year. Our Yazidi translators showed us around the temple and through that experience, we were able to understand the Yazidi faith and the Yazidi people and culture a bit more.
The day after, we got back to work in Faysh Khabor, a small village next to the Tigris river and right across the bank from Syria. Our travels in the previous couple of days have been striking because we got to drive right past and peek into the Mosul area, which is still a very unsafe area and is where many people (including one of our translators) we have met thus far have escaped from. We also got to see the Iraq-Turkey border as well as where Iraq borders Syria, and hear stories from our translators and people we encountered about their journeys as refugees fleeing from Sinjar/Iraq to Syria, and then back across the Iraqi border, walking from 16-36 hours at a time. In Faysh Khabor, we set up our medical clinic in the only way available--with two poles, and a cloth stretching from the poles to our van.
Thankfully, this arrangement worked out beautifully because we were blessed with a nice breeze and consistent shade, and a beautiful sunset over the river that evening. The local people were wonderful and inviting, and some of us got to spend the latter half of the afternoon teaching the kids how to play jump rope. Towards the end of the day, we got news of answered prayers. In March, our previous team met a woman in this village who had escaped with three of her children from IS1S, but whose husband, daughter, and son were still missing. They have been in our group's prayers since then, and we found out on our return this time that the daughter had escaped and returned a week ago! Praise the Lord--but please keep praying for this family, because the husband and 16 year old son, Hazam, are still with IS1S. It is imperative that we pray with urgency because while they were able to find out that the son is still alive, it was through finding a picture of him in military gear on the IS1S Facebook page. And while there are many NGO's working in Northern Iraq for the refugee crisis, there are still many people who are overlooked or do not have access to these resources. This woman and her family feel forgotten by the world, which has left this village untouched, where she and other husband-less women are struggling to feed their families and deal with the aftermath of the trauma they have experienced. While this is just one of many sobering stories we heard that day and throughout the time that we have been here in Iraq, we rejoice in the answered prayers and cling on to the hope that the Lord will keep working and moving in this region. We know that His heart breaks for these people, and I pray that our hearts would break over and over for them too, and not become hardened.
We spent today giving medical treatment in Levo, a remote Christian village nestled among the rolling hills of Iraq, about an hour out from Zakho. This village is where Ghazwan, the song leader of the church we work with, is from. The majority of the people we have met so far, whether they are our translators, our patients, or villagers, have their own unique, heart-wrenching story. It is the refugee crisis literally in front of our faces, telling us their stories and sharing their hearts with us. From escaping through the Sinjar mountain to fleeing from Mosul, they have all been through so much--yet are able to keep a smile on in the face of it all. Please continue to keep the Yazidi people, as well as the rest of the Iraqi refugees in your prayers.
- Please also continue to pray for our translators, that they would come to know Christ and that they would be able to find refuge and healing in Him.
- Please pray for the woman in Faysh Khabor and her family, as well as the other women we met in that village who have similar stories, that their families would be reunited again.
- Please pray that our team would continue to stay in good health and have energy to carry us through the day (it's gotten a lot better since the last update, so thank you)!
- Please pray for all the people we are yet to encounter, that their hearts would be open and soft to the Holy Spirit.