Get yours here.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Get yours here.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Wahaj's heart was so weak that he had been losing consciousness during cyanotic spells, which means that he could die at any moment. Thankfully the funding came in and he was able to be rushed to the ICU today where they were able to stabilize him as he waits for his turn to be operated on.
Elaf has a combination of heart defects and they're not sure if she'll need one or two surgeries but the good news is that the doctors said that the prognosis for Elaf's future after surgery is excellent!
Havan is in the most critical condition because he was born with tranposition of the great arteries. The cardiologist is hoping it's not too late to put them back in their proper places.
I'll keep you updated but also wanted to thank you if you played a role in helping fund these heart surgeries. We love you guys.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
CNN's Christiane Amanpour traveled to the killing fields of Europe, Africa and Asia for "Scream Bloody Murder.
Each one tried to focus the world's attention on the world's most heinous crime: genocide. Each time, they were shunned, ignored or told it was someone else's problem.
To understand why, CNN's Christiane Amanpour traveled to the killing fields of Europe, Africa and Asia for a two-hour documentary, "Scream Bloody Murder."
CNN has been doing a fabulous job covering these stories. I'd encourage you to watch this.
Thursday night at 9 p.m. ET/PT
For those that want to dig deeper into US relations with Iraq, take a look at these recently unclassified documents from the Reagan administration.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
This past Monday at 2:00 p.m., my nephew Samuel had surgery on his heart. Just recently he started to have episodes where his heart would start to beat way beyond the rate that's healthy for any heart. The doctors monitored his heart and came to the conclusion that the only way to fix it would be through surgery. Samuel's situation is more common among adults but extremely rare for children.
The surgery was extremely complicated but the Doctor was able to stabilize Samuel's heart and God-willing, Samuel will never have to worry about this problem again!
We always have a ridiculous amount of things to be thankful for each day and on Thanksgiving, but today I'm so overwhelmed by the fact that we live in a country where Samuel's able to be helped within hours. I'm thankful for doctors, for medicine, for heart monitors, for sanitized instruments and nurses. I'm thankful that we only had to worry and pray for a few days before it was all over with. I'm thankful that Samuel has a healthy heart.
All of this has started me thinking about being thankful. I'm starting to think thankfulness needs to go so much further than just thanking God for our circumstances.
Thank you God for my house.
Thank you God for Samuel's health.
Thank you God for protecting my son in combat.
Thank you God for food.
Thank you God for the fact that I have it so much better off than most people in the world.
Is that all we're required to do? Just say thanks? Don't get me wrong, saying thank you is huge and we should all do it often and consistently. I wonder if we need to take it a step further though in order to make our thankfulness not just another act of glorifying ourselves.
Thank you God for my house, give me the opportunity to help those with no houses today.
Thank you God for Samuel's health, give me the opportunity to help those who need a doctor of money to be healed.
Thank you God for protecting my son in combat, give me the opportunity to comfort all the other grieving parents who have lost their son or daughter.
Thank you God for food, give me the opportunity to feed the hungry today.
Thank you God for the fact that I have it so much better off than most people in the world, give me the opportunity to bless a world that needs you.
Thankfulness shouldn't just pour out of our mouth, it should pour out of our lifestyles.
I'm rambling, but I'm thankful for Samuel today! It's humbling to think that if he was born in Iraq, his name would be on the bottom of a list of over 3,000 children. Instead of worrying and praying for just a few days, we'd be worrying for the next 5 years if we were lucky.
Instead of getting sad every time I hear the sounds of an ambulance siren, I should be overjoyed. Praise God that help is on its way. Praise God that someone cares. Praise God that the silence was shattered.
People all over the world will never hear the sound of someone on their way to help them. Break the silence!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
I love working with kids. I really can't think of a better use of time than investing in younger people. If only we valued them as much as _______________.
Working with kids always gives me a unique perspective on parents, even though I may never meet them. Just by watching kids interact and seeing what they value, it's often times identical to the way their parents are. What's that saying, "The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree"?
