‘No Eating’

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan began yesterday. To be honest, I knew little about this holiday before spending 1/2 a year in a Muslim country. To me the holiday meant no food… a month of not eating during the day.

But I came to find out there is much more to this month than not eating during daylight.

What do you know about Ramadan? Did you know Muslims not only abstain from food, but water also? Did you know Sunnis and Shi’ites break their fast at different times?

For more things you might not know about this celebrated month, read the TIME magazine article, Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Ramadan.

So, which one surprised you the most?

Hours to go

… until I leave this country that I have come to love.
This country and culture that is oddly somewhat normal to me now.
It doesn’t seem real, feels like pretend.

The past several days have been full of goodbyes. I hate them. Somehow there aren’t adequate words to depart from a friend turned family member whom I might never see again.

I feel numb towards it all. I’m not sure what else I can say and so I will leave you with a handful of ‘good-bye’ pictures:

With Shohan and Angel in our 'maxi' dresses

Braiding Emma's hair on Thanksgiving morning

Braiding Emma's hair on Thanksgiving morning

With Nageen (left) and her sister at a cafe

With Nageen (left) and her sister at a cafe

Sweet Suzan

Sweet Suzan

Trehan and Aria - a PLC kid

Trehan and Aria - a PLC kid

Brooke

Brooke

Samana and her 3 month baby Tnook

Samana and her 3 month baby Tnook

Kanar - the hardest good-bye is yet to come

Kanar - the hardest good-bye is yet to come

Hopefully these photos can describe what i’m at a loss for words to say. (A picture says a thousand of them right?)

There are so many more stories to tell. Please continue to read as I will be telling many more of them in the days to come.

Nothing But Good News

God is the giver of good gifts.
If nothing else, I’ve learned this today.

Mohammad is in his own private room in the hospital and boards a plane tomorrow to come back home!
Mohammad Coloring

Beautiful baby Honya had surgery this morning.

Honya 1

Mom Kissing Honya

At just 12 pounds, she went into surgery this morning at 10:30.
Her mother watched as she was carried away, doing her best to be strong.

I’ve tried to place myself in the shoes of these moms.
These moms who are hoping for a miracle for their children, their children who are under a death sentence.
These mothers are in a foreign land.
Surrounded by a foreign language and culture.
Sleeping in a room by themselves, many for the first time in their lives.
Putting the care of their dying children into the hands of Turkish doctors and nurses.
The people who they’ve been told are the enemy.

I can’t imagine the uncertainty and fear they must feel.
The enormous amount of helplessness.

My prayer is that during this time, this time of fear, that God would reveal himself to them. And that they would have no choice but to cling to Him.

Honya’s surgery went beautifully.
No complications.
She is resting now in ICU.
Dr. Cicek is hopeful to extubate her tonight or tomorrow.

Praise God!

Honya ICU

Honya & Wires

Vary also had surgery today.
Hers was the scariest surgery of all.

Vary

Upon finding more problems with her heart, the surgery become far more complicated.

The doctors had to cool her body down to 16 degrees Celsius,
drain the blood from her body,
resect a portion of the artery dangerously close to a nerve that could leave Vary with neurological damage,
pump the blood back into her tiny body,
warm her back up
and restart her heart.

The surgery went perfectly.
Not only that. . .
but it was a full correction.
She will not have to have another heart surgery!

Friends
Thank you for your prayers.
Thank you beyond words.

But please don’t stop praying for these children.
Though the surgery is over
Though Dr. Cicek has fixed their hearts.
Now it’s their turn.
They have to fight for life.

-In awe of the graciousness of God

Find out more @ http://preemptivelove.org/blog/

Mohammad’s Surgery: A Complete Success

Mohammad received his long awaited surgery this morning.
Doctors repaired a huge hole in the upper chambers of his heart.
No problems.
A full correction!
He is now recovering in ICU.

Mohammed to Surgery

Headed to Surgery

Mohammed Bracelet

Mohammed

Mohammad's Mom

Praying for her eldest son

ICU

Recovering in ICU

Vary has had a tough time the past few days.
She is very fearful of her new surroundings
keenly aware of things going on around her.
The nurses had to sedate her to complete an echo.
Discovered coarctation as well as her VSD
This surgery is so much bigger than previously thought.

