Friday, August 26, 2011

30 Days of Yearning - Night of Power

There is a restlessness in the air tonight.  Not only noticeable in the strong gusts that are whipping the trees around and blowing kilos of dust through the windows, but in people as well.  Usually at this time of night, you can hear a pin drop here in M-ville.  Everyone is either sleeping or huddled around their tv’s watching their favorite shows.  Dogs bark, and the occasional donkey brays, but other than that, once dark settles in, sounds quiet. 
Tonight is different. Singing and chanting float through the air on those gusts of wind.  The mos.ques are full of men of all ages, praying, reading the Ko.ran, and asking for special blessing and forgiveness. Lights in homes remain on as women gather to chant and pray. 
Tonight is the Night of Power – the 27th night of the fasting month of Ramadan.  Wikipedia describes it this way:
Muslims often pray extra prayers on this day, particularly the night prayer. They awake, pray, and hope God will give them anything they may desire on this night. Mostly, they perform tilawat (reading the Qur'an).
Those who can afford to devote their time in the remembrance of God stay in the mosque for the final ten days of Ramadan. This worship is called Iʿtikāf (retreat). They observe fast during the day and occupy themselves with the remembrance of God, performing voluntary prayers and studying the Qur'an, day and night, apart from the obligatory prayers which they perform with the congregation. Food and other necessities of life are provided for them during their stay in the mosque. Devoting time to remember God, Muslims also hope to receive divine favors and blessings connected with the blessed night(lailatul qadr').
A’s co-worker, Z, has in fact taken 10 days off of work to sit in the mos.que.  This is the man that A goes to when he has questions pertaining to religion and culture and social issues.  Not only is this man quite religious, but he has seen the world, in a sense. He lived in Europe for 7 years and has read the New Testament.  He is religious but he is also a thinker (those two don’t always go hand in hand) and therefore he is someone that A dialogues with a lot. 
Please be pr.aying for Z tonight and in these days. Pr.ay that the scripture he has read would come to mind once again. Pr.ay that conversations he has had with A will spark something in his heart and mind. Pr.ay for Je.sus to meet him in that place.   
Pr.ay for this city, this country, and for followers of Is.lam all across the globe as they gather and pr.ay on this night. Pr.ay for dreams and visions. Pr.ay for God to show up in power.  Pr.ay for divine appointments and brokenness to take place.  

Thursday, August 25, 2011

30 Days of Yearning - A Beautiful People From Afar

A's Somali co-worker and I at a wedding

One of our most fulfilling experiences during college and living in Minneapolis was getting to know Somali refugees. Having escaped horrible famine and fighting, these people (around 70,000 of them) made noble attempts to set up sustainable lives in Minnesota.  Shops, restaurants, taxi services and community centers have been set up by these industrious people and the smells of incense and sambusas waft romantically out Somali populated areas. 
My dear dear friend Z and I at her shop. She is the henna master!
We made some good friends among these beautiful people and came to the conclusion that if Somalia ever opened up to foreign help, we would be the first ones in line to offer it. 
See, not only is this a devastated and forgotten country that sees its people, land and economy, its very structure, waste away daily. It is a land that reeks of promise.  Why? Because there are 70,000 Somalis in Minneapolis alone who have very deep ties to their homeland and are working very hard to better that place however they can. 
Instead of giving up on their war-torn roots, they are dreaming and scheming and hoping for the day when they can go back and restore their nation. Granted, I am sure that not all feel this way, but I have never talked to such a large concentration of relocated people who have a desire to someday return to their place of origin.  Not only that, but they are very intentional about doing what they can from the States to see that happen.  Some are setting up businesses with the intention of one day carrying them back to Somalia. Some are training as doctors and nurses in hope of one day going back to serve their people (some have already…though the danger is great for them). Some make the trip back to Somalia each year to take money and supplies to family members who cannot get out, or to help set up sustainable business there. 
So, I was nodding my head in agreement the other night when some guy from the UN was interviewed on CNN. He said the same thing we have been saying for years – these people are amazing!  In light of the current famine and great suffering in Somalia, he was praising the Somali people of Minneapolis for stepping up to the plate and helping.  He commented that he was amazed at the overwhelming support for their countrymen that these people showed. He described initiative being taken by a variety of people from every age group.
165 Somalis gathered to put together emergency porridge packets for the people of their homeland. Students are doing fundraisers and outreaches, families are giving extra generously.  It is love in action and it is a beautiful thing.
Will you pray for Somalis across the globe with us today?  God is doing amazing things in this people…with so many right in ‘our midst’ here in America, there is huge opportunity for Truth to be poured out.  Pr.ay for Somalis in the States – for them to feel welcome, for the love of Christ to be poured out to them, for relationships to be cultivated and seeds to be sown. Pray that they would continue to be intentional in loving and caring for their suffering brothers and sisters. And please pray for the country of Somalia and it’s people there.  Pray for mercy for the suffering, for peace from the fighting, for hope for the hopeless. 
Words cannot describe how much I love this woman. Such a dear friend to me. 
My dear friend M, and her wonderful kids...the future of Somalia. Their friendship has been such a gift to us.

