Places

‎”The hardest places to leave are the places God leads us to. Because those are the places where you are shaped and molded into a new person. Those are the places where your heart expands, your minds open to new perspectives, and your eyes begin to really see.” –Environments of Grace

My focus was so narrow before Iraq, I wasn’t able to see how much bigger the world was than my itty bitty bubble of a life. My world centered around me, my private school education, my “faith” based pedastool and my yearning to be perceived as a “good” Christian girl. I had no idea my perspective was so off. I loved the Lord; I loved people; I loved serving. I really thought I had it figured out. I thought I knew what it was to be a Christian; I thought I truly knew what it meant to follow after Him.

But I didn’t.

I made things so complicated when it came to Faith. I was a Pharisee, putting so many rules and restrictions on what being a Christian was suppose to look like. In my naivety, a person of faith was suppose to look a certain way, walk and talk a certain way. I condemned those, though not realizing it, for not fitting into my guidelines. The qualities I attributed as necessities of walking with Christ had WAY more to do with my West Texas-itty bitty bubble of a culture and WAY less to do with what it means to follow Christ. It’s like a veil was taken off my eyes and I realized how much more complicated I was making things than what God had intended.

Living overseas taught me how to love people better, even when they’re difficult to love. It taught me how to live in community instead of pushing away when things get difficult. It made me realize that others think and view things completely different based on where they’ve been. And that understanding the way a person thinks and views life is the key to helping them understand the love of Christ. It made me not want to settle into a normal life living the American dream. And it made the old aspirations of what I thought I wanted in life dim in comparison to how HE could use my life. Living in Iraq made me realize how crucial it is to depend on the Lord and yearn after Him and how scary it is when you don’t.

I DEFINITELY haven’t arrived. If anything I’ve realized now how much I will never completely understand about the Lord this side of heaven. How much I have to be dependent on Him because I know absolutely nothing.

There are days I miss that country so much I can barely breathe. My six months in Iraq were HARD. That time was exhausting. Painful. Draining. Stretching. Uncomfortable. Maturing. Humbling. Joyful. Exciting. Revealing. And full.   I’m humbled that God was so incredibly gracious enough to me to take me half way around the world to shape and mold me into a new person, expand my mind to new perspectives, and open my eyes so that I may see. How great is the Father’s love that He would take me halfway around the world so that I can know Him better?!?

Simply amazing.

Open our eyes

“I try to avoid seeing pictures of those starving people. It’s too depressing. I would rather see the pictures of safari animals.”

A good friend of mine recently took a trip to Kenya and Uganda. Yesterday at work, I sat on my computer sifting through pictures of her recent trip. My heart aching at the sight of these orphans – hungry for food and love. Wishing with everything in me I knew how to teleport so I could hold them for a while. Love on this one and that one. Put hope in his beautiful chocolate eyes. Tickle them relentlessly just to hear joy in their laughter. Shower her with kisses and tell her of One who will never leave nor forsake – no matter who in her past has done just that.

At one point a co-worker passed by my desk and made the off the cuff statement at the top of this post. I’m sure she didn’t mean anything by it – she is a sweet and good-natured person. But it took everything in me to not explode at that moment. I was fuming inside. ‘What do you mean you try to avoid them?  What if that was your son – your mother – your sister???  What if that was you?!?’

Why do we close our eyes from the difficult? Why do we choose not to see? Is it easier to look the other way? Less uncomfortable? Does it seem too overwhelming?

Yes.

Does choosing to open our eyes cause us pain? Does it stretch us? Require us to spend ourselves for someone else?

Yes.

Is it too much to handle? Is there too much hurt? Is it impossible to make a difference?

Absolutely not.

I think we have this whole thing backwards. Maybe we are afraid to pour ourselves out because in doing so we believe we won’t have enough for us. But what if the very act of taking on someone else’s burden and giving away is the exact thing that fills our cup to overflowing? That brings us joy? What if giving away is the key to contentment?

“If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”  -Isaiah 58:10-12

Friends. Let us open our eyes. Let us choose to see.

 The most severe drought in decades is threatening the lives of more than 11 million people — especially young children — in the Horn of Africa. Famine has been declared in parts of southern Somalia, and threatens to spread further if nothing is done to prevent it. Kenya and Ethiopia are also severely affected by the crisis, with millions in critical need of food and water. World Vision has launched an emergency response to the drought and food crisis, working to provide life-saving essentials to the most vulnerable children and families . . .Thanks to government grants, your gift today can multiply up to 5 times in impact to help provide emergency food, clean water, agricultural support, healthcare, and other vital assistance to children and families in need.

Special Update!

Wow, this is a record! Two updates in one week! So the purpose of this email is two things. First, to let you know of four more children are leaving for Turkey tomorrow to receive heart surgeries! And second, to thank all of you who are wanting to support me for the fall!

