Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Smiles, Tears, and Puke

Hospital visit days are probably my favorite because they help me keep all of the office work in perspective. Today we picked up nine Palestinian kids and brought them to the hospital for echo.
The sun shone down bright and clear as we pulled up to the Erez Border Crossing to pick up nine Palestinian children and their parents. We loaded up the vans and headed off to the hospital where six of the children had follow-up echos and three had echos to evaluate their heart problem and determine how surgery could fix it.  
When we get to the hospital, all of the families have to present their IDs and visas that show they are allowed to enter Israel to take their children to this specific hospital. Normally, this goes off without a hitch and we are inside quickly. However, today there was a mix up with one of the papers. It said the mother was supposed to go to a different hospital in Israel even though her infant son’s visa said he was supposed to be at the one we take all our patients to. At first, it seemed like they were not going to let her in. We all waited, praying that God would open the doors so that she could accompany her child so he could have his follow-up echo. Finally, we got the word from the higher-ups; she could enter! We joyfully headed into the hospital for a busy day.
The echos are not painful but the machines can be intimidating and frightening for the kids. Since many of the children are infants, the doctors give them medicine before the echo that makes them drowsy. This helps the whole process to go more smoothly and keep the babies from squirming during the echo. However, the medicine must taste awful because it is quite an ordeal to give it to each of the kids. I took a picture that completely sums up these moments. In it there is one kid smiling (probably because she hasn't been given the medicine yet), another crying because she was just force fed the nasty orange liquid, and another puking the medicine back up!
            While each child waits for their turn, we try to help keep them entertained. There is a small play area so we usually color, play with baby dolls and beanie babies, or climb in and out of the playhouse situated in the back corner. Today I also brought bubbles which the kids loved! I have learned almost any fear a toddler has can be solved with bubbles. They had a great time racing each other to see who could pop the most bubbles the fastest. Today there were also a couple guys there from the organization Save a Child's Heart who we partner with. They were so helpful in keeping the kids entertained. They also know Arabic so they were able to help me communicate a bit with the kids. I am quickly learning that the Kurdish I use with the Iraqi kids does not work with the Arabic speaking Palestinians!
            All of the echos went smoothly. At the end of the day, eight of the children were returned to Gaza and another was admitted for surgery. Our Iraqi patients are also doing well. Chera had her surgery a couple days ago and is now in intermediate ICU. She is definitely still in pain, but she had such a quiet strength about her. I was so impressed! We also got to bring Hezhan back to Shevet today! He is well enough to continue recovering here and will have a few more follow-up echos in the next couple weeks.And some of our most exciting news.... The new website is up! Check it out! We are still working out the kinks, but it looks great!


Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Bits and Pieces of Life

So many little things happen every day that are difficult to sum up. It's the little moments that you can't capture in a photograph or write a book about, but make each day special and unique. For example...
1)Saturday I went to the Wailing Wall twice because two different new volunteers wanted to see it. Both of their faces lit up the way my heart does every time it came within view. This amazing piece of history and culture is incredible! I could go every day just to spend time praying. But thankfully since this is not possible, God hears me just as well from my bedroom.
2) Another volunteer and I run every morning. This city is by no means flat so we are getting a great work out going up and down the hills. On one of our loops we have a couple evil hills that threaten to defeat us every morning. We have nicknamed  them the "Hill of Death" and the "Hill of Doom". Depending on how we're feeling we chose which hill to go up and which to go down. Today, it was down the Hill of Doom then up the Hill of Death.
3) There is a huge dead spider (literally) hanging out above the cabinet in our bathroom. One of our volunteers has named her Matilda to make her a little less frightening. This afternoon, I discovered Matilda's very large and alive cousin in the kitchen. Correction, Matilda's very large and no longer alive cousin!
4) Last night we had a "Jane Austin" party for all the women staff. We went out to a nice hotel and had iced coffee, then came back for tea, quiche, and Pride and Prejudice. It was fantastic. But one of the girls was sipping on her tea, which was really hot! "I think I'm going to invent something that makes things colder. Like you know how a microwave makes things hottter? It would do the opposite." One of our guests with her adorable British accent replied, "I think that is called a fridge!"
5) Today was Round 2 of the Lice Battle. Apparently after you treat it the first time you have to follow up again ten days later to make sure you got them all. I think we've decided the real battle here is not against the lice but against the kids and their very defensive mothers! Cooperation is key and sometimes the language barrier gets in the way...
6) Tonight we have a good-bye party for two of my favorite volunteers! Andreas and his wife Verena return to Germany tomorrow. But as a good-bye "present" some of us went down to the park and played soccer, excuse me futbol. Andreas played for a long time and has been asking us to play a game with him for a couple weeks now. Unfortunately we are all so busy it's hard to find time for all of us to play together. But today we did it! We had a rousing game of 2 on 2 and then two little Jewish boys joined in and it was 3 on 3. They were so cute and tried so hard even though they were probably only 8-10 years old. I love playing soccer and working with little kids!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