I have no doubt that God wants to do BIG things in the lives of a people this special.  Please pray with us that it will happen. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

30 Days of Yearning - The Neighbors

A new aspect of life here in M-ville is our concentrated effort to get to know our neighbors.  In Lal we were both working a ton and in the villages for days at a time. When we were home, we (sadly) had no interest in having interaction with our neighbors. We made that quite clear and probably offended quite a few of them.
The view down our street - looking to the right out our gate

The view down our street - looking to the left out our gate. The river is in the distance.
Here in M-ville, we are making efforts to really get to know people.  With me being home all day and with Little t being unbelievably social, we are making needed strides to interact with those around us.   We have also been challenged with the ramifications this has for our reputation in the community and our ability to share about the changes Jesus has made in our lives.  See, unlike Lal where foreigners have been for decades, we are relatively new here in M-ville.  Our team has been here for 7 years and still, we encounter people who are unsure about us.  So, we have a long ways to go in terms of p.r. and it is important get our name and face out there as people who are honest, hard-working, responsible, here for the best interest of the people of M-ville, family oriented, modest, etc. Interacting with the neighbors is one way of putting ourselves out there. They get to know us and talk to others, who talk to others, who talk to others…because if there is one thing that is not suffering in this country it is the Gossip Monster.  He is fed more than any living thing in this place. Simply put, gossip runs rampant in these parts. And we want good gossip circulating about us in this place.  
So, the neighbors are slowly becoming a part of our daily lives. I was nervous to visit the neighbors at first because I was used to interacting with poor women from the village and didn’t know what I would talk about with these “city” women.  Conveniently enough, our neighbors ARE poor village women, so it really is no different and I feel comfortable going to see them. For the neighbors on one side, an added bonus is the fact that they have goats and a cow with a calf. For Little t it is like going to the zoo and he needs absolutely no convincing to make his way over there.
The ‘goat’ neighbors, as we refer to them in our house are an interesting family. They are the ones we visit the most often and I will tell their story today.
The first time I went with a teammate, I was surprised to enter their yard and find a barren strip of land, with a few mud homes built into the corner, a small pile of trash in the middle and the animals and outhouse on the far end.  I hadn’t been in other yards besides those of our teammates and to see a local house here brought me back to the reality of where we are.  There were no flower gardens or cement sidewalks, or kids jungle gyms…this was the real thing.  What real life for many people in this land looks like.
There are two family units who live there…two sisters and their families.  One of the sisters is married. She and her husband and 2 or 3 kids live in one house. The husband works and they seem to be slightly better off.  The other sister is a widow and two or three of her 5 kids live there.  She has a son working in a nearby country, a son who is a drug addict who lives on the streets here in M-ville, a daughter whose husband is in jail (the daughter and her 3 year old live there with the mother) and a few younger kids (ages 10 or so).
There is also a brother who lives in the yard who has some mental issues.  He is often laughed at by the family as he sits on his own and talks or sings to himself.  Today he was on the street (wearing only baggy pants and no shirt) and young kids were laughing and throwing rocks at him.  He threw rocks back as he babbled to himself.  Later we saw him lying in the dust on the side of the road.  It is heartbreaking to see the way that those with disabilities are treated in this context. Yet, for many families, there is such a fine line between making it and not that taking good care of a ‘weaker’ member is very low priority. That along with the fact that there is such a social stigma against people with disabilities (mainly from a lack of education and awareness). This makes it totally normal to objectify these people instead of treat them with respect.
Rabbit trail aside… back to the neighbors.
