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MIDDLE EAST - HOME
Dates: July 28 – August 6
We are excited to once again partner with Global Hope Network. Grace’s team will be involved in a multi-faceted compassion ministry to the poor – some of them refugees from Iraq and Syria who have fled the wars in their homeland. Ministry will focus on expressing compassion and God's truth through the delivery of groceries to refugee homes and other poor families. This is a security-sensitive ministry, so please do not copy these posts in e-mails or post anything about this trip on social media sites without permission.
Updated Thursday, August 7
Our team arrived home safely last night, full of stories of God's goodness and compassion to suffering people. They are eager to share those stories with you! Please plan to join them for the
GO Team Celebration on Sunday, September 7, at 12:15
in the F Mod to hear from them and the PNG team. And thank you for praying them through this important ministry.
Updated Thursday, August 7
E-mail from Monique
Our visits have taken us in and out of flats where we have met so many who find themselves in difficult places and their future appears bleak. Only a few received UN assistance coupons and even that was insufficient to cover rent. Surely the large bags of food we carried to them were a source of encouragement they could taste and feel . . . although in a few weeks, the supply will come to an end. The heavy-hearted hopelessness in most of these homes was palpable. We asked for heaven’s care and peace to remain in each home long after the food ran out. In our last two days here, we were given some experiences that brightened our hearts, here are some highlights:
On Monday we visited Syrian families sprinkled to the east and the south. In one home, we met a family with a number of daughters who were on the brink of moving to a tent on a vacant lot because they did not have the 100 Dinars needed for rent. As we sat on cushions on the floor, they were overjoyed by our visit – and then they were overwhelmed when the team was also able to locate funds for a month’s rent to leave with them.
Up another three flights of stairs we met a young couple with a daughter (toddler) and a tiny baby. The little girl was only two months old when they fled their home in Syria and along the journey she became ill and has had poor health ever since. When we met her, she had not eaten for three days and appeared listless with fever. Her father showed us a small pair of glasses that she had to correct a lazy eye, but the frames were cracked so one of the lenses would not stay in place. Jamal suggested we could take father and daughter to his optometrist to see if he could repair the glasses. On the drive to the optometrist, Morgan offered the little girl a biscuit which she took and held, but did not eat as she looked out the van window with a vacant stare. The optometrist could see that her frames were too large for her (hence they had fallen off and were broken) so he refit her with a new pair of light pink frames suited for her size.
As we waited for him to fit the lenses to the new frames, Jamal patted her brown curls and could feel the fever, prompting him to touch her head and ask heaven to bring health to this little one, in the name of the master. For the first time since we laid eyes on her, a little smile came across her lips. She began with one bite of the biscuit, and then another! Sean was dispatched to see if he could find juice for her in the shop next door, and he came back with apple juice. We watched as her previously vacant eyes began to sparkle and wondered if her appetite returning was a sign of her stomach on the mend. As the optometrist fitted the new glasses on her with an additional back strap to keep them securely in place, he said that because this was a humanitarian effort, he would not take our funds for the glasses as he wanted to participate in helping her! He told the father that if they ever broke these glasses to come back and he would replace them for free.
As we were parting, we told the father that this assistance had come from the master, and he eagerly told us that the master had already helped him once before in Syria. He explained that he had fallen out of his home and someone from the church near his house found him and took care of him when no one else did, and he had never forgotten this kindness. (Reminded us of a parable about a Samaritan.) So we discovered that we were not the first but the second link in a chain of believers in this family’s life and we were so thankful for that privilege. We are looking forward to seeing how their story progresses as our friends continue to check up on them.
On Monday afternoon, we renewed a connection with a local pastor who invited us to share Lori’s Hearts in Need school backpacks with the children of his weekly Syrian women’s group. Our ladies joined and listened along with about 80 ladies as Vicki shared about a particularly painful situation going on in her family that was teaching her about living with consequences of bad choices and also about our gracious father in heaven, a father who alone can give us hope in the midst of our distresses. Afterward, the kids eagerly received bright blue, pink or purple backpacks stuffed with school supplies. As they spilled out into the bland, narrow street outside the church, it became alive with color as the children bounced off towards their homes better equipped for a new semester. It was good to be back in that place and renew friendships.
As we reflected on the week we have spent here, we were grateful for opportunities to meet with some dear people these past few days. We were blessed to have devotional time with three different guests: pastors from Gaza, Syria and Iraq as well as two ladies who are current residents of Damascus (attending a conf. here, and returned to Damascus by now) who were able to share firsthand accounts of how believers are sharing light in dark places as well as learning of their struggles and needs. What eye-opening and prayer-inducing perspectives they gave us of each of these areas of conflict in this region. We also met over lunch with a local sheik who had just returned from a trip to Gaza, a man who has genuine compassion and care for the wounded and the needy among his people. He works with seven humanitarian organizations (5 Christian and 2 Islamic) and said of all these societies, our hosts' organization is doing the finest service here. He is a strong supporter of cooperative efforts. Compassion from heaven continues to build some wonderful bridges, on many levels.