Sometimes that's a great thing and sometimes it's so discouraging. Lately I've been noticing a trend among some of the kids that's been a little disturbing. We've just been hanging out when all of a sudden they'll see a Obama bumper sticker or an Obama sign and as soon as we notice it, out comes a derogatory remark or some hateful statement from their mouth. The statement wasn't directed just towards Obama but always to the person driving the car or inside the house. I noticed the same thing happen several different times. The worst part about it was that these words came from the kids that have always been looked at as leaders, much like their parents.
Where does this come from? Since when are 12 and 13 year olds this passionate about Politics? Do they form their opinions after studying each candidate and looking at both sides of each issue? Or do they just take on the attitudes and speech that their parents are demonstrating? Most parents don't want to admit that they're the people that have the greatest impact on their kids, passing off the blame to their peers or television. I can show you the stats, regardless of what you think, parents impact kids way beyond the impact their friends or television will ever have.
If you're a parent, be careful what you say. Watch your attitudes. I'm sick of hearing kids who don't know anything of politics speak hate towards any candidate. I'm sick of seeing that characteristic passed down from parents. If you want to raise up little Republicans or Democrats, that's up to you...but do not raise up sons and daughters that speak hate, in seriousness or in humor, towards anybody.
The reason I say this is because most often, politics brings out the worst in people. Whatever you think about Obama being the president for the next four years, I'd be far more concerned about the attitudes and mindsets that you pass down to your children these next four years.
Then there's other kids that get it. This past weekend I went to a birthday party for 2 high school students. There must have been close to 70 students there. It was the party every high school student would want to have. Flyers were posted everywhere and nobody was turned away. The only things that weren't allowed were birthday presents . Instead they had a box in one room where they asked everybody to put whatever money they had. They had planned a while back that they were going to give all of that money to a child in Iraq that needed money for a heart surgery.
They raised a little over 800 dollars and woke me up in the middle of the night to deliver it. They said they couldn't wait to give it away.
Their parents are the same way.
If we're going to pass on hate to our kids, let's at least pass on the hate for things worth hating. Teach them to hate materialism, the love of money, injustice, or the idea that people are the enemy. If we're going to pass on love, let's pass on the love of things worth falling in love with.
We're far too shallow in our desires and in our hatred.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Here's an easy way to help raise money for Iraqi children with heart disease. All you have to do is start using GOODSEARCH as your search engine.
Simply go to http://goodsearch.com.
It will ask you, "Who do you GOODSEARCH for?"
You say, "The Preemptive Love Coalition."
Then you start searching as usual! Every time you use GOODSEARCH they'll donate money to The Preemptive Love Coalition. We've had it for a couple days now and already have a dollar. That's small considering just a few know about it. If we all start using it, we could easily fund a heart surgery within a year simply by doing what we do every day!
Friday, October 24, 2008
His graffiti has appeared in cities all over the world but nobody has ever caught him. Most of his art is so talented and thought provoking that the city protects it from being painted over and some have even sold walls that he's put graffiti on.
Anyways, this drawing by him was supposed to represent Jesus if he lived today. It hits home with me because I think that most days we wouldn't even recognize Jesus. He'd be an outcast; he'd be houseless, and as much as we might love and respect him, few would want to be like him.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Mandate has been a great stepping stone for us as I'm trying to figure out ways to engage our friends without houses in Santa Barbara.
("We're not homeless. We just don't have houses." - Gator, a man without a house in SB)
Santa Barbara is working on implementing a 10 year action plan, called Bringing Our Community Home, which is "focusing on ending chronic homelessness." "We can not continue along the same path of managing chronic homelessness; instead, we must change course and eradicate chronic homelessness by implementing Bringing our Community Home, which will move people away from the revolving doors of jail time, emergency room care, temporary shelters and crisis centers into permanent supportive housing and sufficiency."
It's a 160 page document that I'm slowly trying to understand. In the meantime I'm learning that each year more than 6,300 people in Santa Barbara experience homelessness; on any given night, over 4,000 people are homeless. Out of this number, close to 1,000 are chronically homeless. Many of these people have serious mental illnesses. Two-thirds of all people with mental illness have been homeless or have been at risk of being homeless at some point in their lives. Most of these people end up on the street because their neighbors help get them evicted or because they are unstable and present a threat to those around them. If they miss any payments or neglect house keeping then they're out on the street.