I have tried to make a point of going to visit often. Little t loves it. He gets such a kick out of the animals and his little friend over there.  He also does better and better with the endless coddling by the women (I think his cheeks are building up permanent calluses from all of the pinching). I am finding that this consistent interaction has led to some sort of give and take.  They bring food over and I send muffins back, they give milk from the cow and I send cinnamon rolls back. Their main source of food for the animals right now is melon rinds, so we have been trying to keep any of those that we can to give them. They keep asking if I will teach the boys English after school, but I haven’t committed to that yet.  I would rather have their kids come play in the yard with Little t, which was great when they came last week.
Their father died a few months ago and A and I both went to the funeral at their house (A went for the meal and I went later in the day as I had guests at the time of the meal). I also went to the follow-up remembrance days (10 days after and 30 days after) to commemorate the death of their father.  During their preparation for the meal (food for about 100 people) we threw the hose over the wall and pumped water for them so the wouldn’t have to haul as much from the well at the end of the street. They would love for this to become a normal thing…but we haven’t jumped on that yet.  You start with one family, then every family on the block is ready to have you give them water…and I will be honest in saying I have a hard time with that…something I am working on in my head and heart.
Upon visiting for the funeral, there were a few dozen other women who filled the room. One of them, an old old woman, asked me which military my husband was with. The sisters quickly corrected her that he was not here with the military but with an NGO and working with poor people in the villages. It is those interactions that we are hoping and praying for.  Good exposure.
One of the first days of Ramadan while we were visiting, the widow woman told me that they would be up at 2 am the next morning making potato pastries for their meals for the next day.  She invited me to come over and help/learn.  I was all geared up for it…told the guard that he would walk me (all 10 meters) over there, had my clothes laid out, my alarm set, etc.  I woke up at three and kicked myself for not hearing the alarm.  Knowing that they usually don’t stay up long when they get up during the middle of the night, I didn’t venture over…but instead convinced myself I should just fall back asleep. The next day they brought fresh pastries over and I hung my head in shame. 
Little t and the little boy in the family have become good friends.  They follow each other around, or run around the yard holding hands.  The other day I asked if the little guy could come over to our yard to play. His grandma laughed and said he wouldn’t go, that he would just cry.  15 minutes later…he accompanied us with his two uncles (ages 12 and 11) and his aunt (age 10). They stayed for a few hours and had a great time. The next time we went over, he followed Little t and I home and happily played here for ½ an hour. I am excited that Little t has this little friend and look forward to seeing their relationship grow.
Please be pra.ying for our relationship with these neighbors.  People before us have pr.ayed with them a lot (for sick relatives) etc. and that comes up in conversation.  They are poor and struggle.  They have asked often why A and his project are not helping them and are instead going out to help poor people in the villages.  I don’t have a good answer to that and it is something I think about a lot.  I become afraid of dependency – that if we help them too much they will stop trying to provide for themselves.  I also become afraid of a trend forming where other people in the neighborhood decide to ask for handouts and rely on us.  I have this picture in my mind of people constantly outside our gate asking for help and selfishly I really don’t want that.  There are real needs in the lives of people in our neighborhood and we want to be stretched and grown to help meet those needs.  Knowing how to do that isn’t always easy.
God's gift to us...coming home from an evening weekend walk. This was not retouched at all...the sunset usually looks like this. If only God's glory could burst through this place in this way...
I keep thinking about the words in my favorite Psalm – 37, verses 5 and 6. “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread. They are always generous and lend freely, their children will be blessed.” I can’t ignore the fact that we have a LOT more than those around us.  Please pr.ay for us to be wise in generosity to those around us.  Also pr.ay for hearts that don’t just see what we materially can give, but the eternal weight of glory that we can offer. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

