04 November 2015

Days 4 & 5 - A Parachute and a Mountainous Climb

Day 4 - P.E. Class at The Refuge

As I mentioned in the last post, The Refuge is the community center that World Orphans staff built here in Soran, Kurdistan, Iraq.  Six days a week teachers and social workers host children from the refugee camps, about 155 in total, who come in three shifts, based primarily on age.  We were there for two shifts yesterday, and played a bunch of games that took me back to the grade school gymnasium, including the most coveted of gym activities: playing with the parachute.  It was so fun to see the kids just enjoying being kids!  The Shabak Kurdish kids are rowdy and love having their photos taken (see below).  The Yezidi kids in the second group were much calmer, much more reserved, but even they warmed up to Red Light Green Light!
      Our afternoon was spent in the local bazaar buying medicine and paint and cookies.  I had to keep reminding myself not to wander off from the group, because I so wanted to just browse through all the shops and look for some of the great foods we've been eating, like pomegranate syrup and ketchup substitute of date sauce.  We've been eating so, so well here, and appreciating the offer of sweet black tea at every home and restaurant after every meal.

Day 5 - Mountain Top and Antibiotics

 We woke up early this morning for a hike.  I went, even though hiking is not my favorite thing, and was very well rewarded for my efforts.  First, I wussed out about ten minutes in and got a ride for three-quarters of the way up the peak.  This was humbling and really good for my pride.  When we got out of the car, we met two shepherds and heard from this older gentleman about his whole life spent in the Kurdish mountains.  The Kurdish people have a saying: "The mountains are our only friends."  I was so ignorant as to Middle Eastern geography and topology that I was stunned by the views at the top of the mountain peak.  I truly had not expected such dramatic and beautiful vistas, and I was greatly moved imagining the many refugees who have crossed similar terrain with babies and children, pregnant mothers and the elderly.  We even heard about a 70+ year old couple who had been forced off of Sinjar Mountain, where the Yezidis lived.  The man had to crawl 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) on hands and knees because he couldn't walk, and the woman didn't own shoes, so she made foot coverings out of water bottles.

We had a time of worship and prayer at this incredible spot, then we were invited in for tea with the guard who is posted at the cell phone tower that marks this particular peak.  He is part of the Kurdish Army, known as the Peshmerga, and was a warm and generous host.  I think he was eager for the company, even though most of us couldn't communicate clearly with him.

In the afternoon, the guys on the team went back to The Refuge to paint some outbuildings, and the ladies on our team (with one guy) went out to one of the camps that we visited on the first day (Kawlokan and Kawlokan Expansion).  We had a stash of medicines to treat common ailments, and a lovely young doctor (in the red sweater) to diagnose.  I had planned to do some maternal health discussions with these women, but instead we focused on serving the 60 women and children (and four men) who came for treatment.  At Kawlokan Camp, where the Shabak Kurds formerly of Mosul live, the complaints were minor and pretty easily treated, but at the second camp, where Yezidis live, it was heartbreaking.  They had several medical issues beyond our reach.  One family really touched my heart.  We have been hearing about how the Yezidis are such an insular community that marrying close relatives is very common.  We saw two children, brothers, in the camp today who are severely mentally handicapped.  The older boy, about age six or eight, was cheerful and a bit aggressive, but the two-year-old had very jerky physical movements, trouble focusing his eyes, scratches and sores all over his face, probably from his own flailing arms.  I held him in my arms for a bit, with tears on my face, and prayed for God to heal his body and mind.
The Khalid Qasim Alias Family
I just went online and saw that some wonderful friends have fully sponsored the Yezidi family I linked to a few days ago!  When I shared with the World Orphans staff here on the ground, they were so excited and blessed.  I'm asking more of you to get involved.  This is the family with the two disabled boys.  Sponsorship through World Orphans is safe and very effective, and may enable long-term care and counseling for these boys.  Please click on their photo to go to the website and sponsor them!

Please continue to pray.  I am feeling so deeply moved, but also refreshed and blessed to be serving alongside a great team and very devoted servants who live here.   I'm remaining with 10 days, which is a long time to sustain these heavy emotions.  Bless you all.  Thanks for paying attention.

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