Sorry this may be long and scattered. I will try to give you all the low-down in an understandable way. But first I must explain a few things for the sake of clarification.
Shevit Achim: The organization we joined up with. They give heart surgeries to middle eastern children who can't afford them. They send them to Israel, where they live in a home with some of the missionaries. They hear the Gospel there, and are sent back having heard the truth about Jesus Christ. There is great fruit from this ministry, and have seen many children and mothers saved. We were traveling with them thru here to do follow-up visits with the children and their families, to share more of God and to make sure all the kids were healthy. We handed out much literature, prayed with some families, and played worship in their homes. Our driver for the week, Canaan, was a believer who was formerly a Muslim. He was a worship leader and shared his testimony in many of the homes. Such a joyful man and a great blessing to our team. He was absolutely hilarious and definitely passionate about Jesus. He made constant jokes about terrorism (HA) and had an infectious laugh. We all miss him already.
Traveled from Germany to Diyarbakir, Turkey. Got in pretty late. We had some sweet time of prayer and worship, then wrapped our Christian literature to smuggle into Iraq. :)
Of course Kayla and my alarm was set to the wrong time and we woke up an hour late, but all was fine, and we set off in two taxis for an adventure to the border. When we stopped to eat (which we opted out of) our drivers shuffled us around, putting two of our guys in a car with some random Turkish guys. We eventually made it to the border and jumped thru their hoops for about an hour before they finally let us thru. Except two of our guys were abandoned by themselves for about 45 minutes and weren't sure where we were. No worries, we all met up, and squished 7 people into a 5 person taxi for a few hours. Painstakingly, we finally found our hotel in Duhok, which had been paid for already. One of the Fathers owned a hotel and paid for 2 nights of our stay! We saw the Lord provide in incredible ways all week. Starting with the meal we had this week. Another one of the Fathers owned a restaurant and fed us one of the most delicious feasts I had ever eaten in my life.It was especially delightful since we hadn't eaten in 12 hours. Food covered every square inch of the table. The people sure do know how to cook, and are the most hospitable people I have ever encountered.
We visited about 5 families in a row, and I have never eaten so much food. It is offensive if you don't eat what they set before you. So we had 5 rounds of water, pop, candies, fruit, and tea. At one house they served us a giant lunch too. We were nearly miserable with food. But we were really able to get to know what families are like, and able to minister to them. We left literature and worshiped with them. The whole culture is all about family, and BIG ONES. The Fathers were so affectionate, and the children were so well behaved and joyful. It was beautiful, and I definitely think we can learn some about parenting from these people. There wasn't a time when the kids couldn't interrupt whatever was going on to come to a parent. We also crossed the Euphrates river and saw the Syrian border.
Coolest day ever. Went to a little Christian village. If you look in the book of Nahum, you will read that this is the village he was from. It is stilled called the exact same thing, not to mention that it is a Christian village. They took us to the site where they believe they have the bones of Nahum buried. It is in a super old Jewish Synagogue, with original Hebrew on the walls. We had a guard with an Ak 47 who took us in, so we felt safe. haha. It was like walking thru the Bible. Nahum was sent to prophecy against Nineveh, and it was kinda crazy to see the effects of his prophecy are still standing. I mean, Abraham walked thru those mountains that we did. It's nuts to think about. The man whom we visited was teh security guard for the village and told us that in 2003 his village helped the American soldiers find Sadaam Hussein. They love Americans.
Shortly after we went to a village where some Yezidi live. They are a small tribe, basically a cult. They worship their ancestors, and are very superstitious. They took us to their site of worship, which was eye-opening. Kayla and I made some friends with girls near our age, and we all climbed up the mountain to watch the sun set. Be praying for these people, they are heavily blinded, and there is no one to reach them as of yet.
We ended the night in a bigger city. The ladies stayed in the home of a a wonderful Christian man with a beautiful family. He has been studying and helping the International Bible Society (IBS) translate the Bible into their language. He wants to see a Bible College happen there for people who wish to become pastors or teachers.
We visited the IBS to see what their ministry was all about, and met a really intelligent Scotsman who has been devoted to translating the Bible for many years. They have many books and literature and worship out, but their heart is really to see a strong discipleship of the people, and stressed the need for good teachers who can invest in the lives of the Middle Eastern believers.
We also got to go to a local Bazaar. Fun! There was a citadel that Sadaam built, and the people have all but torn it down in their hatred toward him.
This night we attended a Church service at the Kurdzman chuch. SO special. The whole church is made up of only native believers who were previously Muslim. They were so passionate about their faith, praying for one another, for Syria, and for us as the Western Church. They told us they pray for us often, and that we need it, because they see the moral issues in the churches. I was so humbled and amazed at how God uses believers all over the earth to intercede for one another.
Traveled all day, our last city. The ladies stayed with another family, Shorsh and Nancy. Nancy is American and her husband is from there, who speaks 5 languages and leads a home fellowship that he hopes will someday be a church. He has an incredible testimony that he shared with Kayla and I. Too long to write here.
Kayla and I had a great opportunity to spend the evening with the women missionaries. They had an awesome night of fellowship and graciously welcomed us in. It was wonderful to get to spend time getting to hear what life was really like living there. We heard of their struggles and their ministries. It was an eye-opening experience that allowed us to understand more of the culture that we wouldn't know just by sitting with families.
The last of the families came to us this day. The boys were staying at an office of one of the Shevit Achim workers, so we spent the day there, praying, reading, and entertaining families. It was a day of spiritual warfare, but we really came together as a team to hold up one another. We were so blessed with unity and the ability to get along well, even with our silliness and all. The Lord totally gave us grace to spend about 40 hours in the car that week, and not to get too restless. We got really close, and the time was filled with immense laughter.
We drove 14 hours straight into Turkey. It was rough, but we made it! That night I was able to share a short devotion and we spent some time interceding for all the many things we had seen that week, from the people, the missionaries and specific cities. The next morning we flew back to Germany.
So that is it in a nutshell. I am sure there is so much more I am forgetting, but it is a great overview! We were safe the whole week, and I was never once scared. We even slept well (on the floor).Check my Facebook for pictures!