Santa Barbara's working on coming up with a program that will engage every homeless person and find a place for them back in society. Not only is this our God-given mandate but it simply makes sense from every perspective, including a financial perspective.
I spent the past couple days and night with my friends without houses in Santa Barbara, just trying to get to know them better and understand what they go through. I can list a hundred reasons why me spending the night with them isn't the same as being in their shoes, but it's a step closer.
It was a powerful time that I'm still trying to think through and there's still so many things I don't even know how to begin understanding.
It started out with me and Screaming Eagle, who's real name is James, a full blooded Apache Vietnam vet who makes his money by selling hand made jewelry. Out of his entire unit of about 200 Apaches that went to fight in Vietnam, only 3 came back. We spent the first half of the day together just talking. He did most of the talking about how hard it is for him to live on the streets. He said the hardest thing for him was not to become attached to other people on the streets. He gave me the first and last names of about six people that he got close with only to find out that they had either been killed or jumped out in front of the train the next day. James is an alcoholic and he'll be the first to admit it. He doesn't want to be one but he said there's literally no other way you can fall asleep at night. The only other option is to not drink and as a result not sleep and then slowly lose your mind because of a lack of rest. He doesn't want to lose his mind, so he drinks.
We talked until it got cold and dark and then James and I, along with a 32 year old named Greg went and found a place to sleep. We couldn't sleep in the park because either the sprinklers would get you wet or the cops would come give you a ticket and make you move. There was a two foot wall that runs alongside the beach that we all snuggled up to. They said this was the best place because the cops couldn't see you from the street. Everybody had some sort of sleeping bag but about half way through the night it started to get soaked because of the condensation. James woke up at around 4 o'clock and started to vomit. He warned me he would do this. He put vomiting, coughing, and shaking in his morning routine. He said he'd be OK as long as he got a beer soon. He walked out to the park and found a place under a tree to sit. He started to shake pretty bad until somebody finally got him a beer. His friends told me that they can barely hold him down when he starts having seizures so they have to make sure he never gets to that point.
I spent the rest of the day with several different people that were all connected in some way. There was James, Gator, Shaky, Hydro, Bruce Almighty, Cowboy, Johnny, Greg, Paula, Nancy, Batman, Derek, Damen, and so many others. All ended up on the street because of different reasons. Some could barely pay the bills and then they broke a bone and couldn't work anymore so that put them out on the street. Another had his "Daddy" kill himself and sister die all within a few months and he never could recover from it. Others gave their home and belongings to their kids and they just moved out on the street. Some of them have jobs to make money. Like James, some make art, others fish, some mend nets on the dock, recycle cans, deliver live crabs to the Asian Market in Los Angeles and others just ask for money.
They all sat in the park for most of the day playing one card game after another while they traded books and magazines to read. Whenever one got money, he would go out and see what he could get "us." They rarely used the word "me" when they talked because they were all committed to helping each other out. If they got some change, they'd throw it on "the table" which just meant it was for the community. When enough change was gathered, one would go down to 7-11 to get whatever they needed. If one brought back a hot dog, he would pass it around so everybody could have a bite and then he'd take a bite and they'd all pretend they were full. They had a community bag of tobacco which actually belonged to James but you never would have known. He would collect all of the cigarette butts and salvage the remaining tobacco until he had a whole tin full of tobacco that he could roll up. Shaky had another tin that was full of the little alluminum tabs on the tops of cans. They all gave their tabs to him and he would save them for this charity downtown that recycled them to help children with Lukemia.
As the day went on they all started talking about the free meal they'd get that night. They talked about their favorite soups and how they couldn't wait to get their "stomachs and hearts full."
Right before the meal was served, Shaky and Gator got caught by the police for having a beer. He poured it out in front of them and told them they had to leave for 24 hours and pay the 175 dollar ticket. If they don't pay that then they'll go to jail for 90 days. They were very respectful to the cop but they crumpled up the ticket knowing there was no way they could pay it. Now they just have to wait one more month before the police comes to pick them up. That set everybody on the edge though as they all came back with similar stories. They all agreed that the police were making a sweep of the entire city and so they all said they were sleeping someplace new that night.