30 Days of Yearning - Solomon and Shannon

One of the most difficult things we had to deal with while in Lal was the saga of Solomon and Shannon. We knew virtually no language, had minimal cultural understanding and no credibility in the setting (we were young and new…and knew nothing!). Even though it seemed like the cards in this situation were stacked against us, we knew that we couldn’t let this slip by.  Here is their story:
Enter Solomon. He is at least 20 years older than Shannon. He has a first wife who is beautiful and kind and humble. (She has little education and is quite ‘village-y’, but is a good woman). He has 4 of the cutest kids in Lal. He has a beautiful house and good work.
Solomon is one of the wealthiest men in Lal and comes from one of the wealthiest families in the district.  He owns a successful shop in the bazaar and at least one gas station in town.  Two of his brothers own shops in town as well. The family has a truck that one brother drives and they hire it out to ship things to and from the capital city. They have several animals, and other means of capital.  Solomon also works for our organization in the development project.  Solomon has two wives and numerous children.  He considers himself quite handsome and has a slight arrogance issue.  Any similarities between him and the Solomon in the Bib.le?
The difference between our friend Sol and the King is that our friend isn’t quite as bright.  He is competent, but has not hit the wisdom jackpot, that is for sure!
Shannon is Solomon’s second wife and she has both beauty and brains.  She is young and beautiful (and also aware of it…there is no lack of vanity in this family) and very very smart.  She has worked for our NGO for quite a while and is trained as a nurse, a midwife, and a development worker. Shannon is not afraid to speak her mind and can be quite manipulative. Where Solomon is quiet and somewhat sneaky, Shannon is a force to be reckoned and leaves no secrets when it comes to what she is thinking.
The first time Shannon was married, she was married off by her half brother (from her father’s second wife) after her father died when she was 14 or 15.  It was a way of getting her out of the house so that the half-brother could have full control…and make a little money in the process.  She went from living in Lal, going to school, working in the clinic and having many friends to being isolated in an obscure little village, married to someone she didn’t know and suffering the abuse of a jealous and possessive mother-in-law.  Life was miserable for Shannon. So much so that she got quite ill and went to great lengths to end her marriage.  Eventually, by some stroke of luck, she was able to get a divorce (one of the only women I have ever heard of in this place who has).
She went back to living with her mother (whom the cruel brother-in-law had kicked out), going to school and working.  The whole community knew about her tainted image and whispers followed her wherever she went, but outwardly, she shook it off and went on with life.
Eight years later:
Solomon and Shannon work together and catch each other’s eye. Sparks start to fly and pretty soon an affair has started.  Solomon begins to visit Shannon’s house. They steal quiet moments away together at work. They both show up to work late. They sit by each other in vehicles when all of the other workers segregate by gender. They hold hands in the vehicle and Shannon lays her head on Solomon’s shoulder.  They close the door to a room when they are the only two in it. 
I wish I could put into words the seriousness that these actions have in this culture.  It is just so BEYOND appropriate in this culture to put yourself in this situation…and yet they did, over and over.  They unashamedly would lock themselves in a room together so they could talk – in this place where it looks REALLY bad if an unrelated man and woman are in the same room.
So, by the time we arrived on the scene, rumors were flying, lies were spewing, villagers were boycotting them and all kinds of craziness was taking place.  The other foreigners that we worked with were aware of the situation, but had done nothing about it.  One said that she believed that Solomon was a follower of Je.sus and was just trying to reach out to and/or disciple Shannon.  Right.
So, we tried to ignore the issue for a while, but it was glaringly obvious that something had to be done.  We would go on trips to the village and they would disappear.  Villagers would voice their concerns over things they had seen and refuse to let their daughters come to meetings because “they” would be there.  Solomon snuck into the women’s sleeping room one night. They snuck out together another. They paid no attention in meetings or training, only stared and whispered at each other. Something had to give. 
We met with them privately and basically told them to knock it off. First they played dumb, then they made excuses. Then they laughed in our faces. They tried to tell us that the fact that they had gotten engaged a few months prior made their actions excusable…although it was said in a way that we all knew that wasn’t the case. 
Long long story short-ish…things didn’t change for quite a while, even though we kept warning that we were going to lay down the law.  We warned that we were going to separate them (the team they worked on was splitting into two teams) and they made a few threats. Shannon begged and pleaded that she couldn’t travel alone…that she needed to have a guardian with her to kiss to look good in the community. We pointed out, though it didn’t need to be said, that she had traveled all over the country by herself and had recently done a lot more than traveling alone to bring her shame. 
Eventually, we had to separate them. They were sneaking out more and more. More people were raising concerns. Our name and reputation as an organization was on the line and we couldn’t let it go on. 
They were separated in their work right around the time they got married.  They have both continued their work and the gossip has died down.  I could be ignorant, but I never heard one negative comment about Shannon traveling without her male companion (our other two female staff didn’t have men travel with them…so they were all equal in the end) from villagers or other people.
We did get a lot of appreciation from people in the community for standing up to them. People knew that they were both powerful and wealthy. It was also no secret that they had perfected the tactic of throwing their weight around. But we knew that we couldn’t let it go…and in the end it was better for everyone. 
Shannon (in the middle) with friends on her wedding day

