Tag Archives: Relief

A Trail of Tears in Puerto Rico


I have been on the island of Puerto Rico for two and half weeks.  It is now almost 50 days after hurricane Maria.  I am with a team of people distributing water filters from the resulting collaboration of two organizations: Happy Sonship and Impact Nations.  During my time here I have witnessed the tears of men and women on several different occasions. Let me tell you about a few of them here.

The first incident of overwhelming expression was at a house our team could not fathom people living there but indeed the owners of this destroyed home were staying just next door.  When we first saw this house it was obvious the roof had been removed because the sunlight shown clearly into the rooms that could be seen through the windows.  You could also clearly see the clothes still hung in the closet from the street.


The multi-generational family had gathered and was sitting on the roofless front porch together.  The matriarch of the family sat centered amongst them and I watched the scene unfold as I was seated in the back of our rented van.  It was someone else’s turn this stop to explain in Spanish how the filter worked and leave it as a gift to the family and if they didn’t mind, to pray for them.

My team did what we had done so often and in addition got a tour of the remains of the home.  After everything was completed one of our staff felt led to donate some additional funds as a gift to this family.  The matriarch was seated again at this time with her family around her and our work was done and our van slowly began to pull away in to the narrow street and as we did, the seated woman lost her composure and broke down into sobs covering her face as her grandchildren all leapt up with arms of comfort around her as she freely cried.

This was my first encounter with tears here.

The second was my own.  We were in an area where the water had flooded a valley and entire homes with all their content had been destroyed.  No one could be residing here and indeed they weren’t but we found them with family a little further up the road.  A young woman painted the insides of a vacant immaculate home leaving us curious.  We stopped.

Two families were within, the family purchasing the home who did not have theirs destroyed and their siblings family and their kids who did have their home destroyed but were helping their siblings prepare to move into their new house.

I had a conversation standing directly across from a woman who looks very similar to me in age and composure.  She was looking the direction of her old home downhill on the road and she said with a look of remaining disbelief, “I lost everything, my clothes, my bed, my kitchen, my pictures, my car,… everything.”  I found a lump in my throat as I beheld her face reliving the reality of her current situation.

We proceeded to give both family’s filters and I was the one who felt led to give a little something extra to both these family’s thanks to the happy sonship’s generosity.  I explained to the sister who was painting that she was our first sign of hope we had seen.  Someone preparing a home, making things new, moving forward.  And to the other who had lost everything, I couldn’t make it through my sentence.  That a little money could never replace what she had lost but that my heartfelt for what she was going through.  At least that’s what I meant to say.  My tears were contagious and we quickly transitioned into praying for the family before making our departure.

That was the second of four.

The last two experiences of tears I will share with you here were both from men.  My husband and I were invited to share a bit of our story of how we met and being missionaries to a gathering of young students at a private Christian school on the island.  Their entire building had been destroyed and a church had let them take over their entire facility to ensure the education year was not lost.

My husband and I were taking turns back and forth sharing our sides of our story leading up to when we would meet each other in Mexico.  As my husband relived the experience of taking the risk of pursuing me and what God had told him during that time and how faithful God had been in this area of his life he could not contain it anymore and to the sighs of every teenage girl in the audience his tears fell as his words were hindered.  A second attempt was made to continue.  No success.  More audience sighs and a united silence as my husband stood before these people basking in the goodness of God and not contain his emotions.  We cried with him.  And the storytelling continued.


Lastly, we visited a man who had lost nothing during hurricane Maria.  He and his wife are in their seventies and have been pastoring faithfully in a little community for over thirty years.  In this remote corner of the island in this large busy world, this man plays guitar and sings before the lord.  He writes his own songs and they often have to do with Jesus.  He was sharing some of these songs for us and playing them on his guitar.

His second song was about Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane willingly choosing to suffer upon the cross for our sakes when the notes coming off of the guitar strings continued to float into the air but the words could not make it out of his mouth.  “Pardon me, pardon me,” his voice cracked out in Spanish while he closed his eyes trying to contain the emotion within.  His precious song resumed again and there we were with him, his heart laid bare before us.