It was a good couple of days that didn't really resolve in any way but definitely opened my eyes to a lot of things. I'm working on coming up with a simulation for junior high and high school students where I take them down and we sleep on the streets and try to understand what life is like for an average of 4,000 people in Santa Barbara each night. Trying to understand it may be far fetched but I hope that we at least learn how to love.
Friday, October 10, 2008
I got back late last Thursday night from a week in Ohio where I spent several days with old friends I haven't seen since I graduated college. Going into this week, I was pretty excited to see them but I didn't realize until I got there how much I needed to see them. They reminded me of how sweet community can be and how badly I miss having them around. They're all over the world now and it's an honor to know them. They're loved and missed.
Michelle and I also had a great deal of time to talk to people about PLC. We literally went from meeting to meeting for three days straight. By the end of the week we were both exhausted but we wouldn't have traded that for the world. Cedarville University decided to focus on our non-profit this year as they seek to raise awareness and money for these children. They committed to funding five heart surgeries by the middle of the second semester!
We also met with some professors at Ohio University and they're looking forward to dedicating their business classes to help out our non-profit with strategy and marketing. That will start second semester and last several weeks. We're excited to see what they come up with!
We met with some leaders at Apex, a network of 65 house churches in the Miami Valley. One house church I went to is focusing solely on reaching out to Muslims and it turned out they were all doctors or nurses that want to be involved with helping these kids in some way or another. They're working on tracking down medical equipment for us and even tossed around the idea of traveling to Iraq to see what they can do.
The Coalition continues to grow.
Be sure to check out our new internet site here. If you're at a Borders or Barnes and Noble, be sure to pick up the latest issue of "GOOD Magazine". GOOD has quickly become one of my favorite publications and we're grateful they're highlighting us in their Market section.
The video up top was just completed by Michael Dalton, a videographer who's actually making a trip out to Iraq next month with another photographer to document the lives of these children.
Friday, October 3, 2008
We're going to meeting up with some campus leaders and hopefully getting in some class rooms as well. We're also meeting up with some business profs at Ohio University to discuss their "cluster program", which is a group of courses that they want to designate to our non-profit in order to make us more effective at what we're doing. We'll hopefully be having some meetings with some Muslim leaders in the surrounding cities as well.
It's exciting to have school back in full swing. We're excited about a social justice group from Baylor university that's leading a campaign to fund a heart surgeries and there's a good possibility we may mimic what they're doing on UCLA's campus and Azusa Pacific.
We also have a new website that just had a "soft launch" this week. We're anxious to unveil it to all of you guys in the next few days!
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Shaky. They call him Shaky because he has Parkinson's disease and often has seizures. The other night he had four seizures before dawn. Usually, Shaky gets around by dragging himself on the ground with his arms, last night was the first time I saw him standing up. He's six four. He has a bag that he carries everywhere and last night he was going through it getting rid of things he felt he didn't need. It's strange to think of a homeless man being interested in getting rid of anything that might be of excess. He pulled out a brand new set of oil pastels. "Someone blessed me with this paint, but I can't paint. I shake too much." He was asking around to see if anyone wanted his paint. It was too heavy for his bag but he refused to throw it away. "I was blessed with it so now I have to bless someone else with it," he studdered.
Lewie. He's a Buddhist that's fluent in Spanish. A Mexican walked up to him and asked him if he had any spare sleeping bags because he has nothing but sand to cover himself with at night. Lewie pulled out his jacket from his bag and gave it to him.
Gator. Not sure while they call him Gator. He was jamming on the guitar that a friend let him borrow for an hour. He was singing a song he wrote about how he woke up with thoughts of suicide until an angel came to him and gave him Jesus. "Since that day, I've loved Jesus," he said.
Derek. Derek hitch-hiked all the way from Portland, Oregon. Actually he hitch-hiked until he got to California and then a cop told him it was illegal to hitch-hike in California. He obeyed and walked all the way down to Santa Barbara. His boots were falling apart until one day a man walked up to him, took off his shoes and gave them to him, then walked off in just his socks. This past week a little boy walked up to him and said, "Mister, if I had 100 dollars...I'd give it to you." A few minutes later that little boy ran back and handed him the only thing he had, a little toy car. Now Derek uses that car to keep his money from blowing away, while he begs. He said that he always sees children tugging on their parents arm saying "Daddy, give that man some money," but the parent keeps walking. "Kids are the hope for the future," he said.