Solomon and Shannon during their wedding party
It was a long time after their jobs were separated before Shannon would warm up to us again.  She had been hurt so much in her life and had many issues.  Even though she came across as strong and manipulative, she was desperate for love and attention and affirmation.  She is very soft on the inside. 
Solomon and Shannon have two kids now and are still working with the organization.  We will see them in November when we visit Lal and are looking forward to it.  We hope and pr.ay that indeed their hearts have been moved by the Holy Spirit as our teammate suggested and that fruit will come out of that. 
Please pr.ay for Solomon and Shannon and their family. Pr.ay that the seeds that have been planted through their extensive exposure to Believers would take root.  Please also pr.ay for others in Lal, that the act of standing up for what was right would speak volumes to people there.  

Friday, August 19, 2011

30 Days of Yearning - Sam

Sam is a guy we worked with in Lal.  He was probably a few years younger than us, but he looked and acted like he was about 16. It is not that he was immature or irresponsible, he just loved life and the boyish smile on his face took years away.  He was quick to tell a joke, or sing a song, he was soft spoken and a thinker.  He did good work and we appreciated him. 
Not overly religious, Sam didn’t wake up early to do his prayers like some of the other men.  He didn’t fast and wasn’t zealous about attending the mos.que.
Sam had been married to a neighbor girl when he was about 15 years old (she was 13) in a deal made by both of their families.  Sam and his wife had a daughter and his little family lived in his village, a few hours from Lal. He went home most weekends to visit them and would sometimes get a little misty eyed when he talked about them because he missed them so much. 
Sam’s father was a wealthy and powerful man. He was an imposing figure and quite strong spoken. He had a reputation as being a hard man and not exactly nice to those who worked for him. 
That all changed.
Sam’s father became a follower of Je.sus.
He was humbled and broken and filled with the Holy Spirit. The dramatic change was obvious. All of the community was talking about the change that had taken place in his life. 
All but Sam, that is.
We wondered what Sam’s reaction would be to his father’s change. They didn’t have the greatest relationship and we were curious to see how Je.sus affected it.  The whole time we were there, Sam never said a word about the change in his father.
Recently we got news about Sam. 
Due to a job change he had moved back to his village and was living with his mother, wife and daughter (his father lives in Lal with his second wife and other set of kids). We learned that he had become friends with a person from another country who was in Lal for work.  This other person was a follower of Je.sus. This other person was the missing link for Sam. He answered many of Sam’s questions, he challenged Sam in just the right ways.  He stirred in Sam the move of the Holy Spirit in Sam's life in ways that opened his eyes to Truth. He walked with Sam through choosing Je.sus and a life of hope and peace.
Sam later told our teammates in Lal that he had always seen something different about the foreigners living in Lal.  He couldn’t figure out why we had given so much to serve people with so little. He was amazed by the way we treated people with integrity and respect.  He was attracted by the changes he saw in our life and finally was able to put a finger on the reason for the difference.
Sam visited our friends recently, asking for more Bib.les because he had already given away all of the ones he received to people he had been sharing Truth with. 
The old song says that it only takes a spark to get a fire glowing. Sam is one of those sparks in this country. Please pr.ay for Sam and his family. Pr.ay for boldness and peace as he shares about the change that Je.sus has made in his life.  Pr.ay for people of peace for him to come into contact with. Pr.ay rich blessings on his life as he is an apostle and being used to do mighty things. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

30 Days of Yearning - Malaboy

Sorry things have been silent...internet issues once again....