There have been many more tears I have witnessed since being here on this island but here I have shared with you just four.  May all of us find the courage to live with our hearts laid bare and care enough about those around us to find others where their words get choked up and share with them in the silence that follows.

We are not all so different from one another.  Let us live with the awareness to still care.  To love others sometimes involves pain, but do not be afraid to open up again rather than shut down to avoid it.  We sometimes try to offer people answers and fix their problems but sometimes there aren’t answers or solutions to be offered and our presence is all we have to give; to sit with them in their pain or loss and offer our love.

Before Joel and I left to come to Puerto Rico on this trip I wrote that our hearts would be broken.  When our hearts get broken, it simply makes room for them to grow bigger.  Do not fear heartbreak.  Do not live life numb.  Don’t give up hope for tomorrow. God is worthy of our trust in today.

Thank you so much for the prayers and financial support that has made our trip to Puerto Rico possible.  We have felt the power of the Holy Spirit, felt the overwhelming compassion of the Father towards this island, and felt the nearness of Jesus to the people who are suffering here.  We continue to look to Him for our direction and leading.  Thank you and God Bless.

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We’re going to Puerto Rico!

Hey everyone!

Update

These past two weeks Joel and I have put together and sent around 25 packages to different families in Puerto Rico that need access to food.  The first of them started arriving safely into the hands of their recipients yesterday.  We have a few yet to send off due to the people we want to send them to have had any access to the internet yet at this point to even know we need their address!  All that to say thank you for your donations, support and help as we extend a helping hand to Puerto Rico.

I think the hardest part in getting involved is hearing details about their lives and what’s really happened.  Beyond homes being ruined, ways of living and livelihoods on the island have been destroyed.  How can a wedding photographer take pictures when all the weddings for the rest of the year have been canceled and all the beautiful places they took pictures are gone?  How can a pastor continue to be a pastor when the building they met in is gone and families don’t have enough to get by themselves?

Shopping for the food packages you helped support to send to Puerto Rico!

Our Upcoming Trip

After considering it the first week after the hurricane happened, a trip to Puerto Rico wasn’t in the right timing for us.  But Joel and I have the heart, energy, and time to give freely.  Both of us have a history of being of service in times of need and crises and are trustworthy to steward relief.

Joel has family we just made contact with as of yesterday for the first time.  There are places for us to possibly stay and LOTS OF WORK TO BE DONE.  Whether Joel and I find ourselves cooking meals, waiting in lines for others, clearing homes, rubbish, debris, helping the elderly and infirm, filtering water, or giving humor and hope,  we are willing to go.  The people of Puerto Rico are worthy of love and help. Now is the time to go.

What’s The Plan?

Joel and I are flying out Thursday in hopes of teaming up with a long time friend of Joel’s that leads a ministry and is heading down at the same time.  They are planning to work primarily in a town called Quebradillas.  This is a town located next to the town Joel’s family from and where he lived for 15 years.

Our game plan is flexible according to the needs we meet along the way.  That’s the best description I can give you.  I know our hearts will be broken and the need will be limitless.

Joel speaking with a good friend in San Juan when we visited Puerto Rico in January

What do we need?

We need you in prayer, compassion, and support.  Thank you so much already to the handful of people that have already helped get food into the hands of those who are hungry.  With political banter surrounding this tragedy concerning Puerto Rico, I don’t feel the need to explain or justify how these people got into this situation or why it will be so hard for so long, but Jesus never asked us to ask why or put conditions on our service or giving.

If you want to come to Puerto Rico with us in Spirit and tangibility you can through prayer and partnership.  I will put a link below for any donations you want to add to this trip.  We may be bringing supplies or food down with us as well before we go.  Thank you in advance for believing in us, caring about the people of Puerto Rico and taking the time to read this in a busy internet world.  Love you and God Bless.

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Update on the Current Christian Iraqi Refugee Crisis in the Middle East

We arrived in Jordan one year ago to date.   Nothing has changed during that time for the course of tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees still stuck here in Jordan.   We have witnessed 25,000 Muslim Syrian refugees leave Jordan and go to Canada in the first three months of 2016.   I can count on my hands the number of Iraqi Christian refugees I have seen leave during the entire year.   When we first arrived in June of 2015, these refugees were distressed and seemingly without hope.  Now a year later they are even more desperate, emotionally less stable and still seemingly without hope.