Screaming Eagle. He's a full blooded Apache Indian that makes jewelry out of rocks and wire. Two weeks ago he needed to sell just one piece of jewelry so that he could wash his pants and be able to show up to a job interview the next day. He didn't sell anything so he couldn't wash his pants and he was too embarrassed to show up to the job interview. He's still jobless. Yesterday he handed me one of his necklaces and told me to give it to "my girl." I told him I didn't have any money but I'd bring some next week to buy it from him. His friend confronted me, "Why can't you accept a gift from a brother? Money doesn't mean sh*t to us. It's the thought that counts. It's the thought."
Money isn't the currency among their circle. It's love. It's oil pastel. It's an angel. It's a thought. It's a toy car and a tug on the arm. Not one of them would admit they're poor.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Check this out.
It kills me that I can't make it to this since I'll be traveling this day. I was a volunteer and all set to go, but had to bail. If you're able to make it to this, get some friends to go with you and have some fun!
Then tell me all about it.
Kids Klash are a great way to help younger kids connect with the lives of their global peers. Many of the kids on the surgery waiting list are between the ages of 1 and 6—the same age range that will be able to enjoy wearing Kids Klash. When a child has the chance to wear a great handmade shoe, it provides an opportunity to teach them about the wider world and the challenges of poverty and conflict faced by kids like them around the world. It’s not quite walking a kilometer in someone else’s shoes, but it’s at least a start.
Kids Klash don’t just help build perspective—they make a real difference, too. These shoes are handmade over the course of 20 hours per pair by village cooperatives, by prisoners seeking to rehabilitate their lives, and by victims of landmines seeking a living wage. Each purchase invests money in their economy. And, even more, each purchase helps to fund a heart surgery for one of the 3,000 Iraqi children waiting for the chance to live.
With a lower price (only $25!) and a more kid-friendly rubber sole (water and washing are no problem now), Kids Klash are a perfect way to change lives and save lives.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Both are going extremely well but that also means that I'm doing everything I can just to keep up! Last night I took the junior highers down to Santa Barbara to bring food to the homeless. We brought 30 sandwiches and forty hot dogs and it wasn't nearly enough! This is something I started taking them to a few weeks ago and it's something I'm hoping will rub off on these kids. One of my goals is to expose them to as much of this lifestyle as I possibly can and then once they reach high school, have them exposed to the rest of the world and give them the chance to go overseas for a few months. Basically, we're doing everything we can to mess these kids up and challenge them in ways no one's challenged them in the past 13 or 14 years. We have our work cut out for us.
It's been amazing to see the effects in just a few weeks. You can take a glance at some pictures from the park here. Our Wednesday nights are called "Mandate", if you're ever in the area and want to come, just let me know!
You can also check out Velocity, our junior high youth group here.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
It was just a few months ago that I got back from Iraq and soon after I returned, Michelle followed me back so that we could get engaged and start a life together. That said, we all knew it was coming sooner or later. Michelle had me cornered and knew that I was probably going to come out this past weekend. How'd she know? Those of you that know Michelle will laugh right about now because you'll agree that she's the most organized and "on the ball" type person we all know. Since she's always a couple steps ahead of everybody, it makes it tough to catch her by surprise. But I did...kind of.
She was confident I'd be out sometime Saturday. That assumption was fine with me. On Friday, she agreed to spend the entire day with her close friend who's getting married this upcoming weekend. They spent the day taking care of last minute preparations for her wedding. Meanwhile, I woke up at 3:30 a.m. on Friday to begin my stealthy descent into Dallas. She was learning how to bustle a wedding dress. I was boarding my plane. She was having lunch. I was running through the Phoenix airport. She was shopping. I was landing at Dallas-Ft. Worth International airport.