It's Just Like Candyland

Even though I've only been  two and half weeks, I feel like I'm really in the swing of things and have been here much longer. So it's been weird having two other girls arrive this past week. (I know that is weird. I am still "new" around here too.) One of the girls came last Thursday-The Day of the Lice Fiasco. Wow. That sounds like some weird national holiday. The other just arrived this evening. Anyway, both of them are really cool which makes me even more excited for all the crazy times this summer.
I feel kinda bad for our newest volunteer though. She got here right in time for dinner. Great right? Well our dinner conversation was probably not the most welcoming....We're all coming off a crazy week of lice, rats, strange bugs, hospital visits, little sleep, and all sorts of other fun. Like today one of the little kids peed on a volunteer while his mother was hissing at her at the same time... Not quite sure what was up with that. The language barrier kinda hurt that situation.
So as we're describing what it's like here, these topics came up frequently. Whoops. Too late for her to turn back now. Well, we tried to redeem ourselves... "Don't fret. It's not that bad. It's really just like Candyland." "Oh. I never liked Candyland!" Well this will be interesting. I think I played 10 rounds of it today with two of our little girls.Well, maybe she'll learn to like it?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

You're Worthless

Yesterday I spent a lot of time driving and at the hospital. On Tuesdays we pick up new patients from Gaza and transport them to the hospital. Due to the political situation here, the kids and their parents from Gaza are not allowed to move about the country freely. Instead, we bring them directly from the border to the hospital and back after their procedure is completed. Yesterday we picked up a little girl, Halla, and her mother, and a little boy, Salah, and his father. I also had the opportunity to check on some of the other kids who are at the hospital long term, recovering from surgery.
Our first priority was to take the new kids upstairs so they could have "Echos". Best I can understand, this gives them an idea of how the heart is doing and a general idea of what they will need to do in the surgery. All of our mom's only speak Arabic so sometimes it is an adventure to find a translator for the Hebrew speaking doctors. At one point, a nurse, looking for a translator, motioned to me. "English?" she asked. "Yes." "You also speak Arabic?" "No." "Oh, never mind. You're worthless." Gee, thanks. I had to laugh. Her bluntness couldn't even be taken offensively because in that case she was right! I was of no help to her!
I also got a chance to check on some of our other kids who were down in ICU. Arina (one of our Kurdish girls) had surgery the day before and was in recovery. Another Gaza baby, Rahaf was in the ICU unit hooked up to a million machines and baby Besan was in the intermediate ICU recovering well after her surgery on Sunday.
But I made sure to spend a little extra time with Monsour and his every faithful Grandmother. His eyes were wide open and he was very observant of everything around him. The nurse was just finishing bathing him and redressing his wounds when I walked up. After she had gone, his grandmother and I stood by a while longer. At one point she pulled out a kids book. "Oh cute!" I thought. "She is going to read him an Arabic book." As she opened the page I almost died laughing. "Monsour," she said, "Fish." She had opened an English "Under the Sea" book that had illustrations on one page and a largely printed English word on the other side. This woman doesn't speak any English... or so I thought. Apparently she does know the word "fish"! She propped the book up by his bedside and walked away for a bit. Monsour's big eyes focused on the page. He seemed to be intently studying this word and picture! Not only is this baby brave, but he is also smart.
Kid Update:
- Monsour went home to Gaza today! This is a praise because it means he is well enough to be taken care of at a hospital near his home. However, his grandma is worried he will not get the same quality of care there. We continue to keep him in our prayers.
- Arina had surgery Monday. She is recovering and in a lot of pain.
- Kosar had a catherization yesterday. He may come home in the next couple days or be kept at the hospital for surgery.
-Hezhan had an 11 hour surgery today! At 22 years old, many of his heart defects were much more serious than they would have been for a small child. The next couple days will be critical as we wait to see how his heart responds.
- Chera is waiting and waiting and waiting. Both the girl and her mother have been through a roller coaster of emotions as we wait for the doctors to call her in.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Love in a Package

This afternoon I visited one of my coworkers who has been in the hospital for over a week now. Mona, an amazingly joyful Christian Arab, has been struggling with about a million health problems for a long time now. She has had countless hospital visits. But despite her health struggles, she is always an encouragement to us and the kids here. I think she can love them in a special way because she knows they have about visiting the hospital.
In order to brighten her day, we brought her a care package with some of her favorite things: coca-cola, flowers, and dark chocolate. Yum! As we were headed out the door, my boss Justina told me to give her lots of love. I responded, "I will. But it's too bad you can't put love in a package." "Excuse me? Can't put love in a package?! Get over here girl!" (Justina has this great southern accent that makes that whole exchange even better.) So I sheepishly walked over, half expecting what was to come. "Step right up here! Now this is how you put love in a package!" Then she gave me a great big hug! "Now make sure you give Mona lots of love."
So with our care package and a crazy puppet named Accar (that Mona loves), Jean, Andreas, and I headed to the hospital. We were able to spend a bit of time with Mona, her mother, daughter, and another friend. Despite her pain and exhaustion, Mona gave us gentle smiles and seemed grateful to have us there. I think we delivered everything as instructed, including love, which I have learned sometimes does come in a package.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Patient Patients