Months ago, some families were told they were welcome with open arms only to have the world turn their face away after the shocking Paris attacks.  When people see the faces of Iraqi Christians refugees, they are clumped together with the faces of terrorist extremists, whether intentionally or unintentionally so.

Backstory

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For more than hundreds of years Christians have settled in the area of the Nineveh plains, otherwise known as Mosul.  They speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.  Additional Christians resettled here ten years ago as they fled Baghdad and the war that began to tare that city to shreds.  Mosul was defended by the Kurdish army otherwise known as the Peshmerga.  In the dark of night in June of 2014, the church bells rang through the city.  The Peshmerga had fled and ISIS was coming and would be in the city in three hours.  Thousands of families grabbed what they could in their hands and fled; some in cars, others on foot with children in the darkness for hours.  They all had one destination: Irbil, Kurdish territory.

Today

That was the terrible day that began the displacement of thousands of Christians in the Middle East.  Still they are without resettlement or any real hope of it.  In Jordan there is no feasibility for staying, there is no possibility even for the consideration of it.  The Jordanian government has given them five years tops for transitioning through to other countries.  In the meantime, these families cannot work, drive cars, or earn a living here, etc.  Live is stressful and different when a family has no intention of staying.  You don’t build relationships, you don’t seek to identify with the people, don’t attend school; you don’t plant roots.  Some families are still afraid to leave their homes.

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People in the West may think Jordan and Iraq are neighbors so at least it still is the same culture, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.  In Jordan, the people speak a different language, eat entirely different foods, have a different religion, history and traditions.  The same goes for the northern Iraqi city of Irbil where there are thousands of refugees—now called IDPs, or internally displaced people are housed in camps.  To the West, Kurdistan is still Iraq.  In reality, Kurdistan is distinctly not Arab.  Kurdistan is Kurdish.  They exclusively speak the Kurdish language, eat Kurdish food, and live Kurdish.  If you are Arab, you are the what threatens their way of life, and here too, the Assyrian Christians have been lumped into the Arab threat.

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Here in Jordan, even now, new families are coming over every week from Irbil.  At first, my husband and I thought it was because they heard of a few families finally getting to leave, but after doing research we learned it is actually because the families that had fled to Irbil were staying there in the hopes that their lost land and homes would be one day be recaptured back from ISIS, delivering them from the threat of death—literally.  It seems they have now reached the end of their hope and are finally saying goodbye forever.

Once arriving in Jordan, they are entering a country saturated with refugees to overflowing.  In addition to the Iraqi’s mainly around the capital city of Amman, there are over one million refugees from Syria in the north.  No Iraqi’s are in camps here, they are all Syrian… and Palestinian. The Palestinian refugees that are in camps are still there, three generations later, from the displacement of what people here call the occupation their land by Israel.  (If you are traveling to Israel, you don’t tell people you are, you say you are going to Palestine, because here, the nation of Israel does not exist.)  Fortunately, recently there have been 85,000 work permits granted to Syrian refugees in efforts of integration and business regulation in the north by the Jordanian government.  Jordan is and has been a place of peace and consolation to the most dire of victims in this Middle Eastern chaos.

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Today we sat before an Iraqi refugee man nearly in tears saying, “I am responsible for my family, what am I to do?”  Yes, Joel and I work with Relief for these families, but money alone can not solve the problems these families have spread before them.  Even with clinic bills paid for, even with children in schooling we provide, even with a roof over their head, despair lingers.

They are not home, they have no family here, all their degrees and training in education in Iraq have become invalid requiring them to begin from square one wherever they go at any age (we know a man his first year into his practice as a doctor and one young woman who was due to graduate the week of fleeing), all the heavily regulated process towards marriage for anyone stops as grooms no longer have anything to offer a bride, and wherever a family may eventually end up they don’t know the language, culture or way of life, which are all very different.   Any money these families had in banks, the savings they had, the buildings, businesses, the cars, the land, farms, the places of all of their lifelong memories—gone.   This is the unseen effect of war, wherever it happens, whenever it happens.  Life stops. Unfortunately, the countries choosing war as a solution are often less familiar with the long-term effects on their own soil.