The first piece of exciting news is about the four children traveling to Turkey tomorrow. PLC received an unexpected financial gift this month, enough to send four children to life-saving heart surgery! The PLC staff and children will arrive in Istanbul tomorrow evening and the first surgery might begin as early as Wednesday. Here are the kids headed to Turkey:

Mohammad. Mohammad is eleven years old and has a fourfold combination of heart problems called Tetralogy of Fallot. I don’t know the details of his condition but like most heart problems, Mohammad’s heart does not circulate enough oxygen to his body resulting in his skin, fingernails and lips turning blue and a lack of energy. Mohammad can’t play football and run around with other children because his heart isn’t strong enough. If not fixed, Mohammad’s heart will not sustain his life. Though his surgery is somewhat routine, Mohammad’s quality of life will be greatly improved. Though routine, there are still risks and Mohammad’s older age makes the risk higher.
Mazyar. He is a precious three-year-old little boy whose condition is complicated. His heart will not be fully corrected with just one surgery. Mazyar had his first heart operation last year and this will be the second stage of the heart repair. Mazyar will need several surgeries as he grows to fully correct his heart. He also has a cleft pallet. We have looked into some cosmetic surgeries in Turkey that might correct this, but that will be done sometime in the future. We played with Mazyar today at the office. He is just like any other toddler; he is full of life. His laugh is contagious and one cannot miss the love his mother has for him. Multiple times today she would pull him into her arms and hold him showering him with soft words of love. It was a sobering moment to think of the difficulties this family has faced (and all the families for that matter). I can’t imagine receiving news that your child has something life-threatening and you are powerless to change it. It will be an incredible journey for PLC to walk alongside this family as we are hopeful that Mazyar will continue to improve after each surgery.
Ruzhan. This shy but beautiful eight-year-old girl entered the office today. She quietly sat with us and colored, smiling widely when we told her her picture was “zor juana” (very beautiful). I do not know the extent of her heart condition but she is in need of this surgery. Ruzhan came to us from a connection PLC has with some Americans living in a city on the norther border of Iraq. The business these Americans run came together and donated 50% of the money needed for Ruzhan’s surgery to PLC. How incredible is that? ONE organization is funding her surgery. What if just one business from each state of the US funded one surgery this year… 50 innocent Iraqi kids would have a chance at life.
Daryan. Daryan just turned four months old today. His heart situation is extremely serious. The Kurdish doctor we use here in Iraq says Daryan’s condition is the worst he has ever seen. Daryan is malnourished and extremely small and weak for his age. The odds are stacked very high against this little boy. It brought tears to my eyes to see this tiny baby this morning who is probably half the size he should be.  There is not a very big chance that he will survive surgery, but without it, he will surely die. I want so badly to be able to do something, to change this for Daryan and his family, to even take his place and give him a chance to grow and live…. all the while feeling powerless because really, what can I do? The amazing thing about this is that we do not serve a God who only works in easy situations. We serve a POWERFUL God who holds the worlds in the palm of His hand. Who is the ultimate healer. I am reminded of the verse that says His ways are higher than our ways. It’s in times like these that I have to trust His ways whatever they may be. So, join alongside of me in praying wholeheartedly for Daryan’s life and the lives of Mohammad, Mazyar and Ruzhan.
I will try and keep you updated on these kids as they arrive in Turkey, are examined to determine if they are a candidate for surgery, and for the outcome of the surgery. PLC has a blog that will be updating every step of the way, probably faster than I even receive information. I invite you to check this often and prayerfully. http://preemptivelove.org/blog/ Please pray for these families as they travel tomorrow. Pray for peace for their hearts as they are in a strange land hearing a strange language and carrying very heavy hearts for their children during this confusing time. Pray for Dr. Cicek, the pediatric heart surgeon who will perform each of these surgeries. Pray for wisdom for him and that the Lord would guide his hands. Pray ultimately that not only will their physical hearts be healed, but also their spiritual hearts. Pray for the PLC team as they travel with them to Turkey. Pray that God will give them the exact words to comfort, love and offer peace. Pray for rest also as the next couple weeks will be long draining days at the hospital.

I know I have said this before, but I can’t tell you how thankful I am for everyone’s support. God has blessed me immensely through your prayers and financial support. In my last email I talked about my support needs for the fall. A few of you inquired about how to send support. I am amazed at how the Lord is already guiding hearts to give in different ways whether that be through money, prayers or encouragement. All three are SO very important for my being here. I know the Lord will in turn bless you richly. My dad is setting up an account for me in the U.S. for my fall support. If you feel led to give please make out checks to him (Steve Spelce).  My dad will then be able to send the funds to Iraq. I want to say again how thankful I am for you helping me to be here. As cheesy as it sounds, I really couldn’t do it without each and every person. What an incredible example of true fellowship and a model for what the Church should look like.

If you feel led to give, email me and I will send you the address in which you can mail support.