Most times if you go to the doctor's office and they say, "Well, you're going to need surgery. Let's schedule that within the next week," that is considered  bad news. But around here, that is just about the best thing that could happen.
For the Kurdish kids here at Shevet, the heart surgery they desperately need isn't scheduled until after they arrive in the country. Plus, before the surgery, they have to go through other tests and procedures that could take a couple weeks. The waiting results in worried mothers, and anxious kids. This past week has been a bit stressful for them all. Many are waiting for surgery and one girl has been here longer than normal and is waiting for the all clear so she can go home. The doctors have also gone on strike off and on the past few weeks postponing many appointments and delaying surgeries from being scheduled. Between the waiting, the lice catastrophe last Thursday, and a million other little things, the moms all hit a breaking point today. They broke down and started crying. A couple of our staff members who have been working closely with them the past few weeks, also felt the strain very personally.
So we decided prayer was absolutely necessary. Five of our women staff members gathered in the living room to beseech God on behalf of these families and ourselves. We prayed for wisdom, guidance, patience, love, and endurance. We also prayed for a miracle that would lift these mothers' spirits.
Two hours later we get a phone call from the hospital office with some incredible news. Arina is having her heart surgery tomorrow, Kosar is going in for his catheterization tomorrow, and Hezhan has his heart surgery on Tuesday! This really is a miracle.
Tonight we said good-bye to Arina as she and her mother headed to the hospital. They will stay there overnight in preparation for her surgery. As I watched them walk out the door, I have felt so excited and scared at the same time. It is wonderful that she is having her surgery! But I remember, this is heart surgery. Anything could happen. Her surgery is scheduled for approximately 1:00pm. Tomorrow this little angel with a bright smile and contagious giggle will constantly be in my prayers.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Time for Everything Under Heaven

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal,
A time to tear down and a time to build, 
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance,
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, 
A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, 
A time to search and a time to give up,
A time to keep and a time to throw away,
A time to tear and a time to mend,
A time to be silent and a time to speak,
A time to love a time to hate,
A time for war and a time for peace."
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

"A time to laugh..."
Yesterday I went to the hospital again. We currently have four Gaza children staying there: Bassan, Monsour, Rahaf, and Abd Elrahman Alghouti. I was only able to see Bassan and Abd because the other two are in ICU and the doctors were doing a procedure in their yesterday. But I did get to have tea with all the mothers and grandmother. Despite our language barriers we all laughed a lot. Rahaf's mother in particular loves to joke around. Baby Bassan is a beautiful little girl so Rahaf's mom has asked Bassan's mom if baby Bassan can be promised to marry her son. The problem... she doesn't have a son! Yet.
" A time to mourn..."
Only a couple weeks old, Addel Kareem died this past Tuesday. Everyone at Shevet and the hospital was deeply saddened by this loss of life. His mother had returned home a couple days before for some rest and was not at the hospital. Our prayers are with his family. 
" A time to dance..."
Every Friday night we have a nice Shabbat meal. Last night, after we had eaten and and cleaned up all the dishes, a handful of us sat down in the living room. Those with musical abilities picked up the guitars and started playing songs as they came to mind. We had a wonderful time of worship and and prayer. Eventually, people started to go to bed. When there were only a few people left, things started to get crazy. After a long week, during a late night, anything can happen! We started singing crazy songs, there was some interpretive dancing, and all kinds of hullabaloo. It was a great time of laughter and bonding.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Our Unwelcome Visitors have been Destroyed

I'm sorry. You might think it a bit harsh, but we had to kill our recent intruders. They were not welcome and had to go! Immediately! Sometimes extreme measures are necessary. Who were these visitors? Lice!
One of our staff workers woke up in the middle of the night to find something biting the back of her head. After doing a quick comb through, she discovered an evil, little, squirming louse. Yuck. So this morning, the female staff members promptly did lice checks. But no of the little demon's family could be found! Whew. However, we hadn't checked our Kurdish families yet.
The rest of our day proceeded, and we planned to check all the kids early in the afternoon. That didn't happen. By the time we got around to it, it was probably 4 or 5 o'clock. We sat all four of the kids down and started going through their hair. Immediately we began finding little nits.  Their heads had tons and tons of little lice eggs. We even found a couple live adult ones. Gross!
We sent someone to the store and got lice spray to put on all their hair. For the next three hours, we de-liced all the kids' and mothers' hair and put their sheets in pails of boiling water. It was a lot of work and I'm not sure we had all the mothers convinced that it was necessary. But hopefully that will take care of it. Tomorrow, everything else they have touched will be sprayed down- couches, vans, etc.
Verena and I were in charge of most of the de-licing. After we finished with the families, we decided we should probably do our own hair. We checked it this morning, but after a full day of playing with the kids and getting the lice out of their hair... better to be safe than sorry! So we went through with the same spray and cleaned our hair. We never found anything, but I'm glad we did it anyway. I will sleep much better tonight knowing my hair and bed are lice free!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Learning the Ropes

