Thursday, April 12, 2018

Love my Ladies

Every two weeks we invite the Syrian refugee women to come for breakfast and a morning away from the dismal lives they live. I love to set a fancy table and make special things for them. We are always prepared with several options, depending on how many come and what the situation allows. This week we had 11 women and 10 babies show up! To say there was a little chaos would be an understatement. They fought over the 3 highchairs we have. They devoured every bit of food we made. They chatted and laughed and enjoyed each other's company. They feel safe at the Lighthouse and they feel very loved. It must be worth all the headache involved in even getting there since they have to load up their babies in strollers and carry them up and down subway stairs. It's actually a miracle that their husbands allow them to come on their own; must mean they trust us too, which is huge. Needless to say, with 10 babies and toddlers this week, we didn't have a serious discussion but did get in a quick German lesson with our German partner and it was good. Because these women keep having babies, they are not able to go to school and learn the language so they hardly know how to say "my name is...". Any help we can be in this area is really great. They are such lovable women who have stolen my heart and who I will miss dearly. Even the mention of my leaving causes them to cry and that breaks my heart. I hope and pray that they will continue to come after I leave! I have been a sister to some, a mom to others and a grandma to their children. I love them so very much. May they feel the love of Jesus through my hugs and my tears. It's going to be hard for me to leave them. It's going to be hard for them to lose me. Pray that they will continue to come to the Lighthouse and find the same love that I have offered them. (some are already saying that they will never come back after I leave-I hate to hear that) I'm trying to push Nawal forward (George's wife) and have them get to know her better. She has two small children so it's not as easy for her to get around and talk to the women as it is for me. It's going to be different but as in all places we've left, it soon takes on another form and people get used to the new normal. This is life!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Like I said...Win Some, Lose Some!

This time it was a win! Just shows you can't give up. We had a short term team here and decided to organize another ladies' morning. I called the group on my What's Ap one day, then the next day I called each woman individually, then on the day of, they started texting me saying it was snowing and they couldn't come. I fired back "you better get your butts over here because these women have put on a beautiful spread for you". They said OK, we're coming!! I felt like I had worked so hard just to get them there but it was well worth it. Seven Syrian women came, 1 German and 6 Americans so we were a good group. The tables were beautifully decorated, the food was delicious (mini quiches, cinnamon rolls, pancakes and fruit of all kinds) the fellowship was amazing and there were gifts for everyone and roses for Mother's Day which is March 21st in the Arab world. Our new director's wife, Nawal, gave a power point presentation about the importance of loving yourself before you can think about loving others. She used verses from the Bible to illustrate her points We will meet every two weeks and continue talking about loving your children, loving your husband and loving God. The women all joined in a very lively discussion about loving themselves, self image and what they can do to improve the things they don't like. It was a great morning!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Win some, Lose some

We never dreamed that working with refugees in a foreign country, one that is completely opposite in every way from their home country, would be so exasperating and frustrating at times. Every single Friday night we have a family night of fun and games. Every single week! And yet, if I don't call them and tell them that we're having a Family night, they will not come or they'll text and ask me if we're having something. The same for ladies' morning or any other event that we hold. I must call all of them and let them know. When I call them, their reply is usually "Oh, is it Friday today?" They never know what day of the week it is. They are just like tiny ships on a raging sea, being tossed around in this brutal society (at least that's what they feel it is to them), responding to urgent calls from the Job Center (unemployment office) saying they need another paper stamped by some office that's 10 train stops and 4 bus stops away. Off they go with their babies bundled up and toddlers in tow, braving the bitter cold wind and snow. Or, the school calls them and says their child is acting up and refuses to learn; that they need psychological help. Duh, ya think so? After seeing relatives killed in front of them, people falling overboard in rubber rafts on the sea as they journeyed across, leaving their homes and culture, never to return again. Yes these kids need counseling and help. Families of 4-6 people or more, are living in one or two rooms, barely able to sit around on mattresses on the floor. The divorce rate is high among refugees because the stress levels are through the roof and no family or community around to run to. They feel totally alone here.
Last Friday night was pretty much a WIN as we held our weekly Family Game Night. Over 30 people came and George had flown up to be with us for the day. We also had a small team from the US visiting. We were excited to see how George connected with the people and had them "eating out of his hand" by the end of the night. The kids were having a blast making Valentine's Day cards for their loved ones. It was just a fun evening and everyone had a great time.