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After two years, the increase of stress and anxiety compounded by the lack of outlet for doing anything, going anywhere, any day of the week except waiting has caused depression to set in for some.  Families try to sleep through the day as much as possible for there is nothing, and no one for them to wake up for.  Don’t get me wrong, we are doing good things here; providing relief in the very middle of this crisis.  Patients are being seen for free, medical procedures are being helped with, languages are being learned, children are going to school, food is being distributed, and rent assistance is being given—all of those things are wonderful, critical, and important, but even with this they cannot stay, and the question in the back of everyone’s mind is, “Where can we call home?”

Frolicking with God in the Middle East

Joel and I have written ‘off the grid’ about our adventures in the Middle East for three months followed by spending the holidays in Puerto Rico and now we’re writing again to announce “We’re heading back!”

Middle-East

GOING BACK        That’s right, in the midst of our goodbyes with a plan to return in our hearts, the Lord orchestrated an open door for us.  While spending our last day in the old city of Jerusalem on Thanksgiving, God had a date prepared for us with one of the most prevalent Christian influences in Iraq.  20141127_122857Unplanned, we spent our morning with a man known as the Vicar of Baghdad or Canon Andrew White.  After exchanging hearts, he extended an invitation to join him in his efforts towards peace and reconciliation in the Middle East.  In tandem with this effort is relief towards the poor, the displaced, and the suffering.  Andrew started an organization called Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East that focuses on providing food and medical care, while also meeting with leaders on all side of the divides that are alive in the Middle East, aimed at restoring the essence humanity in their midst; the compassion that enables peace.

Dome_of_Rock,_Temple_Mount,_JerusalemJoel and I are possibly going to be involved in Israel, Jordan, and Kurdistan region in Iraq but we will see what God has planned for us as the time nears and as we arrive back on the ground there.  All we know is that God is inviting us in the overflow of his heart towards a very hurt and defensive region that he loves so much.  His glory and his image covers the land, and everyone is invited to participate in the heaven that Christ embodies toward all of humanity.  God is not waiting for human dispute to end before continuing in his celebration of who he is and what he’s done; we get to participate in his rejoicing.  God is not worried, intimidated, or uncertain of the path towards peace.  His love is mature and patient without end towards a people who are hurting and have experienced much pain.  Freedom is free and available to all.  Hopefully we will get to be a part of highlighting the way to that peace.

20141021_155734OUR PLANS NOW      Joel and I have another three months in America before our return.  We will be traveling across the country in our sporty Montero with stops in Ohio, Paducah, Cairo, Missouri, and more, on our way to northern California for two months.  We have a return trip scheduled towards May through Oregon, Minnesota, and back to South Carolina.  We look forward to seeing friends and family, meeting new faces, and seeing some of God’s beautiful creation along the way.

OPPORTUNITIES     We’re inviting you to come with and join us along the way!  So many people have been so encouraging, supportive, and have believed in us!  Our hearts are forever entwined with yours as you’ve sowed into our adventures with God, and this glorious journey continues!  I’ve attached some more information to our happy giving page of how you can sow into God’s plans for our lives in this season if you like.  One way we always need is prayer!  Thank you so much for responding to the spirits leading in basking our journey in prayer.  We couldn’t do this without the Christ in you and we love having your blessing and strength along for the ride.  Prayer matters and changes reality, isn’t our partnership with God awesome!?

John-Crowder1Here’s another opportunity we’re going to post on our announcement:  Do you want to come join us for a week?  A mutual friend of ours John Crowder is hosting a trip to come and help the Syrian refugees and minister to the church and the lost in that place.  Never worry about finances.  Ever.  Only say yes to the desires God births within your heart and he will make a way.  I only say this because when its him doing it, its worked for me every time he’s sent me.  We’d love to have you.  We’re going to be ministering in a town that Joel and I have visited and we’re super excited to partner with the church there as well.  It will be the adventure of a life time to be a part of what God is doing on the ground in the Middle East.  The deadline to sign up is March 1st.  Here’s the link… see you there.

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With love and blessings always from us to you, thank you!