Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Rejoice.

Today is such a good day! Buy Shoes. Save Lives. has helped fund its first heart surgery! Remember Aras? He's a boy in a village about an hour away who has a bad heart. Today I'm able to tell you that, because of your help and support, we were able to take care of the rest of his funds so that he's able to leave for surgery as soon as possible! I am so thrilled right now! This has been such a long time coming...of telling you that we just need a little bit more, a little bit more. Thank you so much for your patience and your continuous support and encouragement!

I'm so excited to see Aras in a couple days and tell him that his surgery is paid for and that there are so many people in America and all over the world that have helped him, and can't wait to see him get better.

You guys are making a difference. You're being the remedy. Keep Aras in your thoughts. As thrilling as it is to hear that you're able to receive life saving surgery...I'm sure it doesn't take away the nerves of leaving the only village you've ever known and going to a foreign country to have surgery. We hope that the surgery will be successful and that we can give you many more updates of how he's doing and growing.

I hope you're just as excited as I am about all of this! I also hope that you see the big picture and how Aras is one child out of thousands in this country that are waiting for heart surgery.

We're working hard to make sure that Aras is the first of many more. I've been talking with a Doctor in India and another in Israel and we are taking the steps to setting up hospitals that would be able to take 4 or 5 children a month. With the help of Save The Children, we would be able to get in the habit of sending children each month for heart surgery. This is a long process though but it's worth it all. Thanks for taking part in this journey with us. We love you guys.


* This entry is also my 100th blog post! I'm all about celebrating today so I thought I'd throw that in there too! Thank you to all of you who read this and take part in this blog! I hope that somehow you are blessed by it and challenged to continue to live life to the fullest.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Remedy.





Thermostat or a Thermometer.

Most of you know that before I came here I worked with youth. I loved it and not a day has gone by where I don't think of them. They taught me so many lessons that I'm still trying to work through and live out. One image we always talked about was the image of a thermometer and a thermostat.

It's a simple image with a simple message.

A thermometer is something that reflects its environment. If it's hot...it reflects the heat and tells you how hot it is. If it's cold...you guessed it. But a thermostat is something that actually changes the environment. If it's cold and you want it to be hot...you go to the thermostat. If it's hot and you want it to be cold...you need a thermostat. A thermometer obviously can't change anything and is absolutely useless if you want change. A thermometer activates change.

So the mental image would end with some sort of question asking you and I,

"Are you a thermometer...or thermostat?"

That's a question I always try to ask myself, especially as I enter new environments. When I got here, it was my goal to adapt as much as I could to the culture. I think it's happened in a lot of ways. Sometimes people laugh at something I'll do or how I'll dress and they'll tell me how Kurdish it is. Sometimes it's something I've done intentionally...and there are other things that just happened without me really putting much thought into it. That's what got me thinking about this whole thermometer/thermostat image again...because in so many ways I've really become a thermometer. I'm merely reflecting the environment I'm in.

I've heard many of my friends go on and on about how much they hate the Arab race. Not all of them...but a good amount. I've heard taxi drivers tell me the same thing in a 3 minute car ride. I've been in a cafe where someone brought me over and quietly pointed out all of the Arabs in the room and then told me to stay away from them.

Other people speak the same way about Turkey. I have a friend who, when he sees anything from Turkey, his face completely changes and he says some hateful statement. So much so that when he gets a bottle of water that was bottled in Turkey he tears off the label and rips it up...as he drinks their water!

This is where being a thermometer is so dangerous. Lately I've been noticing these same thoughts and words creeping into my head. It doesn't really affect my actions but all these crazy thoughts and feelings will come into my mind and I'll wonder where they came from. I'll start to struggle with my attitude when I see an Arab or hear anything about Turkey. It's easy to fall into that trap. Yes I want to relate to them...but not to the point where I begin to clothe myself with their mindset. A mindset that often includes racism, negativity, or apathy.

I can affect no one if I'm just a thermometer. So right now, more than ever...I'm wanting to be a thermostat in this place. I want to create change. I want to be a catalyst in some way. I want to help usher in reconciliation, brotherhood, peace, love...faith.

I've lost sight of that recently.

So I'm making it my goal these next couple months to take everything to a new level. I want to take love to a new level here. I want to change the way I do work so that it's incarnational but at the same time...completely foreign. I want to deepen my relationships here so that we're able to reach new depths of friendship and intimacy. I want to search for justice and bring forgiveness where it isn't.

It's hard though. It means I have to turn off the auto pilot and find my original destination. I want your accountability with that though...hence, saying all this on a blog. I don't want to be a thermometer. I don't want you to be a thermometer. The world has enough of them as it is.