After a week and a half I feel like I am really getting the hang of things around here. I know everyone's name! I also have a basic schedule for myself, know where to find all the cleaning supplies, how to use the washing machine (when it is working), where to shop for produce, and can speak a couple dozen words of Kurdish! Not too shabby.
But today I had my first solo flight. Pretty exciting! In the past when I have been sent on errands, I have gone with someone else so they could show me where to go and what to buy. But today I went alone! What was I looking for? Pillows! Apparently we have a new volunteer arriving from the States tomorrow. When we were making up a bed for her, we realized the pillows were all missing! After searching the house, they were nowhere to be found, so I was sent to buy new ones. Our director drew a basic map, gave me some money, and sent me out the door.
I followed her directions and got exactly where I needed to go! I was pretty proud of myself because directions are not usually my thing. But I also had to laugh because every morning when I go running, I pass this store. She just told me a different way of getting there!
I also went into the Old City today for the first time. I've been so busy I haven't walked through there yet. But the German couple who work here are going home in a couple weeks and wanted to buy souvenirs to take home. They had heard about a guy named Shaban and wanted to find his shop. Turns out, I know where it is! When I was here a year and a half ago we visited him all the time! But I didn't know if I would be able to find it again. Thankfully, we got basic directions to his street and found it without any problems! Now much has changed in there... It was good to see him again. In true Shaban form, he offered us something to drink so we enjoyed a cup of Fanta while wandering around the shop. My friends were able to get what they needed and Shaban was nice and gave them a very good price! I'm sure I will go back and see him again.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Modest is Hottest

I can't tell you how many times I have heard that little phrase from various Christian leaders. And while it is a funny way of putting it, I agree with the idea behind it. In today's world, modesty has lost its value. But it is important for Christian women to remember that modesty is important both for self-respect and to help Christian men to keep from stumbling. Understanding this, I try to dress what I would consider pretty modestly. However, today was a wake up call on different standards of modesty...
At my job, since we are working with Muslim families, we try to be very respectful and dress to what some in the western world would consider overly modesty. Women wear loose pants or skirts passed their knees. Shirts must come up to the collarbone and sleeves extend to the elbows (preferably passed the elbows). In the eighty degree weather we will be having this summer, this might not be the most comfortable, but its something we do anyway out of respect.
But today we had a very strict Muslim family come to our center. The woman was in a burqa. As I stood next to her in my long skirt, high collared shirt with sleeves to the elbows, I have never felt more immodest in my life! Why was that? Why does my standard of modesty change depending on who I am with? Since she was completely covered except for her eyes, all of a sudden I felt awkward.
Throughout the morning, it was interesting to learn a bit about this family. Through a translator, we discovered they are a devout Muslim family. The man prays at the Mosque five times every day. Their son (the middle son of three boys) needed heart surgery which is why they were in Jerusalem. During our Bible Study, he followed along in an Arabic translation of the Bible. This resulted in a rousing discussion. The Qur'an says Jesus never died. The Bible obviously does. This man believed all other holy books are good, but contain errors. The Qur'an was the last one written and is perfect (sort of God's way getting everything straightened out). They also wondered why our guitarist put the lyric sheets on the ground while she played- those have the name of God on them and to do this they consider VERY disrespectful.
All in all, an interesting discussion. The whole situation was... something. I didn't know they were coming, and it is unusual to have Muslim visitors during staff worship time, but I think it was valuable for all of us to hear their perspective. Now we know some of the areas of the Bible they take fault with and we will be able to better counter their arguments.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Day in My Life

Before I get too far into this job, I thought I would give you a run down on daily life around here.... Well at least normal for me. That way when I refer to different things throughout the summer you have some reference point.
6:00am- Alarm goes off, role out of bed go for a run, come back get ready for the day and eat breakfast
8:00am- Show up for our morning meeting. We have a time of worship, prayer, and Bible Study (Usually lasts and hour to an hour and a half), then we go through everyone's basic assignments for the day
10:00ish am- The day starts. Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday I start cleaning something in the house. I have it divided into different zones so each day is something different.
12:30pm- Lunch with the families. We eat lunch with the Kurdish families in their living space upstairs. The food they cook is amazing.
1:30pm- Back to cleaning, but if I've finished I get to help out with the kids activities. This could include going to the park, playing games, coloring, or braiding the little girls hair. Basically whatever we want!
6:00pm- Dinner downstairs with all (14ish people depending on the day) the staff members.
7:00pm- Clean up dinner, blog about the day, finish any other work and then just hang out.
The only exception to this is Tuesday and Friday when I go to the hospital to visit the patients from Gaza. We bring the mothers and kids lunch, help them through their check-ups, and I record everything so I can blog about it on the Shevet website.

So yeah... that's pretty much it. I know this is kind of a boring basic blog, but I realized that a lot of what I'll be referencing this summer might not make sense if you don't understand what I do here....
I also wanted to share this devo with you. We get a daily memo with our instructions for the day as well as a devo. I really liked this one.... I hope this job teaches me the same kind of humility.

*Washing Toilets
TGIF Today God Is First Volume 2 by Os Hillman*
Sunday, May 15 2011

*..."those he wanted to promote, he promoted; and those he wanted to humble,
he humbled'* (Dan 5:19).

Paul desired a career in the building industry. Early in his career, he was
working with a large ministry to help direct several of their construction

As the projects were completed, Paul was asked to stay on for future
projects. To keep him busy he was given a number of jobs - one of which was
cleaning toilets. He recalls getting down on his knees each day and
complaining to the Lord, "Lord, I'm a college graduate!"

Discouraged, Paul told the Lord, "I will not leave here until You promote
me. Please give me contentment with my circumstance."