Then came Tuesday morning and time for our bi-weekly Ladies' breakfast and discussion. I had called everyone the night before and reminded them. I told them I was making breakfast and that we had a fun craft to do together. I set the table all pretty with candles and Valentine's candy at each place. I had the craft table all ready with beautiful card-making supplies that came from America. I waited and I waited and not one woman showed up! Finally, way late after I had given up all hope, one lady came who is actually not a refugee but has become a good friend. We had breakfast together, just the two of us and had a very nice conversation. We moved a bit closer to spiritual things and even read some verses from the Bible.  She stayed until 3PM so I guess it wasn't a total waste of a day but it sure felt like it. It's just hard gaining any momentum here it seems. We keep plugging away and investing in those that come; trying to understand and empathize with their difficult lives here. And hoping that in the end, they will realize that without Jesus, it's never going to get better!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tuesday morning

We have "Ladies Morning" on Tuesdays at the Lighthouse. I never know who will show up and how much food to buy. We always start with breakfast together and then have a discussion about all kinds of different topics. Usually we have 6-8 women but today I thought I'd buy enough for 12, even though it was snowy and slushy outside. Every woman has a baby and they all have baby buggies. It's quite funny to see them coming in with the parade of buggies. Today, much to my surprise, 13 women showed up plus a husband who stayed in the kids' area with Darrell and helped take care of the 10 children who accompanied their moms! We had a wonderful morning together, sharing breakfast,

and then gathering for a discussion on hospitality in the German culture vs the Arab culture. We have a German friend who joins us every week from one of the local churches and helps the ladies learn the language and culture. We also talked about greeting people and I was surprised to find out that Germans think Arab women are very rude because they refuse to shake hands with men or look them in the eye. This is very important in the German culture but for a Mus woman, it is a shameful thing (if she's veiled) to shake a man's hand other than her family members. We came up with some ways that women could greet men without touching them and make them know that they are happy to see them. There are probably no two cultures as diversely opposed as the Syrian Mus culture and the German culture. No wonder there is so much distrust and misunderstanding between them. I think today was a great start to the women understanding much better how they need to conduct themselves in this culture. We challenged them to think about things that they are willing to give up in order to be accepted more fully into the German culture. Things that they think are "religious" are often just practices/habits that have been passed on through the generations and have no religious value at all. At least we got them to THINK! I truly adore these women and long for them to know the love of Jesus. Their lives are totally void of love. They are bound up in fear and self-hatred. They hate their lives, they hate life here, many hate their husbands. It's really sad. Jesus is the only possible solution. 

Sweet little Watan

I absolutely love this little boy! His name is Watan which means "country", named by his Syrian parents who miss their country so much. He was born with webbed fingers and toes here in Germany. Other than that, he is totally normal in every way. He has the sweetest personality you ever could imagine in a kid. Recently, he underwent surgery to separate the fingers on his right hand. They grafted skin from his stomach to his fingers. After a week with a cast on his hand, they removed the bandage to find the skin completely dead and black color. We were all so sad as we had prayed for it to be a success. He underwent 2 more surgeries for the same hand and had to have more skin taken from his stomach. His poor parents are so weary from being in the hospital for almost a month. Last Friday night, they couldn't take it anymore so they escaped the hospital (telling them they were going out to eat) and came to our Family Game night at the Lighthouse. I thought it was pretty neat that the one place they wanted to go to escape the hospital was the Lighthouse. When the mom walked in, she collapsed in my arms and sobbed. She had so much pent up grief at watching her baby suffer like this and not being able to express it. Her husband actually told me (when he saw her crying), "Oh, she's overdoing it". I almost smacked him!! All the women hugged her and comforted her and it was so sweet to see how they've all become family at the Lighthouse. Watan still has this huge cast on his arm but they're saying that at least one of the fingers has accepted the graft and the other ones will probably be OK without doing more surgery. Now they will take a few months' break and then have to go back to start the second hand. This family is very dear to us. They come every single Friday night and the mom comes to the ladies' gathering on Tuesday mornings. They. have heard the gospel many times but are staunch Mus. We pray that somehow the love of Jesus will reach deep down into their hearts and they won't be able to refuse anymore. 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Christmas Party par excellance!