This isn't the greatest of pictures but it's always a reminder for me. I saw this boy in Istanbul. There were hundreds and hundreds of pigeons on the ground around him. Everybody else was paying money so that they could toss food to the overfed and tame birds. He could care less about feeding them. He just took off running through their midst and they all went flying in different directions like bowling pins. I loved that. He changed everything. He definitely became a thermostat...and got so much joy out of it. When we become catalysts and start to make a positive difference in our community...I think that's when the true joy comes pouring in.

So let's be thermostats. Maybe it starts with meeting your neighbors, forgiving someone, or even something as little as picking up a piece of trash. It's all about giving people a glimpse of life the way it was meant to be. A life of restoration.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

"What Can We Do?"

A couple days ago I went up to the bazaar for the first time since I've been back. Everything was changing...it's obvious that winter is beginning to set in and everybody is adjusting. Shops are switching their products...instead of selling Klash they're selling walnuts, instead of staying open until 8 or 9, now shops are closing shortly after six. It was amazing to see how much had changed in a couple weeks.

There was another thing that had changed since I left. In areas that were normally filled with people laughing and spending time with each other, now there were tents set up. Military tents alongside speakers blaring patriotic music to the furthest corners of the bazaar. Old men and youth were lining up to reach the tables in front of the tent. When they got there they read over an announcement written in bold letters on a white piece of paper...then they were proudly signing their name at the bottom of it.

It was a letter of enlistment in the military. A letter that would immediately give them a uniform and an AK-47 and a bus ride to the Turkish border. Turkey's military has been given the green light to invade Kurdistan and it's getting pretty clear that they're not bluffing. I don't know when it will happen or what it will look like, if they'll wage their war just in the mountains or if they're going to sweep across the plains too. Most Kurds I talk to here don't support the PKK in their war against Turkey. But every Kurd I talk to is willing to go take up arms and defend their country from Turkey...no matter what their reason for invading is.

So things are changing here. It's been getting cooler and more cloudy. It seems to reflect the whole situation as a lot of the Kurdish people seem like they're carrying a heavy burden again. A burden they'd almost forgotten about...the reality of war. One man kept telling me with glazed over eyes, "What can we do?" I just stared blankly back. I don't know what they can do.

It seems like they've always been caught in a battle that most of them have nothing to do with. I read a quote once that said when elephants fight it's the grass that gets trampled. These people have been trampled over and over. My friend saw a child once that was drawing an airplane dropping bombs on villages. My friend asked him what he was drawing and the boy told him that he was drawing a passenger jet. "But if that's a passenger jet, then why is it dropping bombs on people?"

"Is there a plane that doesn't drop bombs on people?" the boy asked.

Planes without bombs. Seasons without war. Things I've always taken for granted.

So remember the people. Remember the Kurds. Remember the Turks. If Turkey invades it will no doubt be a huge blow to the Kurds regardless what happens. They've already begun fleeing to the mountains in some areas only to be turned back because the mountains were being shelled also. So many people have lost land and livestock and if an invasion actually happens then a large amount will have no choice but to be internally displaced.

War is ugly.

I have this crazy hope that all of it will be resolved with no one getting hurt but that seems so impossible no matter which way I look at it. I hope that we can be a shelter here and bring people hope and encouragement while carrying this burden with them. It's hard to know sometimes what that looks like in words or in actions though.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Cappadocia

From Antalya we took the night bus and woke up in Cappadocia. First thing we did was go rent a motorcycle for the both of us. (Don't make fun of us...it's cheaper if you share!) We sped all around the area on our little Yamaha with our bags carefully balanced on back and on our laps the whole way! It really was such a fun time. We only crashed once. Yes I was driving. I was blazing my own trail through this river bed and we hit a soft spot and went flying off the bike. It only resulted in a few scrapes along with tons of laughter. Definitely worth it!

Cappadocia. It looks pretty small but when you get closer you notice that in all of the rocks and mountains are homes carved out inside of them. All of the people basically lived IN the mountains. We went to another place where 10,000 people once lived...and it was all underground! It went down 7 stories and protected them during battles.


Inside a lot of these caves were beautiful paintings covering the ceiling and walls. They had turned so many of these mountains into incredible places of worship.


That's me in the reflection of my friend's helmet while driving around. Had to think of something to do when it wasn't my turn to drive.





So those are a couple shots of our two days In Cappadocia!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Antalya

Our day in Antalya.

This was after we spent a week at Rivendel so I was extremely excited to get off the mountain. We walked all around the beach, up and down each street...just taking pictures and enjoying life there. We just had an afternoon to explore the place so nothing too crazy happened.

