Thursday, April 11, 2013

In the Refugee Camp...

Decorating flip-flops with Syrian women

       I had the opportunity to go with some women to the refugee camp here. We did a craft with the Syrian women; 'making' flip-flops. Someone had donated a ton of shoes, and so we had beads and fake flowers, etc. to decorate them with. The women loved it--and it was practical, too, because they all need shoes very badly!
I did not take pictures of the camp itself--don't ask me why; I just didn't! But this camp looks like all of them: thousands of dirty tan tents with UNHCR printed on the side, gravel, dirt, dust...little Syrian kids running around everywhere; adorable and dirty. I will say that my admiration of the UN went up several notches. They seem to be doing a pretty good job dealing with the massive influx of refugees from Syria, considering everything.

The lady I came with had promised a Syrian woman that she would come visit her tent; this was a big deal to her--they are all super hospitable! So when we were done with the crafts, the Syrian lady--I will call her 'Lisa'--got in our car and showed us the way to her tent. According to the woman I came with, this particular family had kept their tent and little children remarkably clean. There were a few flies buzzing around, but that was it as far as "squalor" goes :) A large group of other Syrian women came too, and so we sat around, chatting, smiling, and drinking first juice and then coffee (like I said, these people are super hospitable, and even if that was the last of their coffee or juice, they would have made us drink it!). I think we were in Lisa's tent for about an hour. When I say chatting, I did not talk much, except to one woman right next to me who knew some phrases in English. Mostly I listened to the banter in Arabic, and one of the people I came with (I'll call her "Betty"), would translate for me and tell me what was going on. Betty's Arabic was very good, by the way! A thirteen year old girl in Lisa's family had been in a room (in Syria) with about 13 people when a rocket or a bomb hit it. Miraculously, no one was killed and this girl was not injured. I assume that the family left Syria soon afterwards. The woman sitting next to me asked at one point; "Do you like Jordan?" and I said, 'yes, I like it a lot!'. She told me, "Syria is much better!" :) They love their country. Apparently Syria is much more beautiful than Jordan--lots of women are saying that!

I have been amazed by the strength and resiliency that the Syrian women I've met have shown. They may have had their homes destroyed and family members in the army, or many harrowing and difficult experiences in their past, yet they are able to sit around, smoke a cigarette and laugh and joke about their husband maybe getting a second wife or how their sister married a really ugly man (he was bald, apparently), and yet he was very good to her and the family loves him!! It is really impressive. Though the pain is deep inside, they manage an outward appearance of strength. It is that pain deep inside that only Jesus Christ can heal.



Monday, April 8, 2013


I promised to put up here they are! :) These are from the whole time so far here in Jordan, semi-chronologically.
(my dad on the night we arrived--VERY jetlagged!(view across a field looking towards town)
(Me with 'Annie' [front] and 'Susie' [back])


(Me and 'Susie' in the sand--she liked to "eat" rocks :)

(Joshua and 'Natalia')

('Susie'! Pray for her to be adopted by a Christian Jordanian family--Jordan won't let Americans adopt children from there-- IDK why...)

(My Mom by the gate of the compound)

(View of Amman, capitol city of Jordan)

I will put up more later! Ma'as salaama!



What to do...

What do you do when your house is bombed by your own government? Run, of course. To a refugee camp of 20,000 across the border in Jordan. Your husband was injured by the bombing--his arm is broken or dislocated or something--you don't now quite what. Your one  year old baby girl gets sick from all the dust in the camp; she coughs and vomits. Your other children, one boy, one girl, are experiencing nightmares and will be permanently traumatized by what happened to them. Then you hear from a friend that they have settled in a small village about 30 minutes from Amman, the capital city. You and your husband decide to move there. He goes to Amman to get medical care for his arm, and you take your children to this village and rent two rooms below a pharmacy. You have nothing but a few UNHCR mats and some blankets, and maybe some cooking utensils.

This is reality.

And this is Nafal's story. My family and I met Nafal and her children (Abdullah her son is pictured above with my brother Joshua) yesterday when we went with an aid worker to distribute mostly non-food items to Syrian refugee families in a village in Jordan. We met 5 other families with terribly difficult situations as well: one Syrian mother told us that her husband had gotten a job but had lost it, and now they could be kicked out of their apartment if they cannot pay rent; in one family (extended family as well-- 3 families in one 4-5 room apartment), the father was shot in the lower leg and had received surgery, but he still cannot walk without a crutch.

The organization that we went with to visit these families gives things like table-top gas stoves, diapers, and sometimes non-perishable food (if you were wondering, we gave all of the above to Nafal's family). My dad (as a doctor) was able to examine the Syrian man's leg, and also in that same family their was a baby with severe cleft palate that he saw--this baby will need multiple surgeries just so that he can eat solid food. He also gave Nafal assurance that her baby girl was just suffering from allergies due to the dust, and did not have pneumonia.

As you can see, the Syrian situation is severe, and is getting worse by the day. These people need not only physical provision, but the hope that Jesus Christ can only provide. He is the only one who will be able to satisfy their longing for protection and safety; for love and healing. Pray for Nafal and her whole family--her husband Kefah, son Abdullah, and two girls--to come to know the love and protection that is only ours through Jesus Christ our Savior. May He be known by them as the Healer Restorer, Comforter and Protector.