December 22 was a day I was dreading. We had invited the whole refugee community that we're in contact with, to come to a Christmas party at the Lighthouse. I was totally overwhelmed at the idea of  pulling off this party with very little help. (basically my husband and one young apprentice guy) I was tired and frankly and didn't have a very good attitude about things. We had an idea of the number that would come because we sold tickets for 2 Euro per adult and 5 Euro per family to attend the party. This at least helped give us an idea of the number to expect and how many gifts to buy for the children. I spent several hours going from store to store, looking for the perfect gift for each child by name. Darrell wrapped them and wrote their names on the gifts. I baked 100 sugar cookies and Robbie, our apprentice, decorated them all. We spent hours preparing the food, although we had ordered the main dish to be delivered. There was still a ton of preparation on our part. As the magic hour approached for the party to begin, I wondered what on earth would transpire. We had a German pastor coming to tell the Christmas story in German. The young people and children would all understand it well. Others would hopefully at least get the gist of it. We had another woman to read the Christmas story in Arabic. There would be dinner served and games, gifts, cakes and lots of chaos for sure!!
By the time everyone arrived, we ended up with 70 people. There were 8 baby buggies lined up down the hall. The children were all dressed up and so excited for the gifts. Even Santa Claus made an appearance and delighted everyone. I felt like everything was so chaotic with drinks spilling and food falling and babies crying but everyone else was having a blast. We got rave reviews on the evening and people seemed to really enjoy themselves. I think they were impressed that every child got a different gift, specially bought for him/her. The very last person to leave was a woman that's at the top of our "hit list". She's a Syrian dentist's wife who lives right next door to the lighthouse. She told me that the best part of the evening was the pastor's "speech". She speaks perfect German so she understood every word. There are some significant cracks of light peering through the darkness here and we feel we're on the verge of some breakthroughs. We're so anxious for our new partner George to arrive and take the reins. It's a fun and crazy ride!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Fun stuff

As I was just step forward...last night at our little Lighthouse ch*ch, there were 28 people, the largest group we've had to date. We had a guest speaker from America and a translator that did a poor job and missed many of the main points. That didn't seem to matter in the least to God whose spirit was working in spite of all this, in the hearts of 3 people. Before the night was over, all 3 of these people gave their lives to Jesus! This just doesn't happen in Mus ministry. It was a night of celebration! The girl that I prayed with has only been coming for 1 month. Her father was the first person to receive Christ at the LH and the only one until now to be baptized. The place was packed with people and noisy kids. We had a fellowship dinner after the meeting and lots of fun and activity. But Rowan was sticking close to me and literally begging to know more and go somewhere quiet so we could talk. She said her heart was pounding while the guy was preaching (in English which she doesn't understand and with poor translation!) This is what it means for the Holy Spirit to open people's eyes and heart to the truth. He will do his work in spite of us! We finally were able to get the kids out of the one room and sit to talk in depth. She was so ready and wanting Jesus in her life. I explained a few things and she prayed to ask him into her life. I feel like she is very fragile and I need to care for her a lot in the beginning. I will go to her house and teach her the basics of the Christian faith. The neat thing is that she is great friends with a girl I prayed with 2 weeks ago, the one who lives in our house with us. This has never happened in 35 years of ministry to Mus; praying with two people in 2 weeks. It is exciting and rewarding and also a big responsibility to get them going on the right track. They really know nothing at all. Where to start?? I know God will lead me step by step. At the same time that I was praying with this young girl, Geryes (our Syrian partner) was in the other room leading 2 men to Christ who came for the very first time last night. He met them in the street and witnessed to them and they called him up yesterday and said they wanted to become Christians! They came with their wives and children. It was a pretty amazing night; one that leaves you in awe of how God works in people's hearts and draws them to himself. Pray for these fragile new believers who need so much teaching and deliverance from the demons of Is. that will show up later and drag them back if they're not dealt with now.  We need great wisdom.