Baby Honya is quarantine with a right lung infection.
Pediatrician visited her today and isn’t too worried about it.
She is still all smiles and giggles
Good chance for surgery on Monday!

One surgery down, two to go.
Thank you for your prayers.
And good night from Iraq.

Mohammad. Honya. Vary.

At last you get to meet them.
The three amazing kids in Turkey for life-saving heart surgery.
Each group we send I love even more.

Mohammad, 8 years old
Mohammad
Mohammed is the oldest of three children. He lives with his family in a small village where they live on the top floor of their barn. He has been waiting a long time for a chance to have his heart repaired. He is looking forward to walking all the way to school after he has recovered from surgery. His mom thanks us tearfully every time we see her. She cannot believe it is finally Mohammad’s turn!
Please be praying for Mohammad.
He will be having surgery first thing in the morning which is only about 7 or 8 hours away!

Honya, 9 months old
Honya
Honya is a precious little girl. She is always smiling and giggling despite the lack of oxygen flowing in her blood to her brain and the rest of her body. At nine months old she weighs roughly 12 pounds. She loves music and toys that light up. Dr. Çiçek at the Johns Hopkins affiliated Anadolu Medical Center in Istanbul, Turkey is very hopeful that she will have a full correction and believes that she is likely to benefit significantly from surgical intervention.
I have fallen in love with this tiny little girl! She came to the office the other day in this pink and green outfit and was all smiles and giggles. She is so precious.
She arrived safely to Turkey, but she is sick with some kind of cough and can’t be operated on until she is better. The earliest she could possibly have surgery is Monday.
Pray for healing for her little body so that she might have a chance at surgery and a chance at life.

Vary, 2 years old
Vary
Vary is a spunky little two year old who loves stuffed animals. You wouldn’t know it by looking at her that her heart is failing, but she is actually an urgent case. We are hopeful that her surgery will set her back on track for a happy, healthy life running and playing with her friends. Her mom says she can go anywhere as long as “blankie” can go too!
I played with Vary in the office on Monday. She is so full of life and she definitely has some spunk!
We played with bubbles mostly. She would blow the bubbles and we would chase after them with our fingers and say “pop”!
The most fun I’ve ever had with bubbles by far!
Vary is still undergoing tests to find out when and if she can have surgery. She is very scared and unsure of her surrounding in this foreign place. Pray for peace for her heart.

More updates to come
For now, it’s almost 2 AM
I’m off to bed.

So grateful to be a part of something so much bigger than me.

13 Things . . .

. . . that have happened since I last updated
Which, lets face it, has been awhile:

Today I got stuck in an elevator.
It was a surprisingly enjoyable experience.

PLC bought a new car.
I miss the Patrol (aka The Beast)
But thanking God for providing.

I rode the Sulaymaniyah bus.
Payment for the ride is driven by the honor system.
I’m convinced it would never work in America.

My friend, Sazgar, helped me pick out Gili Kurdi (traditional/festive Kurdish dress)
Don’t worry, pictures to come.

I experienced culture shock for the first time at a foreigner’s party.
50 people attended (Dutch, British, Irish, Australian . . . but mostly American)
I realized Americans are loud and a tad bit obnoxious.

I visited Sulaymaniyah University with Kanar and Shaza, two good friends.
I almost felt as though I was at an American university.

I learned to sing Happy Birthday in Kurdish.

Angel and I made oreo balls.
SO good.

I sat on the top floor of our house for hours watching a thunderstorm with the window open.
I’ve missed the rain.

I bought a piece of artwork from my good friend and talented artist, Ismail.

I’ve read 5 books:
Unshaken by Francine Rivers
Unveiled by Francine Rivers
The Shack by William P. Young
A Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
Crazy Love by Francis Chan

God has been teaching me a lot about faith and prayer
and even more about my pride.

AND 3 new kids are going to surgery in Turkey on Tuesday!!
I’ll introduce them in the next few days

Homesick

Iraq isn’t home.