With the help of her parents I got from the airport to a shower then to the Dallas Arboretum. (Large botanical gardens in case you don't know what an "Arboretum" is....I didn't.) This was the place where her friend was getting married. At 3:45 I paid my seven dollars and ran to a bench waiting for me under this beautiful awning overlooking the beautiful arboretum. At 4:03, Michelle entered the gardens. Her friend was giving her a quick rundown of what the ceremony was going to look like and where the guests were going to be coming from.
Meanwhile, I was sitting on the bench just looking at the ring. I kept going through all the things I wanted to say to her but each time I did it came out different. I couldn't help smiling the whole time as I was imagining her walking around the corner and seeing me on the bench.
I walked her down the stairs and we ended up going on a stroll through the arboretum to go to a spot overlooking the lake. We found a bench and I gave her an awkward one-armed embrace while my other one nervously searched for the ring in my right pocket. I looked at her and said everything I wanted to say to her in a completely different manner in which I had practiced, got down on one knee and asked her to marry me.
We laughed a lot, smiled a lot. Then we hopped in the car and she followed directions I had printed out to our next location. We ended up right in downtown Dallas and we walked into her friend's sister's apartment building. Her friend ran down and escorted us up several flights of stairs before we came out onto a beautiful terrace overlooking the skyline. Thanks to the enormous help of another one of Michelle's friends, there was a beautiful table for two set up covered with roses and take out Chinese food, everything resembling our first date on top of a roof top in Iraq.
We enjoyed Chinese, danced to our favorite songs, laughed some more and enjoyed the sun setting on the skyline.
We're thrilled to be engaged and are even more excited to be getting married sometime in the Spring!
Monday, September 8, 2008
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
I made it back to California a couple weeks ago. Before I came here, I spent an amazing weekend in Dallas with Michelle's parents. The weekend before that I was spending an amazing weekend in Istanbul with Michelle and before that it was a pretty ordinary weekend in Iraq.
It's weird to be back. It's good, but weird. I'm loving being back with family and friends. My sister and her family came to visit from Italy and so we've been spending the days at the park with my nephews and niece, swinging and laughing. We just finished celebrating the one year birthday for my other niece, Maddie, that I just met for the first time! Before that we just celebrated the birth of my other sister's baby, Diego. So many exciting things are happening and it's a privilege to be back to enjoy it all!
I'm still trying to figure out what it means to live in America. I always wrestled with that before I went to Iraq but now it's just magnified. I unpacked all my bags and put up art and other symbols that always make me think of the people in Iraq. I feel like my passion and ambition are right next to them, hanging on the wall as a reminder of the past year but not very practical in this country. A lot of me really wants to end up back there or in another country doing the same thing, living out love and seeking out injustices like it was our job. Don't get me wrong...people live with passion here, I know plenty. I'm just trying to figure out what it means for me.
Right now, I'm wrestling with all of that. What does it look like to live with that same passion here in America? What does it mean to model preemptive love in California? How do I speak up for the people of Iraq to a people group that for the most part, doesn't care? Above all, how can I just be faithful?
It's a good struggle. It's a good thing to lose sleep over. In the meantime though I'm trying to figure out what to do next. This week along with next week are going to be really big for me as I'm trying to start making decisions about the future. I'm working on settling down with a part time job while I pour the rest of my time into the Preemptive Love Coalition as I try to raise support and money for the non-profit. I have a growing list of organizations, businesses, and people I'm planning to meet with about our vision. I'm hoping it'll catch on and soon I'll be able to focus on the PLC as I seek to be just as involved in Iraq, while still in America. A lot of work needs to happen before we get to that point though...
Please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to talk about it or find out how you can donate to our cause! Feel free to pass on my e-mail and let's see if we can start to figure out how to live in America together while still loving globally!
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
It's been sad transitioning out of life here. I've loved every day here...and now that it's being taken away it makes me want to hold on tighter to anything I can.
This morning I woke up to a phone call telling me that I'm an uncle again! My sister, in the Dominican Republic, gave birth to little Diego Miguel. I'm so thankful that every one is healthy and I'm hoping I'll be able to see them sometime soon!