Thoughts from Denise: "We are all mostly packed and off to bed for an 8 am departure from our hotel to the airport. Our faith has been strengthen and our pockets and purses have been emptied. We have met some of the most amazing young people and have had sheiks give us unbelievable complements. We have gone down narrow alleys filled with rubbish and the smells to go with it and climbed 5-6th floor apts and roof tops carrying #50 food bags, bags of shoes, shirts and toys along with own heavy backpacks. Us girls have hugged, kissed and played with the children as we try and talk with the women. Sending smiles that are shyly returned, praying that we have provided 30 minutes of peace from their past and present situations. I could go on and on, but too much to say. The team has been blessed and we thank our Home Team supporters, you, for helping us make it happen. I hope and pray that some day in eternity you will meet many that you have helped bring into the kingdom! Humbly, ><> Denise Hinson <><"
We are so grateful for the grateful for the opportunity to share some of these experiences that you have helped to make possible. The team has now landed safely in Los Angeles, happy to be home even while we're sad to have our time in Jordan come to a close. You can pray with us that there will be wonderful ripple effects resulting from our time there.
Updated Monday, August 4
E-mail from Scott
As we visited the makeshift Syrian camp south of the capital, we had the joy of visiting families in their tents, giving toys to the kids, playing games in a large circle with the kids.
The guys had a pick up game of soccer with the men, challenging them that if they could beat us, they could keep the soccer ball we brought. The Americans went down to a miserable defeat of 5-1, and the ball stayed in the camp.
We saw many with severe medical needs and water was scarce. But we made some great friends. The kids in this camp had missed 3 years of school during the war, and had no school there. Our "man of peace" - host in the camp was a former first grade schoolteacher whose dream is to have a tent with 40 chairs where he could begin schooling the children from his tribe. This might be one possible follow-up project here!
We then spent the day in home visits in the north, where there seemed to be great needs as much of the governmental aid from outside was not getting to the refugee families. We were joyfully and gratefully received in most all of these homes. We also saw evidence of great fruitfulness in the work being done here among them, many who had found lasting hope and eager to share it with their neighbors. We can hardly wait to tell you about it when we get home.
Finally, in the late afternoon we had a wonderful treat of revisiting a small village which our team in 2009, 2010 and 2011 had helped engage. We saw so much fruit from the ongoing engagement, seeing the light in the eyes of several, seeing desperation having turned to hope, and a few goats turned into a herd that is an ongoing business to support a family. We were welcomed with hugs, tears while sharing how their lives had improved.
Thank you for continuing to remember us....we are feeling the wave of support!
Updated Monday, August 4
E-mail from Monique
We continue to walk in joy and favor everywhere we go. The days get quite warm in the afternoon (low 90s) but it cools off nicely in the evenings. First thing Saturday morning 3 of us, including me, came down with a stomach flu, with fatigue and chills that kept us in bed all day, except for runs to the restroom. By the afternoon 3 more felt the virus and were down for the evening. I'm glad to report that by Sunday morning, most were up and on the mend, and by Sunday night all of us were up and around for the evening activities. We and our hosts cannot remember a time when so many on one team had health issues like this. It was a nasty bug, but we've had amazingly quick recovery times. We know you are praying for us!
While I was down for the day on Saturday, the rest headed north to bring food bags and toys and shoes to Syrian and Palestinian families. One of the visits was especially joyful for Lori, Nathan, Scott and Vicki as they were reunited with Meliha whom they visited in 2009, shortly after the death of her eldest daughter who was just about to graduate from college. With the hopes of an income from a working daughter dashed, Meliha said "God hates me" when she met our first team. Raising 9 children alone (father lives with his second wife), her resources were slim. Over the years, with the consistent care and assistance from GHNI, Meliha and her children received shoes, food bags, and a milking goat, as well as tuition loans for her next eldest daughter who has now completed nursing school. Their home has been transformed from despair to joy, which was evident in their faces at this reunion! Scott will write more of the highlights from that day and I will forward it to you when it is completed.
Sunday began with worship and encouragement from our holy book with our Middle Eastern brethren. It is always enriching to hear voices sing praise in Arabic and with distinctly Middle Eastern melodies.
After a meal at Chili's (yes, they have Chili's here!) we headed out to visit more Syrian refugee families, or as Jamal likes to say, Syrian guests who have come here for refuge. One mother is here with two of her children, the older ones are married and most are still in Syria. Her 19-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter traveled here with her, and the young man had been held for three hours at a checkpoint on their journey and he was beaten. She pleaded and pleaded for them to return her son. A half brother who was also taken was not returned, but this mother's son was released to her. It took him one month to recover from the beating. They have only been here for a number of months, and survival is a struggle. They are hoping the daughter might be able to go to school in the fall. She is eager to study. As in every home, they did not refuse our offer to pray for them so we asked father to bring provide for them and to bring peace to their home, a peace that the world cannot take away, no matter what their circumstances may be.