Malaboy, our day guard has become one of our favorite people here.  He is hands down Little t’s best friend (Little t calls him kAkA – uncle).  Today as I walked outside to hang laundry I heard Malaboy, who was sitting in his little room, say to someone,
“welcome to my room! You are my special guest today! Here, sit here on the special cushion, and we can listen to music on the radio!”
I realized that he was talking to Little t who had made a bee-line out the door in front of me.  For the next hour, they sat and chatted together, listened to music, played with the flashlight, Little t danced, etc. 
I really consider it a blessing to have a patient older man who works in our yard.  He is very good with Little t. He doesn’t mind being followed around everywhere, he talks to Little t the whole time, explaining things to him, letting him help with little tasks.  It is great for Little t’s language and his social adaptation to this place.  They love to have water fights in the afternoon when they are watering the garden, and Malaboy just laughed the other day as Little t chased him around with muddy hands. 
Malaboy is a great father and it shows in the lives of his children. They are polite and respectful. They play well and work hard. 
It is really nice to be able to interact with him quite comfortably because in this place it is challenging to navigate male/female interaction.  He seems okay with chatting and interacting and I appreciate it. He always has new vocabulary to test out on me and is quick to give advice when I need it (or even when I don’t need it! J ). We are both learning to read and write, so we compare notes on that and look forward to the day where I can write a shopping list and he can read it instead of just having to memorize it!
He jokes with me about the garden. Having put so much time and effort into it, I was really excited to see how it turned out. At first nothing came up and Malaboy joked with me that it was a major fail.  Then suddenly it went crazy and is now one big blooming mess.  It is gorgeous, really. Today he joked with me that I actually played no part in it, it was just stuff that came up again from the year before when he planted it.  I joked back that next year I wouldn’t do anything to it if that was the case.  I still don’t know if he was serious or not…but it is nice to joke and dialogue about things like that.
Malaboy lived in the village until a year or so ago when he moved his family here to M-ville because of his job.  Because of this, he still thinks very village-mindedly…which is good and bad. There are fruits and vegetables that he is not familiar with…so I can’t ask him to shop for them. There are other times I will ask him to buy fruit or nuts and he will come back and tell me that he decided they were too expensive, so he didn’t buy them.  It is frustrating at times, but also helps me keep in context the reality of life for many of the people around us. 
Our team leader who is in charge of all of the guards commented just the other day that even when all of the other guards complain about not having enough money, wanting bonuses, etc. Malaboy doesn’t complain.  We are thankful for this and the fact that he appreciates his job and works hard.
Please pr.ay for Malaboy and our other guards.  More than anyone, they see us for who we really are; the ins and outs of our lives, the good and the bad, the times we laugh and enjoy each other and the times we…don’t. I have been pra.ying a lot lately that the peace we have would be tangible and very real to those around us.  Pr.ay for that peace to welcome Malaboy and the other guards each time they come into our yard.  That they will see something different in our lives and yearn for that. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

30 Days of Yearning

This morning women began to crawl out of bed at 2:30 a.m. As they rubbed sleep from their eyes and tried to wrap their foggy minds around the tasks of the early hour, they nudged younger girls, urging to wake from their slumber and take part in the preparation.  They work together to prepare a meal that will sustain them through the long hot day. The rest of the family is awoken and quickly and quietly eat together before the first glimmer of light graces the early morning sky. After the meal, many return to slumber for a few more hours. Others spend time praying or reading the It is really to each his own, whatever will get them through the long day without food and water.
For the next 30 days this will be the mantra of followers of Islam all over the world.  The Mus.lim world shuts down, in a sense, as people refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, sex, sometimes from t.v., etc. Stomachs rumble, throats are dry, desires go un-met, and tempers wane.  This time of year temperatures are well above 100 degrees F. every day. On these long, hot days, manual labor must go on and people struggle. There is a yearning that creeps into every essence of life in this place.
More than the physical yearning, however, the earth rumbles with a yearning for eternity, a yearning for peace. 
Fulfilling this time of fasting is obligatory for followers of Is.lam, but that doesn’t mean it will satisfy. Many are desperate for some sense of security or of eternal stability.  Enduring hunger will hopefully bring them one step closer to Heaven. One good deed further from the fires of hell.
But the yearning never stops. And one can never really be sure of their eternal destiny. Pushing and clamoring, and fasting and yearning for peace are a people who need a Savior.  Oh what joy could be theirs if they only experienced the power of life eternal offered for them!
Will you pr.ay with us for them this month? The millions who purposely go without in hopes of having it all in the end? Will you pr.ay for dreams and visions, for divine appointments, for eyes and ears to be opened and hearts to be changed? 
Please consider lifting up your hearts and voices as we storm the throne on behalf of these dear people  - that they would come to yearn for the well that never runs dry.  That their yearning would turn to dancing as they come to know peace.