It's a beautiful city...filled with history right alongside modern life. Can I just be honest with you though and say that the thing I was most excited about going to here was the McDonald's?

Just throwing that out there.

Here are some photos from the day. Hope you enjoy them!


These guys were sitting here waiting for the train to come. One brought over a guitar and they started playing Turkish songs and singing at the top of their lungs. I loved it. It wasn't a loud obnoxious sound at all. I loved how they were so passionate about singing and living it up waiting for a train...it reminded me of how much I love youth. People who could care less what other people think of them. People willing to make fools of themselves and sing just for the sake of singing. These guys made my day!

Some dude on a horse. Sorry...I couldn't read the Turkish plaque underneath!

This was part of a war memorial to Turkish soldiers who have died in the past.

So....

...remember that time I left for a couple weeks and told you I'd have all these interesting posts and pictures from my travels??

Ya, I apologize for that. Traveling was crazy. I felt like we were always on the run from somebody. (not really though...just an example of how we never stayed in a place long enough to relax and put up a good post!)

But now I'm back in the office! I have a 1,001 things I have to take care of these next few days but putting up posts and pics is definitely on that list!

I hope you're all doing well! Looking forward to catch up with you soon!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Bus Station.

We escaped Rivendell a few days ago.

We spent our first day exploring a city right on the coast. It was so beautiful. ALMOST as beautiful as California. But let's not get too carried away. We just spent the afternoon there because we had a night bus taking us more inland. We're trying to time our buses just right so that we can sleep on the bus and just wake up in a new city. So far so good!

The past couple days we rented a motorcycle and literally drove all day to as many places as we could get to! A tour guide told us we couldn't take bikes because all these places were too far. "It's impossible to go there on a bike." At the end of the night we had gotten to all of those places! My body was so incredibly sore from the trip though. I walked into shop after shop trying to give them the sign language for a sore body...and then followed it up with throwing imaginary pills in my mouth and then smiling really big.

I got some pretty weird looks. I don't think pain killers exist in this country.

Today we spent the day in a new city and now I'm in a bus station waiting for our bus to take off at 11. We should wake up on another coast if all goes well. I'm sorry I haven't posted any pics yet! It's rare to find the internet here so I've never had the time to upload pictures. I'll get around to it. I have plenty of pictures and stories to share with you guys.

Peace out.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Stuck At Rivendell.

We traveled 9 hours by taxi to get here. (That's the time we were actually moving forward...not counting the 3 hours spent stuck on a bridge trying to get across the border!) I've never seen a border crossing like this one. They dismantle your entire car looking for anything you might be sneaking in the country. The car ahead of us got their whole radiator taken out...I think they found some tea.

Then we hopped on a bus and traveled for another 18 hours! It was the longest bus ride of my life. We would just look at the map and start laughing and then fall asleep....then wake up and laugh again at how we had only moved a centimeter on the map and then sleep again.

Now we're at Rivendell. It's the name of the 3 story house we're staying at. We came here to meet up with some other people and just spend time with them and encourage one another. It's been so good and so refreshing. Rivendell is stuck on top of this mountain though and gas here is 7 dollars a gallon! So get this....a taxi to get from the bottom of the hill to the top cost us the same amount as our 18 hour bus ride! (no we weren't scammed...that's really what it costs!) Needless to say....we've spent the past few days perched on top of the hill and haven't driven or taken a taxi anywhere.

We leave in a couple days though and then that's when we're going to go from bus to bus, trying to see as many things as we can. That's when the interesting posts should be coming in!

In the meantime...I'll keep an eye out for Frodo and Legolas. I'm sure the taxi prices made them turn back too.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

60 Seconds.

That's how fast I'm going to write this post.

The morning before I left I had a meeting with Kurdistan's Save the Children and we shook on a contract between them and Buy Shoes. Save Lives. To make it short...they're going to give a MINIMUM of 10,000 dollars a month towards these heart surgeries!!!

They're also going to do their part in making sure the children's visas don't run into any hold ups with the government and also work out a deal with the Airline company so that they will pay for half of the plane tickets for these families.

They're also talking with another large NGO about joining up with us also and helping out financially.

This is HUGE!

This means that before this month is over, if all goes well, we should definitely be able to fund our first surgery and then some more! Before we worked on a contract they showed me their medical files and they had filing cabinet after filing cabinet full of hundreds of children's papers...waiting for heart surgery. This was just heart surgery too. They have thousands of other cases needing different attention.

But it all starts with helping one.

So 10,000 is huge. We're so excited and thankful! But this only inspires us to fight harder and more passionately for these children....each bracelet, t-shirt, pair of shoes, or person you tell makes a huge difference.

Ok....that's my 60 seconds!