As you think of us, please lift requests for energy and good health for the long days, for divine appointments and for sensitivity with each one we meet...that we might bring help and hope to many.
Updated Friday, August 1 E-mail from Lori
Today our team gave food, clothes and, of course His love, to this small Syrian Refugee camp of 35 families. They had to escape Syria quickly; one family's husband we visited had gangrene because his gunshot wound never had adequate medical care.The refugees dig holes in the ground for toilets and have very little water or food. These children are eating the food we just gave them. See the tents and goats in the background? We played games and visited each families tents to listen to their stories and pray for them.
Updated Thursday July 31
E-mails from Monique and Scott
Monique writes: Ahalan. . .Hello! As you head to bed on Wednesday night, we are beginning our second full day here Thursday morning after a well-earned good night's rest. What a blessing to be with this circle of brothers and sisters, including our hosts and the helpers who are interpreting and sharing compassion along with us on our visits to homes of Syrian refugee families yesterday. Locking arms and serving together with local brethren who also have a heart to bring assistance and eternal hope is so mutually encouraging.
We began yesterday with a reminder from Karen that we are links in a chain, illustrated by various colors and sizes of carabiners that were passed to each one of us and then we individually clipped together to form a chain, a visual representation of the words of our savior who asked father to make us one as he and dad are one. We add unique gifts and strengths to our circle of links and we are all linked to the father, following his lead, together. As we pursue pleasing him, reflecting his ways, united in spirit, he receives the praise in the good things he accomplishes through us. And it is just a joyful taste of heaven to operate this way. (Thank you for asking for this on our behalf! ) We also had an extended time of talking to father, and then some updates and orientation from Jamal and Rami.
The needs of the masses of refugees continue to overwhelm this region, and the opportunities to bring life-changing assistance are everywhere we look. We had such an efficient assembly line as we filled Global Hope bags with 50 lbs. of various staple foods...cooking oil, rice, beans, pasta, cheese, powdered milk, sugar, lentils, tahini sauce, tea, biscuits, chickpeas, etc., to help feed families for about 2 weeks. We had the assistance of a local brother and sister (20 somethings) who would serve as interpreters, as well as Global Hope assistants. (I've never seen it work as smoothly...the links were well-oiled!!) We went out in 4 groups to 5 to 6 homes each...approximately 20 families our first day. Some families have been here one year and half or two already, some as new as 5 weeks, stunned to find themselves in such unfamiliar, uncertain desperation far from their homeland.
Thank you for remembering us. We sense your partnership as we go out on our visits!
Scott writes: Today the team completed its first day of visitation by calling on 20 homes, after packing 100 food bags. Our hearts were filled to overflowing and our emotions worked overtime as we spent time loving on and caring for families who had been through huge devastation.
At one home, a man and his wife shared how they had been interrogated and the husband had said he was an interpreter. It was assumed he was an interpreter for the US military and he was later warned to leave Iraq by a note on their door, followed by the murder of his son. In actuality, he was a sign language interpreter and ran a sign language school for kids in Iraq, but could not read or write. Before leaving, we offered him an audio stick version of our holy book. His eyes watered and he said "This is the best gift I have ever received!"
We also were able to share an audio stick with Abu Abdullah (*psudeonym), a former farmer from Syria who was blinded about 18 months ago by schrapnel when a rocket hit his home when he and his family were present. Now, he hopes to return to his farms when the war is over. He was amazingly grateful to be able to listen to the book. Our visit was a link in building an ongoing relationship with local brethren over the last 8 months.
Updated Tuesday, July 29
E-mail from Monique
Greetings. . .Marhaba! We have completed the travel portion of our journey, met up with Scott and Vicki who came via a European conference, and now we have arrived and are happy to be breathing Middle Eastern air!
Our flights went relatively smoothly (our British carrier seemed to find some of the quaint cobblestones up in the air and we felt them occasionally!) and all our luggage arrived safe and sound...yay! Our hosts, Jamal, Suzanne and Rami met us at the airport and we loaded in to four vehicles for the 45 minute ride into the city. We are all heading to bed after midnight and looking forward to some horizontal sleep!
Thank you for lifting us to heaven as you remembered us. We're eager to recharge our batteries and start sharing compassion with those around us tomorrow. May we have heaven's eyes for all those we meet.
Updated Tuesday, July 29
We received word that our team arrived safely at their final destination, a major capital city in one of the key nations of the Middle East, and was greeted warmly by our hosts. Ministry start tomorrow - thanks for praying!
Updated Monday July 28
Our home visitation team to the Middle East was prayed off the church campus this morning, heading into a part of the world that is in the headlines every day (for security reasons, we will not name the country where they will serve). Thanks for praying as they bring hope from heaven to refugees who have lost everything.
Mexico Spring Break
Papua New Guinea
Haiti - Orphanage