This place is so nice. I love the people. I love so many of their values. I love drinking chai. I love the relationships I’ve made here.

But it isn’t home.

I will never be Kurdish.
I will never completely understand the culture.
The language is foreign, the way people dress is foreign.

Even if I lived here a decade I would still stick out like a sore thumb. I am an alien to this land.

Even when days are their very best, the weather beautiful, the conversation amazing, part of my heart still longs to be home, to be in Texas.

I am IN Iraq, but I am not OF Iraq

Is this how I should feel about living in the world?

Is this what it looks like to be in the world but not of the world?

Is this what Jesus meant when He said, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world . . . They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” (John 17:15-16)

I am an alien to this planet.

The world is not my home, the united states not my home.
Texas isn’t even my true home.

Heaven is my home.

I am called to love the people in this world. I am here to live among them and show them God’s love and mercy.

But it isn’t my home. I should never feel that I belong here. My ways should be different, my language different, my love different.

Even on the best of days I should long for my true home with my Lord.

Perhaps I should be a bit more homesick.

Extreme Joy – Extreme Sorrow

I realize this post is WAY overdue. To be quite honest, I’ve been avoiding writing it. I feel as if I don’t have adequate words to give to you describing the events over the last two weeks. I’m praying even as I write this that the Lord will give me the words I need to say.

This is a very late update on the three precious boys PLC sent to surgery in Turkey over the last month: Meer (15 years), Ramyar (4 years), and Daryan (5 months).

Meer was in need of urgent surgery when we flew him to Turkey. His surgery was a little over a week ago. It was perfect and a full heart correction was performed. Meer will live. Praise the Lord! Last Tuesday he flew home to his family to Iraq. Meer will live a normal life, grow up, get married and have a family. . . and live.

Thanks so much for your support and prayers that make this possible.

Meer - Homeward Bound

Ramyar is the four-year-old boy we sent to Turkey with Meer just a few weeks ago.We love this little boy. His laugh is contagious. He is always joyful. He is so full of life.

Ramyar was sent home from Turkey shortly after arriving. At four-years-old he is already inoperable. We are praying for healing. . . begging for healing for this boy.Ramyar’s family came to our office a few days ago to have a post-Turkey meeting. It was so bitter-sweet seeing him. . . more bitter than sweet. We were able to play and laugh with him for a few hours. The joy of having him in our office and seeing him so happy quickly awoke me to the realization that death is chasing after him. Without surgery, Ramyar’s broken, weak heart will stop beating in a year maybe two.

Please pray for healing.

This is a video of him and Joshua (a fellow summer intern) playing that day. Ramyar LOVED watching himself being filmed on our Mac computers. The first part is Ramyar and Josh playing and the second part is the two taking pictures on my Macbook. I’ve never laughed this hard while at the same time wanting to weap so deeply.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Extreme Joy – Extreme Sorrow”, posted with vodpod

Daryan was sent to Turkey a little over a month ago with an extremely sick heart. We knew the odds weren’t good but hope seemed to prevail when he made it though surgery. “His heart is perfect,” Dr. Cicek told us. We thought all he needed was time for his lungs to grow strong enough.

Daryan put up such a tough fight. . . so much so that we all thought he would pull through. Four weeks he fought for his life in ICU while intubated. The fight was too tough, though. His body, too weak.

Daryan Selah lost the fight at 5:40 AM on September 4, 2009. I am at a loss for words as of what else to say. His family is in pain. His mother lost her firstborn son. His family lost a precious baby boy.

Daryan

What now?

What happens when the reality of life and death for these kids is too much to bare?

Watching these children who are so sick…

Watching these families who are desparately searching for any kind of hope…

So, what happens when the reality of a child’s death doesn’t seem to match up with the goodness of God?

“A crisis of faith comes when God’s dealing with us seem to contradict his essential goodness, and can be passed through only by trusting God, even though we do not understand” -Beverly Hicks

Seeing children be healed and hope restored.

Seeing children die and famlies crushed.

Extreme joy, extreme sorrow . . .