Today I spent half of the day going from Klash store to Klash store having tea with each of the men. I think they knew what was coming because all of them made the trek over to come and see me and buy me one last glass of tea. We talked about life here, life in America, if I'll come back and the future of the Klash. Maybe I was just really sentimental today, but each interaction seemed so meaningful and profound. Tomorrow I plan on going to see the other half of the bazaar to say more goodbyes.
From there I went to go meet with a friend I just met a few days ago. He's an artist here who called me after seeing our exhibition in Zamwa Gallery. We talked about art, peace and reconciliation and how to connect all three. I had to leave that early to go meet with a Bangladeshi man who's trying to fight against the human trafficking that's trapped him and 150 other Bengali men here in Iraq. Some exciting and sickening things are starting to come to the surface with all of that....but that's for another blog post.
From there we went to meet with Sheiks from Kirkuk and Baghdad and hear the ideas and actions they're taking to bring peace to Iraq. They want to join together and labor for love among the people of Kirkuk and Baghdad. They've begun to give us the medical files of children they know who need heart surgery. Love is truly taking hold in some of the hardest places in Iraq.
From there I went to an amazing going away party for me, hosted by Michelle. We savored actual pepperoni pizza trucked in from the Kirkuk military base and all watched a movie outside on her lawn. It was an incredible day...followed up with an incredible evening.
There are SO many blog posts in my head...but time has been hard to come by here. That, along with our phone line being cut off at our office and therefore not having internet for the past several days means that blog posts are taking a lot more effort. I really want to blog soon though and I hope that I'm able to communicate everything I want to. Thanks for being so patient.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
The gallery's full of art dedicated to the children of Kurdistan. Some of the art has been created specifically for this event and other pieces have been donated in the hopes that it will help raise awareness and advocate on behalf of children here.
All of the art from the gallery has been compiled in a book and we're going to be selling it from our on-line store. The book isn't officially in the store but it will be in the next day or two. CHECK IT OUT!
The ribbon was cut by a well known local artist everyone simply addresses as "mamosta." (teacher) One thing I've grown to love about this culture is how highly they esteem their artists and poets. America has professional athletes and movie stars as role models...the Middle East has poets, artists, and warriors as theirs.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Our friends over at 963 Coffee have started this wonderful business to facilitate the fair trade of coffee so that you get your daily Joe and coffee farmers get their fair share of what would otherwise be a $5 cup of coffee. Instead of beans on the dollars, they get a fair wage, good working conditions, the right to organize themselves into unions, and a host of other benefits not afforded by other coffee companies.
In addition to what is already a great product, the 963 Coffee guys have set up an affiliate program through which all of your purchases made by linking from this blog, "Can Of Worms," will go into an account with the Buy Shoes. Save Lives. name on it. Buying coffee and helping South Americans and Africans will now fund heart surgeries for Iraqi kids!
Here's our coffee campaign: We get 40% of sales from the store through this affiliate program. If you buy 10 bags of coffee for $10 each children in Iraq will receive $40 of your purchase.
If you are an addict, I recommend you sign up for the Monthly Obsession (like a subscription to coffee!). If we get 63 friends signed up for 2 bags of coffee a month, that would be $6,000 to children in Iraq in one year alone! That's an entire heart surgery funded by drinking coffee!
So forgo your Starbucks today and drink some 963 Coffee instead.
This struggle wouldn't be as annoying if one of our slogans wasn't "Preemptive Love." I love that phrase when I can apply it to other people...just not me.
Last night a friend called and told me that some fundamentalists have been finding out about these Iraqi children that are being sent out of Iraq to be operated on by Jewish Doctors. This isn't a good thing. A "Grand Sheikh" in Iraq has written an article condemning Israel, their heart surgeons and anybody who is helping send children there. In this Arabic letter, that was read on television and posted on several extremist internet sites, he not only condemns sending children to Israel for heart surgery, but he rightly questions why no other Arab countries are helping these children. It's almost as if he's dumbfounded by the fact that Arab governments aren't taking care of their own children...and that Israel's doing it for them.
One of his main points against sending children to Israel for life saving treatment is that, God forbid, it "may lead to children or their parents loving the enemy." It would be better to have your children die walking to school from heart failure, rather than be saved by an enemy. It would be better to not live to be four years old rather than learn to love at five.