And Then Life Happened...

Well, I had good intentions of posting something for the fasting month (Ramadan) the day it started…and then having stories each day of the lives of people here to go with it…to encourage me and you to pr.ay for this crazy part of the world. 
But then we had a doozie of a week and I have been trying to catch up since then.
In no particular order:
Our power was on the fritz for two weeks (one week, we only had power two nights for a few hours).
This made our internet not work.
This also made us crazy (it was around 110-113 degrees at this time) and the husband extremely motivated to rewire the house so we could run fans at night.
This made us crabby and want to rip each other’s heads off at points.
This made Little t WAY stressed…and decide he would show it by not sleeping.
This made us even more stressed and crabby.
This made the guest we had staying with us slightly uncomfortable and want to do nothing more than watch movies and eat the food I made.
This had the potential to be relaxing, but wasn’t. We were constantly worried about having enough power and movies were the last things on our priority list. I had a lot of food to make, and we had a lot of work to do, so the relaxing was nice in theory…but didn’t happen.
We had two potentially serious security situations that made us talk to our bosses and begin packing our bags for an evacuation.
This made us laugh because we had been told a few days before that the airport was going to be shut down for a month and a half for resurfacing…they were so kind to tell us this 10 minutes before they started.
This made us want to cry because in theory we were stuck here for quite a while and all we wanted to do by this time was get out…far far away (to a beach preferably).
This all compounded to make us have some pretty strong feelings of hate toward this place.
This caused me to not really even want to pr.ay for this part of the world, or ask others to do the same...and my motivation to send anything went through the window.
All in all, we were ready to be done with this place and throw in the towel.
But there was no way out, remember? So we had to dig in and get through it.
And we did.
We limped along.
We cried and yelled.
We found ourselves on our knees.
We realized that we had to stick together instead of tearing each other down.
We begged and pleaded with God to help because clearly we weren’t being very successful at much of anything.
And we came out the other side.
Able to face each day with hope and resolve.
Wanting to be here (most of the time).
Thankful for each other and our little family.
Overwhelmed by God’s provision along the way.  
So…all of that to say – Ramadan started 10 ish days ago. And in this time of hardship, we have been humbled to be in this place.
I don’t think it is a coincidence that we were so down and so weak at the start of this time. I think it was a major spiritual thing…Satan trying to keep us from being available to minister during this sensitive time and God doing all He could to get us back in the game…with right hearts and minds.
See, this time of fasting isn’t just about refraining from food and water all day. It is the essence of struggle.
Spitting out the saliva in your mouth instead of swallowing it even though your throat is parched.
Giving your child a drink and not taking one yourself, even if no one is looking.
Fasting even if you don’t believe in it because everyone is watching.
Making sure you do all of your prayers so that you don’t have to agonize whether that one missed one will be the tipping point for you going to Heaven or not.
Striving to do all you can to be good in hopes of not burning in Hell at the end of your days. Because even though you would tell anyone who asks that you know Allah forgives sins and therefore you are on your way to heaven…you never really rest easy in that assurance. The doubt always lurks.

We are longing for strides to be made spiritually in this place in these days. People are SO thirsty…not just physically, but spiritually as well. The effects of war and drought and poverty and corruption and competition and false hopes has left these people with so little.
Please pr.ay with us in these days. Ask for dreams and visions. Ask that God’s spirit would be manifest in this place – our houses, our yards, over this city.
I will post the blog that I wrote for the begging on Ramadan to give you a glimpse of what it looks like here.  I will make a valiant effort to share stories every day. Either way….please storm the gates of Heaven on behalf of our friends and neighbors – and Muslims around the world. Thanks.
Disclaimer: Security calmed back down...the possible incidences turned out to be nothing. If we do have issues during the time the airport is closed, we can always go to the military base as a last resort option. So for all you worriers out there...we have options and are not completely high and dry.