Iraq Update: Se (3)

This past week has been so busy including: an all-day picnic, my birthday, several English Clubs, and some emotional times for the PLC staff. For me, personally, I have also been working on several design projects. So, much to say, bare with me…
First off, I would like to say that I have a new found love… çay (chai) tea. It is as essential as water to the Kurds here. Comparing tea here to tea in America is like comparing Starbucks to instant coffee. There is NO comparison. The average Kurd probably drinks 8 to 15 cups of çay in any given day. It is served morning and night, at every meal, during guest visits and just about any other time a person sits for more than 15 minutes. Tea here is an art form. The women spend their entire lives perfecting the tea recipe usually blending at least 7 different types of çay and adding spices. The outcome is indescribable! Tea is served in a specific çay glass and saucer. When served, ¼ of an inch of sugar is in the bottom of the glass and stirred to the coinsurer’s desire of sweetness, leaving the remaining sugar in the bottom of the glass. The gentle tinkling of çay being stirred is a beautiful melody and beyond description. Other than the decision of sweetness one must decide the process in which to drink the tea. The patient Kurd waits until the tea has cooled to drink from the glass but there is another art form of pouring the tea into the saucer to quickly cool and drinking straight from the saucer. Be careful, though, pouring takes practice. Pour too quickly and it splashes over the edge of the saucer; pour too slowly and the tea runs down the side of the glass making a embarrassing mess. (I have learned this first hand after pouring half of the tea into a puddle on the table. Needless to stay, I’ve resorted to the patient method.) All this to say, tea in Iraq = perfection.
As I am sitting here writing this, I can hear the Muslim call to pray echoing through the streets just as it does five times each day. Although it is a Muslim call, it reminds me all throughout the day to have an attitude of prayer. Funny that God has used something created for another religion to draw me closer to Himself. What an awesome God we serve.
Question: How would you explain grace to a culture where forgiveness is not practiced? How would you describe the need for said grace to a culture who doesn’t understand the concept of sin? These are the questions I am presently pondering.  The Muslim faith is very intriguing to me. Primarily, Islam preaches salvation by works. The Muslims believe that if their good outweighs the bad, they are rewarded with heaven. Therefore, people are extremely giving and honest and they believe that makes them good. Here, it is more about the outside appearance than the inside condition of the heart. Sin does not make sense… a Muslim would say ‘I haven’t lied, cheated, stolen, or killed. Therefore, I haven’t sinned’. On the other hand, if someone wrongs you in this culture, you have every right to do the equal to them. Forgiveness is not readily practiced. It is not understood. Part of me is at a loss for how to meet the people here on common ground and be able to explain concepts that are so vital to Christianity. It would be like trying to explain color to person that is blind. Where do you even begin? At the same time, the Bible says not to be afraid because God will give us the words to say in the moment of need. Maybe I am over thinking this and need to place more trust in the Lord…. I don’t know. Perhaps I am placing too much focus on myself and my tiny knowledge when really it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with God.
This past Thursday was my birthday and oh what a birthday it was! I was hesitant about being in Iraq on my birthday. The past few summers I have spent my birthday working at camp with friends and usually not with my family. However, this summer I felt even further from my home and strange being without friends and family at the celebration of my 23rd year. (Geez, I am getting old!) I did miss my friends and family but I have to say that this was one of the most unique and extraordinary birthdays I have had thus far.
 The morning was filled with work and practical things to get done. Then, one of our Kurdish friends, Nadia, took me and two other interns out to lunch at the nicest restaurant that I have been to in Suly so far… an Italian café, Roma. (Who would have guessed that there would be Italian food in Northern Iraq?) She paid for our entire meal because it was my birthday! How crazy is that, a girl I barely know paying for my expensive birthday lunch… and not only mine but two others as well. I am constantly dumbfounded at the hospitality of the people here.