Already, families of these children have been harassed and people have tried to kidnap them. Remember them....May they learn to love. May they not give into cowardly hate or be intimidated to not seek help for their children. May they love...and be blessed with new hearts.
It's crazy how fast a year has gone by. I remember thinking a year is such a long time but now that it's coming to a close, it seems like things were just getting started. These past few days have been extremely busy with work and relationships here. We're working harder than ever on shoes and developing the business along with our non-profit back in the States. It feels like there have been visitors out here every week, wanting to find out more about the business, more about these kids, and more about how they can help out.
Last week, "Brother's Together", our partners in Jordan came out to visit and we sat down for several hours talking about how we can continue to work together to help more kids. It was an incredibly encouraging time as we strengthened those ties.
We also spent time talking with "Kurdistan Save the Children" and they're doing everything they can to continue to give more and more support for these kids as we continue to fund surgeries together. When I first arrived there was a list of over 700 children that were in need for heart surgery. Last week we found out it's gone from 700 to 2,800 children. They were hesitant to give us that number because they said most people hear that number and don't even bother to try and help because it's too overwhelming. It is.
We've continued to make more trips to the Iranian border to get more shoes. Last week we were entirely unsuccessful and ended up looking through hundreds of shoes without finding the ones we were looking for. On our way back we stopped by this small village because we had noticed a Klash store there before. We ended up finding some of the shoes we needed along with making a few new friends. The Klash maker said he's ready to help these children and before we could leave two doctors randomly walked into the store. They asked what we were doing and we told them. One of them said that there were 200 children in his village and in the area surrounding it that have heart disease but he has no way to help them.
So, work is busy. Spring's gone and the heat's here already. It seems like everything's been increasing lately.
Friday, April 11, 2008
I'm one of them. Happy Birthday Michelle....you're so loved.
Monday, April 7, 2008
Last week we went to the border again to meet with Klash makers and bring back more shoes. It's a long trip there and back but we're beginning to love doing it. It gets us out of the city and into the homes of Kurds. This place is special for so many reasons, one being this is where the Klash was created.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Before I got here, I assumed Iraq was just a giant sand box. Down south that's true but up north it's more like a big box of dirt and rocks. Sand storms are formed in the south and then they hit our city after they've evolved from sand storms into dirt storms. Everything from my computer to my shoes in front of my house have a thin layer of dirt on them after just a few minutes. I guess that's made this hike in the mountains so special. Dirt's supposed to be walked on, not form a protective layer over all of your possessions.
We hiked for five hours through a descending canyon filled with dozens and dozens of waterfalls. I started to count them all but lost count after twenty. Some parts we had to swim to keep going while other parts we had to lower ourselves down by a long strip of "seat-belt material" our friend found in the Bazaar.
Even though so many of the Kurds lived in the mountains for years, waged war from their mountain tops, gave birth to their children in its caves, and consider them their only loyal friends, it's amazing how much they avoid them when they're not required to be there. The idea of hiking for pleasure is ridiculous to them. To me, it seems ridiculous that these beautiful images were only a half an hour away and everybody's ignored them, including me.
At the end of five hours we walked out of the canyon and came upon this scene. Hundreds of Kurds were eating in this small valley, dancing and singing, and smoking their Hookas. They were enjoying the end result of all the waterfalls and sitting next to the stream while people rolled their cars into the middle of it to wash them. They all had their cameras out and were taking their traditional Kurdish pictures, which all look identical to your typical high school senior photos. When a bunch of sweaty foreigners emerged from the canyon, they quickly seized the opportunity and added us to their photo portfolios. Meanwhile, a shepherd came to the water at the same time, bringing his herd of cattle. People went from dancing to literally shoving these cows off their picnic blanket and away from their food, then quickly resuming their dancing. I felt like I was walking into a painting.
That whole day just reminded me of what a beautiful country Iraq is...and how beautiful its people are.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
If you're looking for a book to pick up, I'd highly recommend any of these right now. They've been books I've been reading lately when I've been able to find some free time. Each one of these books is making me restless. You can actually download "Deadly Viper" for free here.
Maybe these books will challenge you as they're challenging me.