Paul felt totally forgotten by God. A few months later, Paul received a
phone call from a man in the Midwest who owned five successful businesses
who wanted to interview Paul for a job. This came as a total surprise to
Paul. As he drove to the interview, he told the Lord, "I only want your will
in my life, nothing else. I am content to remain obscure for the rest of my
life if I have You. You must override my lack of experience for me to get
this job."

The owner of the company asked Paul a surprising question: "If I asked you
to clean a toilet, what would you do?" Paul sat there, stunned. He wanted to
burst out laughing. Paul assured him that he would simply pick up a sponge
and start cleaning.

Amazingly, Paul was hired even though other candidates were more qualified.
After several months of success Paul asked his boss why he hired him. His
boss replied, "Paul, I still have a large stack of applications from people
who wanted this job. Do you remember the first question I asked you in the
interview? I asked each one the same question. You were the only one who
said he would clean the toilet. Paul, I am a wealthy man, but I grew up dirt
poor. I clean my own toilets at home. I can't have people running my
businesses who are too proud to clean a toilet."

Sometimes God places us in situations to see if we will be faithful in those
before He is willing to promote us to greater things.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Community is Coming Out of My Ears (and Heart)

During our time in Ireland, one of the guys in our group wrote a funny song that talked about all the people in our group. But the chorus went, "Everyone here in the ISP is one big, happy family. We share in the joy and we share in the tears. We talk about Community until it's coming out of our ears!" The best part was, it was true! We did talk about community all the time- what it should look like, what the definition of community is, and how that should impact our interactions with each other. Yet for all our discussion, we never really came to a consensus on the topic. But after less than a week here at Shevet, I have a clearer idea of what community can be. Why? Because the entire goal here is to serve our neighbor.
Today I went through our official orientation and was given a packet with all the basic information I need to know for the next three months. But my favorite part was on page 4....
" Respect, born out of a love for Jesus and each other, is the key to successfully living and working in community. The following acronym helps to explain seven basic aspects of respect:
R- Reliability. 'Do not be slothful in business, but be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.' (Romans 12:11)
E- Edification. 'So let's agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don't drag them down by finding fault.' (Romans 14:19)
S- Servanthood. 'Serve one another in love.' (Galationas 5:13)
P- Positive Attitude. 'Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.' (Colossians 3:2)
E- Excellence. 'Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve kings.' (Proverbs 22:29)
(C- ???? I guess they skipped this one!)
T- Timely. 'Slack habits and sloppy work are as bad as vandalism.' (Proverbs 18:9)"
It's not that my fellow ISP students didn't understand the importance of all of these things, I think it was the idea of completely focusing on others instead of just ourself... Something we all have problems with. I'm also not saying that they have it perfect here, but I will say, they are daily striving to get better at it. What does this look like? Simple things...
It looks like doing your own dishes so someone else doesn't have to, but if a co-worker forgot to do theirs, you do it for them without complaint.
It means offering words of encouragement, even across language barriers. This can be done with a smile, a hug, or a poorly pronounced word that is read out of a dictionary.
It means studying the Bible and praying together every morning so that the body of Christ is continually built up.
It means giving up something you like, if it will cause a brother to stumble.
It means all this and a hundred other things. It means that when the word "community" is mentioned here, it is not greeted with rolled eyes and groans, but with smiles and questions as how to better live it out. Here, community not only flows out of my ears, but also my heart.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Clinging to Hope while Avoiding Catastrophes

What a day. I don't even know how to fit all this in to one short blog, but I will try...
This morning I went to the hospital where many of our patients have their surgeries. Part of my job includes photographing and blogging on the patients from Gaza. The Kurdish patients get to stay at Shevet when the kids are not having surgery, but the Gaza patients are only allowed to go from Gaza to the hospital and back. So in order to meet the kids, assist the mothers, and tell their stories, we visit them every Tuesday and Friday. Today was my first visit. We currently have three Gaza babies in the hospital: Monsour, Addel Kareem, and Rahaf. All of them have had or will have intense heart surgeries. The longer I'm here the more I realize, surviving these surgeries is not guaranteed. At all. When we ask for prayer for these kids, there is a good reason for it. Thankfully, two Monsour and Addel Kareem have both had surgery, Rahaf is still waiting for hers.
Documenting their stories, I had the privilege and curse of acting as a journalist. I got to take pictures of the precious moments and the emotions, as well as talk to the doctor and get a status update. But the whole time I felt like an intruder. When you see amazing pictures that capture in the moment emotion, it is always amazing. What I often forget is that someone had to hold up a camera and capture that moment. I'm grateful they did, but now I understand how that can feel awkward.
Continue to pray for all three kids, especially Monsour. He has been in and out of ICU since December. I can't honestly tell you if this child will make it, but I know there are a lot of people praying for God's will to be done. (If you want to know more about his and the other kid's stories check out http://shevet.org/childrennowinisrael.html)
So that was one adventure of today. The other came on our way home... I'm telling this as long as you promise not to freak out! Continue to pray for my safety here, but no, I'm not getting on a plane and coming home.
We were driving through the city and were on our way to drop off one of our Christian Arab workers at her house. Everything was completely normal and then we turned down a street... All of a sudden I look up and see two men with hoods covering their heads running toward our car (well the line up of cars we were in) with large rocks in their hand. Then I realize there are probably a couple dozen of these guys. In the distance I see logs pulled across the road blocking our way and cars trying to quickly turn around. Our driver is Russian and speaks a little English and a decent amount of Hebrew. Two of the boys ran up to the car and started yelling and pointing back the way we had come. I think they were speaking Arabic because the woman we were dropping off opened the backseat door and had a two second conversation with them before turning to our driver, "Gaddy, turn around now!"
That wasn't really an option at the moment. We were in a line up of cars and couldn't back up and there were cars speeding the other way so we couldn't pull out and join them. The five seconds we sat there felt much longer. Then there was a break and Gaddy quickly pulled out and sped back the way we came. It was at this point I saw the flash of a gun. The police had arrived! They had large shields, guns, and armored cars. We were able to get out of there quickly before the confrontation between the police and protesters began.
As we were driving away, the Arab woman told us: "No problem. No big deal. In an hour, half an hour, it will be all gone." No problem? Ok... If you say so. The rest of the city was quiet, but needless to say I'll be spending the next couple days away from that part of the city. May 15th is "Nakba" or catastrophe. It is the day the state of Israel was created in 1948. Over the next few days there will probably be more demonstrations as the Arabs protest the Israeli takeover of their state and the atrocities that have been committed against them. Thankfully, where we are located in the city, we can get to the non-Arab areas which are much more safe during this time.
So for now.. No problem! I'm ok and God is still in control.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Glamorous Jobs