 (This is the place where the 3 Syrian families lived together--in just part of this house. This was the guy who was shot in the leg.)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Lam-af-ham.... Day 2

Lam-af-ham... "I don't understand!" Hopefully I can remember this phrase because I have realized that my very limited Arabic (yes, no, hello, goodbye, thank you, please) is not quite satisfactory!

 I went into town yesterday with my dad and another doctor who knows Arabic to get some groceries. I wore a headscarf because this is not the capitol city and pretty much all the women cover, unless they are a tourist and then they will stick out like a sore thumb... and everyone stares at them! So, especially having slightly reddish hair, I stuck to the more "incognito" option! :) Sidenote: I am really thankful that I have dark eyes and eyebrows! With most of my hair covered, I look fair skinned and not Middle Eastern, but I don't look too unusual...this is nice because as some people know, I prefer in certain situations (cross-culturally in particular) to NOT stick out! :)

About the town: If you have ever traveled internationally you will have noticed that certain things we are sooo used to in the States have no practical bearing anywhere but in Europe (where they came from originally...) For example: Landscaping. Even a very "low-class" American has some sort of idea of how to make his house or apartment area look a little nicer. Here: who cares!?! It is the desert; only scrubby trees (like olive trees) grow naturally. Okay, there is some grass and etc., but all in all beautification of your lawn is decidedly odd unless you are very wealthy.
Another observation (and when I put up pictures you will see this): LITTER. Try to think on this: litter is non-existent here. What do I mean? There will be empty lots in town with 2 trash cans. People will lob their trash bags in the can's general direction, but in the end the whole lot has a good smattering of black bags (and it is really windy here, so they blow around a good bit). The maintenance guys come...and they simply drop a match into the trash bins, burn what's in there out, and let the whole process happen again (See, 'beautification of the town' is not very high on the priority list).  So: trash? To be sure--lots and lots of it! But litter? Nah! (or la, in Arabic) The joke someone told me today was that the national bird of Jordan is (translated from Arabic) "The Black Bag" As I said, they blow everywhere. Save the planet?!!? LA!!!! Man-o-man, I love this place! :)

So, there was your Middle-Eastern culture lesson for the day. Glad I could be of service ;)

Ma'as-salaama (goodbye).

Salaam From Jordan, Ya'll! :) DAY 1

Salaam, Marhaba... or Hi Everyone! I wrote this yesterday, the 4th. (we did not have internet that day)
Well! We have safely arrived in Jordan, and are (sort of) over jetlag. The time here is 1:45pm—for you all, 6:45pm or something like that! Our travel was safe; we slept on the 11-hour flight here, or watched movies (Bourne Legacy and Wreck It Ralph!!!), etc. When we arrived in Jordan, all our luggage was waiting for us—so no lost bags J One hitch was that when you come out of customs and have your luggage, you sort of walk out and see a big group of people holding signs for companies, hotels, groups, and people’s names. This is because most groups send a driver to pick you up at the airport. Well, we saw no signs for the hospital, so we were a wee bit concerned! But my dad bought a phone that will call in-country, and we called the person who was in charge of getting us in. He said the driver was there—we just had not seen him!

The ride to a restaurant where we met some expats we knew was epic! In Jordan, there are few stop lights, and forget real speed limits; these are suggestions! There is a general two-lane idea, but a conglomeration of vehicles using horns and brakes liberally is more exciting. People generally pass on the right, but honking as you speed pass is the best option ;) All that to say, I enjoyed the ride! Somehow I had an innate confidence that the driver would not crash or fender bender anyone, which was fortunate…

We are in an apartment on a beautiful compound—no grass, of course (this is the desert, after all) but lots of olive trees! Today we woke up with the sun, got ready, ate, and my dad, Joshua and I went out to find our way around this place. Right next door (attached to our apt.) is the school for the compound. We met a lady there who showed us the way to the hospital (my dad stayed there and saw patients), and Joshua and I went with her to take three little girls who are staying at the hospital to the playground. One was 'Susie', an adorable little thing who is just about to walk on her own. She was abandoned—her mom died, dad took off somewhere, and no relatives. Another was 'Annie', a sweetheart about 4 (but short for her age), I think. She was seriously malnourished, and had several major and many minor fractions in her bones, and way depleted in Vitamin D when she came to the hospital. Now she has just reached the right D levels, and is walking, but is bow-legged and off balance because of the fractures. Her family now wants her back to beg in the souk (market)! I don’t know what will happen there. The last girl, 'Natalia', was between 14 and 16, they don’t know because she came to the hospital when she was 1 or 2, and had been abused by her dad. Whatever he did to her has caused blindness, and some sort of disability that reminds me of cerebral palsy. She was so sweet! She has been at the hospital for like 14 years. We took these girls and had a ball playing with them in the sand!

Now I am sitting in our apartment, writing this. There is a big windstorm right now—coming off the Syrian desert. But the weather is really nice! Tonight there is a prayer meeting we will be going to, and tomorrow some friends of ours will come visit us, and we will plan our outings to the refugee camp with them. It is about 20 or so minutes away from here, I believe.

So, that is all for now! Hopefully I will update many more times, and with pictures!