The afternoon was perhaps my favorite part. I think I have mentioned that two times a week the interns work with students who are trying to learn English. We have gotten very close to the people at the English Club and they have become some of my closest Kurdish friends. Monday, all the girls decided they were going to throw me a huge party for my birthday. Let me just say, I have known these girls for barely 3 weeks. Honestly, I would have never done that for someone I had known for such a short time. Not to mention, here in Iraq most Kurds don’t even really celebrate birthdays. In fact, once a person gets over the age of about 30 they stop counting their age all together! So, for these girls to throw me a birthday party is kind of a big deal. They then decided it was going to be a surprise party. (Yet, they told me they were planning on surprising me haha). Anyway, so Thursday afternoon we met at the youth center where we have English Club. They ‘surprised’ me in the garden with about 25 people singing happy birthday including the two teachers of their class whom I have never met. There were balloons, birthday signs, presents and a cake with sparklers on top (that set a few plastic plates on fire!) I was sang to in both Kurdish and English and the party was complete with Kurdish and Arabic dancing = awesome! One of the best birthdays ever. I was so surprisingly blessed and humbled by the love of these girls whom I’ve known for so little time. Coming to Iraq, I had hoped to build relationships with the people here and I prayed for a burden and desire for them to know the Lord. I didn’t realize how real the answer to those prayers would be. I didn’t think I would have anything in common with 20-year-olds who live half way around the world. Yet, I already dread the time when I will leave these sweet friendships that I’ve had for merely 3 weeks. In no way did I think I would care this much about them and to think… they are so lost. They are so deceived. They need Jesus. I wish I could just place in their mind the truth of the Gospel. I wish I could make them believe. But this is not the case. As of this second, I won’t be spending eternity with these precious girls. I’ve never felt so helpless and yet so reliant on the Lord. I am thankful that there is hope and I’m pleading to the Lord on their behalf, that their eyes would be opened. I hope that you will pray with me for these ladies (again by name: Samana, Suzan, Govar, Mays, Bajan, Shahen, Fenik, and Sarwa.)
Thusday night the PLC team threw me another celebration with Mexican food (the food I miss the most) , chocolate cake and serendipity frozen hot chocolate. I was really so blessed and encouraged by them. By the PLC staff whom I admire so much, that they would spend time to celebrate me. Such a sweet time. So awesome. Hooray for 23 years!
On the note of birthdays, I would like to give a shout out to my sister, Haley,  who turned 18 yesterday (You are getting old too!) Happy Birthday sweet sister, you bless me and encourage me more than you could ever know. I am encouraged by your confidence in who you are in Christ and challenged by your love for Him. I so wish I could be with you on your birthday. Love you little sister!
Friday, we were all invited on a picnic with the staff of Kurdistan Save the Children, a local NGO. Let me just explain how picnics work here: it is not a 2 or 3 hour event where you bring a picnic basket with potato salad and sandwiches, eat lunch and go home. Oh no… people here are serious about their picnics. We left Friday morning at 8:30 AM and drove about 45 minutes outside of Suly. We sat up camp and spent the next 11 hours eating lunch, drinking çay, taking naps, drinking çay, going hiking and swimming, having more food with çay, talking, playing Frisbee and other games, drinking çay, eating dinner and ending the day with  çay… but of course. We arrived back in Suly just in time to go to bed at about 10 that night. It was such an exhausting experience but one of my favorite things I have done so far.
Prayer Needs:
Continued diligence in staying in the Word and focus for being here.
 Continued prayer for Shad’s family. PLC is trying to set up a memorial fund in Shad’s name, but things that work in America don’t necessarily work in Iraq. There are so many people connected to Shad’s story that it could be a really good thing. Pray that the PLC staff would have the words to explain the memorial fund to Shad’s family and doors to be opened if this is what is suppose to happen.
 Relationships to deepen among our Kurdish friends. For communication boundaries to be broken. For boldness and the eyes to be able to see opportunities when presented.
 I am trying so hard to learn the Kurdish language but I’m convinced that it’s ten times harder than Spanish. I need major grace in learning.
Many people on the team have been sick this week. Pray for healing and rejuvenation and that our immunity systems would be built up.
 Pray for major decisions that need to be made in the next few weeks.
Thank you for caring so much about what we are doing in Iraq to pray and read these ridiculously long posts. You are such a big part of what is happening here and the encouragement your emails and prayers bring help me to push through every day.