I think it's human nature to want the more glamorous jobs... or at least the ones that get the most attention and praise. Whether this is on a more global setting or within each individual organization, the jobs that are praised the most are the ones that are the most fun, the most world changing, or the easiest. Here, my job is none of those things.
After looking at the things I am good at and what the organization needs right now, I have been given the job of housekeeper, and blogger/photographer. Ok the second part is pretty sweet, but the first job... not exactly what you think of when you go to a foreign country for the summer.
But here is why I am grateful for my assignments...
1) Being the housekeeper gives me plenty of time to pray. Each day I have a specific area of the house to clean, so while I am doing that I have plenty of time to talk to Jesus. This is something I have been reading and studying in my quiet time and want to do more!
2) When I'm done, I can study Kurdish, hang out with the families, or walk around town. No matter what I do, I will love it!
3) I love photography! And I have learned a lot about blogging from writing this one. I hope I will be able to put these skills to use and serve this community.
So while my job this summer is definitely not glamorous or even exciting, it is useful, practical, and helpful. I get to serve the community, and while doing so, spend more time getting to know my Lord.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Seeing the Sea

Today we took the kids to the sea! We try to take them at least once during their stay here since they are from Kurdistan which is land locked. The two little girls, Hawraz and Chrakhan, loved the sea! Both spent a great deal of time playing in the water and splashing anyone in sight. Then we built sandcastles and collected seashells. Poor little Kosar, was not so excited about this large body of water. He's only a couple years old, and the whole thing overwhelmed him a bit. However, he did really enjoy the air show. In celebration of Independence Day, there were several times where planes did acrobatics, and other times where helicopters and larger airplanes flew overhead! Typical boy, Kosar soaked it all up.
I'm often tempted to think these kids are perfectly healthy. But then we'll be running around for five minutes and then they'll need to take a break. Or if they've had surgery, we have to be extra careful about not lifting them up the wrong way or getting their stitches wet. They are such troopers. Despite all they've been through, all they want is to enjoy the same things that other kids do. I'm glad our day at the beach could give them a little bit of that.
I loved getting to spend time with the kids- bonding, taking pictures, and laughing at our difficulty communicating. I'm getting really good at sign language, but am working on learning Kurdish. I probably have learned twenty words now... the trick is remembering them. I'm thinking flashcards are a good idea. In the meantime, I'm learning how Jesus love goes beyond language. These Muslims families seem really touched by our help. And even though I can't tell them why I'm here to help, they know I care about them. So when the translator does get a chance to talk about Jesus, they are open and willing to listen.

Monday, May 9, 2011

My First Day

For someone that really loves to dive in, today was really hard. This morning, I was allowed to sleep in, which was nice since we didn't get in until 3am yesterday. I ended up waking up around 9:30, unpacking, and getting ready for the day. By the time I wandered downstairs, everyone else was hard at work. During the course of the morning, I was introduced to the 14 other staff members, had a brief meeting with the director, and wandered around looking for something to do. Whenever I asked if I could help with something, everyone quickly replied, "No! It's your first day. Take some time to adjust." Um... no thanks. I'm good. You can put me to work!
Thankfully, one of the workers must have realized my distress and invited me to meet the kids and play with them. The purpose of this organization is to help families whose children are having heart surgeries at the local hospital. The three kids I met today are Kurdish; two will have heart surgery soon, and the other is recovering. I was able to spend some time hanging out with them and playing games. Apparantly, this is a big deal for them! Their mothers don't usually play games with them. So when we pulled out toy trains, tamborines, Uno, and puzzles, they were delighted!
So it was a good first day. Pretty uneventful, but still nice. I also took a walk to the old city this evening. It was crazy... like being in a dream. A very very good dream. I'm just glad I don't have to wake up!

