Middle East STM 2017 - Update #3
Dear friends and family,
We are back in Istanbul, and are flying out tomorrow morning to head home to the states. These past couple of weeks have flown by, and we are grateful for your steadfast support and prayers through it all.
Our final two days in Iraq were spent in Khalil Ibrahim and Merga Soor. Khalil Ibrahim is an abandoned, half finished construction site for an intended business complex where Yazidi refugee families have moved in and set up makeshift homes in the concrete skeleton structures and in the surrounding areas. At this site, we continued to see patients, visit the homes of families our team had met last time in order to deepen and strengthen these relationships, and visited for the first time homes of some of the sweet children we played with throughout the day. One particular home visitation was striking in the aspect of the background and story of the family. One young daughter had apparently just returned from ISIS's hands five days prior, purchased back by paying a ransom. Three daughters had been purchased back through these means, and the family had spent tens of thousands of dollars in order to pay the price ISIS placed on their heads. I won't go into detail about the more horrific things the girls endured, but the family has 6 more children still under ISIS's capture and are struggling to get by, as the father's back is injured and he is unable to work. They live in a makeshift home, with walls pieced together by an assortment of materials, standing in an empty, partially built intended-skyscraper. This story was incredibly saddening to hear, but what broke my heart even more was the thought that this story in itself was not unique--many refugees had experienced similar things and many more are still experiencing them this moment. We know that we can not do much even for this family, and that despite the newly acquired freedom of this 11 year old girl, it is the healing, redeeming power of Jesus Christ that will truly bring lasting hope and healing for this family.
The next and final day of work in Iraq, we spent in Merga Soor, which is the first time we brought our clinic to this village. We were blessed with the most amazing view of the Iraqi landscape right behind the building we set up in, with rolling green hills backed by beautiful gray-blue mountains. We experienced a jaw-dropping lightning storm in the afternoon, which personally reminded me of the extent of God's sheer power and majesty in the face of this uncontrollable force of nature. A few of us drove through the storm and hail to a smaller village (only about about 10-14 families) 20-30 minutes away to do some food distribution with the local Iraqi pastor we work with. There, we met and were able to pray for a disabled man (the brother of the mayor of the village) and his mother. He had been in a car accident 15 years ago and lost control of his arms and legs, and suffered brain damage. In his childlike state, the pure joy that he expressed and the huge smile that lit up his face struck deep into my heart and I knew that he, and others like him, are so, so deeply loved and cherished by God despite the limitations of their physical body. We were saddened by the backbreaking work and deep-rooted sorrow of his mother after all these years caring for her son who was once healthy and well, but we were able to bring her at least momentary peace and bring a smile to her face as we prayed for her and showed her how deeply she was loved by both us and Christ.
Through these stories shared and my experiences from the past two weeks, I keep seeing and re-realizing over and over again the importance of being a living example for Christ and a testament to His goodness even when we are unable to share deeply about the gospel or directly disciple people towards Christ. Even if we can't make a huge change or impact in their life in the immediate moment, we can show them love and compassion and in turn, convey how deeply they are loved by the God we are representatives of. Even if you don't speak the same language, people can feel the love you are trying to exude towards them. And that makes all the difference.
Anyways, the entire day after was spent getting from Zakho to Duhok to Erbil to finally arriving in Istanbul. A handful of our team members woke up that morning with stomach pains, problems with bowel movements, etc, and spent a miserable day feeling sick while traveling. In addition, in the following days, the other members of our team fell victim to the presumed stomach flu that was being passed around our team. At this point, some of us have gotten better but there are still some who aren't feeling too well--only two of our adult team members have escaped this sickness so it definitely affected our team a lot!
- So again, please pray for the health of our team members. Praise the Lord that we were able to get through all the work we needed to do before we all got sick, but please pray that we are all able to make it through the flight without feeling too nauseous.
- Please also pray that we will have a safe flight and get home safely! :)
- Please continue to pray for our translators and the people we encountered in Iraq. The relationships we have been building with our translators are some of the most important and long-lasting ones we have in this mission field, and we hope and pray that they can come to Christ and be leaders among their own people.
- Please pray for this ministry and the for the teams to come (next one is in June, with more in the fall!). God is moving and working in the Middle East and we pray that He will grow this ministry and use it mightily among the Yazidi people, in Kurdistan, and beyond if He is willing. Pray that God will continue to prepare the way and the hearts of the people here and that He will equip the future team members to do big things in His name.
- Again, thank you all for your support and for your prayers! We love you all so much.