Tuna Surprise

I wish I could say the tuna wrap I had for lunch at the London airport was the most exciting part of my day... but that is definitely not the case.
The day started out mostly uneventful. Woke up at 3:30am, caught an early morning flight out of Dublin to London. Hung out while I waited to check in and grabbed lunch. Walked down to the airline desk and... from there it got crazy. At check in, you have to go through a small questioning session about the purpose of you visit, duration of your stay, what you do for a living, etc. I think it is supposed to only take a few minutes. Supposed to. I was called up and "interviewed" by a layed back twenty-something year old guy. It went smoothly and then his supervisor walked up. He asked me all the same questions. I gave all the same answers. Then I was informed I would get to go through a random search. This would include all my bags including my carry-ons so I could take whatever I wanted for the flight, but would have to hand the rest over to them. Also, I had to answer more questions. I must have a sign on my forehead that says, "I'm really bored. Please please please security people make my life more interesting!"
So I was escorted back into a little room. Answered the same questions and more to another person, and waited for further instruction. In the meantime, I was able to get my first interrigator talking about his favorite parts of Israel. Throughout the whole thing, I was never nervous. Which really surprised me. Then they gave me a five pound note to use anywhere in the airport! Gotta love that!
After about forty-five minutes, I was set free and told to arrive at the gate early because there would be more questioning and they would look through the purse and book they let me take out of my backpack. Yay.
I got into the terminal and found a coffee shop. I needed it after all that. My mocha and I then proceeded to the gate even though I had two hours before the gate opened. There I found out the flight was delayed.
Hours later, the gate opens! I then go through more questioning (the same ones, just to someone else!), my bags get scanned, and I get a complete pat down. Awkward. I'm just glad it was a girl doing it. Then we continue to wait for the flight. And wait. And wait. I strike up a conversation with another security guy and we have a nice half hour chat about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his reaction to Osama bin Laden's capture. It was really interesting.
Finally, three hours late, we get on the plane and take off! I end up next to a couple- the guy is from the Middle East, but the girls is from a town really close to Taylor! We had to laugh at the connection. When the flight landed, it was 1am. I cleared passport control pretty easily, found my bags, was given a cart by a nice Israeli guy who was a little too disappointed to hear I wasn't staying in the city, and met up with my contact. We made it back around 3am and crashed into bed... The adventure continues today as I get a crash course lesson in the workings of this organization! I just hope I catch on quickly!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Caught in the Middle

It's weird trying to reflect back on one adventure, knowing the second I turn around, I run straight into another. It's exciting, but frustrating in many ways; and difficult to process. But here is a glimpse at my favorite things from the past three months, and my prayer requests as I head into a new adventure.

Top 5 "things" from my semester in Ireland (in no particular order):
1) Dublin- This semester I have realized how much I love European cities! Not American cities with all the skyscrapers, fast pace, and commercialism. But European cities that are still bustling and you can walk to everything, but still have parks and feel more like really large towns.
2) Coaching Soccer- I am really going to miss my little terrors... I mean treasures. I have had such a wonderful time helping coach about twenty 7-10 year old girls! It is wonderful to use a "useless" skill to glorify God!
3) Hillside Bible Study- Within our first week of being here, Hanna, Audrey, Paige, and I began attending a Bible Study through our local church. The fifteen or so men and women I have met through that program have had a huge impact on my life! Tuesday night we (all ISP TU Students) hosted a "Thank You" Dinner for everyone that has impacted us. We invited all of the people from the Study and most of them were able to make it! This time we got to serve them coffee!
4) Exploring- Whether is was ruins, mountains, castles, cities, or whatever, I have loved gallivanting about the country! We have left no stone unturned! No hill unexplored! And no sheep unterrorized! The only sad thing is, we never did manage to catch one and pet it! They move fast!
5) Reflecting and Growing- I have learned so much about myself, God, and life on this trip. While most of what I have shared on this blog is lighthearted, know that God has really been working on my character the past three months.

That's the best I can do to sum up the past. There is so much more than that, but it would take a book to record all the stories! As I look at the next three months, I do have a few prayer requests... (In case you don't know, I have a three month internship in the Middle East this summer. Message me if you want more details!)

Top 5 Prayer Requests (for now):
1) I make it to the country! Due to fuel problems, there are a lot of flights being canceled in and out of the airport I'm headed to. Pray my flight isn't one of those! But if it is, pray I will stay calm and patient as I figure out another way there.
2) Ease clearing customs and finding my contact. I don't want a repeat of Ireland customs!
3) Overall safety and good health over the summer. I don't want to be a burden or be hindered because I don't feel well.
4) Humility, patience, and a servant's heart. I don't ever want to be the American who thinks she can come in and fix everything. Pray I am a servant that is quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.
5) Guidance. I really feel God calling me to work abroad in the future. I am hoping this six month adventure will give me guidance in where that might be and what I would want to do.

Thanks for your prayers and support the past few months! Many of you have asked me to keep updating the blog this summer, and I will try! I don't know how much internet access I will have... but I would love to continue to share stories with you!
On to the next adventure....

Friday, May 6, 2011

One Last Hurrah

Technically, I don't leave until Sunday. But almost everyone else flies out tomorrow morning, so today was our last hurrah as they prepare to leave. The only question... What to do on our "last" day???? We have done so many amazing things, it would be impossible to top it all. But we also didn't want to just sit around all day. Our final solution? A new adventure that incorporated all our old favorites....
8 of us (Me, Laura, Chandas, Gueb, Kellyn, McCardle, Emily Day, and Valerie) set off for Malahide, the last stop on the DART. Our agenda: tour a castle and have an adventure. Equipment: packed lunches, rain jackets, cameras. Result: laughter, lots of photos, and a fantastic time.
The castle was really pretty, but not very large, so our tour was only twenty to thirty minutes. Then we sat outside on the lawn and ate our turkey and cheese sandwiches. It felt like a scene from a movie.
After lunch, we headed back into town... but on our way into town we saw a park... detour! We probably played around for an hour! There were swings, slides, rope jungle gyms, and a zip line! Wee! What fun!
Then we decided we should go check DART times so we weren't stuck in Malahide forever... We realized we had just missed the DART and had an hour before the next one came. Exploring time! We wandered around town. It was so cute! This is probably one of my favorite DART stops! Too bad we discovered it on the last day. In town, was the coolest little coffee shop called "Itsa". Everything about it was fun. The colors were super bright, the decorations were a party... yeah. I can't describe it because it was just so awesome. Plus they had really great coffee and smoothies. All in all, it was a fantastic way to celebrate our wonderful semester!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Love is in the Air

Or at least in the music. Tonight, all of us girls (16 +Laura) went to the National Concert Hall and heard a guy named Gary Williams perform a bunch of Nat King Cole songs. It was alright. I'm pretty sure we were the only people in the entire audience under a hundred. But the conductor was hilarious! I couldn't tell if he was conducting, dancing, or directing a plane! Maybe it was a combo of all three. I was sitting next to Laura and we almost lost it a couple times. The singer also made some entertaining faces. So between the two of them, it was hard to feel all romantic. That worked out great since I was only there with other girls!
I gotta say, the most epic part of the night was our walk back to the DART. On our way to the Concert Hall, it was all sunshine! The way back... rain. The nice way to describe it would be "a gentle spring drizzle." What it really felt like- "evil icy pinpricks." Oh well... we made it back to the YWCA eventually and enjoyed nice cups of hot cocoa.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama is a sinner, and so am I

When I woke up this morning, the first thing my roommate asked is, "Have you seen the news?" Do I look like I've seen the news, I just woke up! You've been up for 30 minutes. "No. What's up?" "Osama Bin Laden is dead!" We immediately googled several different newspapers and watched a video of Obama announcing the news last night... gotta love the internet.
But the more I've thought about this today, the more mixed my emotions get. Initially, I was excited. This is a man who has killed thousands. His death should be the cause of rejoicing because it means justice is served. 
But that makes me wonder what true justice is. According to Jesus, we all have sinned and fallen short of God's standards... If we really want to talk about justice, that would mean I am worthy of death too. The only difference between me and Osama is I have chosen to accept Jesus into my life. His blood covers over my sin. (And maybe the beard. Osama had way more facial hair than me. Whew!)
But in all seriousness as an American Christian, this is a time of joy and sadness. I am sad for Osama because he is now dead and never chose to follow Jesus. As such, I do believe he is in hell. But today I also choose to rejoice. Not in his death, but in the fact that Jesus did die to cover my sins.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Boys Vs. Girls

We all know that boys and girls are different, but I always have to laugh at the funny ways this comes out. For example...
Tonight was our last weekend cooking cause we all leave next weekend! But as we do every Sunday night, we spent a little extra time cleaning up. We try not to leave the kitchen messy for the YWCA staff when they arrive on Monday morning. This includes doing all the dishes, wiping down all counters and tables, sweeping, and mopping. Tonight I was on clean up duty with two other girls and one of our guys (who I won't name). We were working on the dishes, but had wiped everything down, and he had just finished sweeping the dining room. So I asked him if he would mop while we finished the dishes.
Him: "Why? Is it sticky?" (Translation... "I can see the red tiles on the floor? What's the problem?"
Me: "No. But we mop every Sunday night." (Translation... "those pieces of food on the floor aren't supposed to be there! Duh!)
Him: "Oh ok." (What he was really thinking... "Weird. Girls are so picky about cleanliness!"
Me: "Thanks." (My real thoughts... "Seriously? Why don't boys see the dirt right in front of their eyes!"
I had to laugh to myself as I finished drying dishes. I grew up in a family that played Cinderella frequently. And I don't mean, going to the ball, pretty dress Cinderella. I'm talking about put on your grunge clothes, get a bucket with water, soap, and a rag and scrub the floors on your hands and knees Cinderella.... even after they invented Swiffer. My mother is convinced the floors get cleaner this way, and I must confess, I have to agree with her.
Overall, I have really enjoyed being on Kitchen Crew this semester. I have learned a lot about planning meals and cooking for a large group. I lit a match for the first time and learned how to use countless kitchen utensils. Maybe I really can do this whole domestic thing...