Iraq 2019 Trip Reports

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March 23 |  March 24 |  March 25  |  March 26  |  March 27  |  March 28  |  March 29  |  March 30
March 31 
|  April 1  |  April 2  |  April 3  |  April 4  |  April 5  |  April 6

*Sentences in blue correspond to pictures immediately following each report.

Saturday, March 23 We made it to Istanbul after an uneventful flight, a few minutes late, but since we have a seven hour wait, that presented no difficulty. Edwin Leung came to see us off at LAX and prayed for us. Here is a picture of us taken by Edwin. After we arrived, we found out our Brazilian doctor teammate, Camilla, is not able to join us. She just found out she is with child but we don’t know if she is not coming because of that or for some other reason. Although we are disappointed that our team is short one doctor, and more importantly, a female doctor, we know our God is sovereign and He is not surprised by this de-velopment. We bless her.

Kenny was able to get Mei and myself into the prime class lounge at the airport using his broth-er’s lounge pass. The rest of the team, instead of paying 50 Euros, decided to wait it out at the food court. It is actually quite crowded here at the lounge, and not as nice as the lounge in LA or even the ones we visited in India. The time here (and in Iraq) is 10 hours ahead of LA time and our flight is scheduled to leave at 1:30 AM.

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  Sunday, March 24 We arrived at Erbil at 3:40 AM, but by the time we got our luggage, it was past 5. The tempera-ture was about 50F, quite cool. We were met by AR, a young man only 20 who works for Habibi. This winsome articulate man, whose father is an Iman, was raised as a Muslim, but found Je-sus by reading the Bible himself. As a result, he was persecuted by his father and left his home in Erbil 2 years ago (to avoid being killed) and started working for Habibi 4 months ago. The drive from the airport to Duhok on a 24 passenger bus hired by Habibi took over 3 hours, initially on a three lane freeway which degenerated to pothole dirt roads where the top speed is 5 MPH, and then back to a superhighway. We dropped off AR at the house rented by Habibi since he had work to do and the bus drove us to Zakho, about 40 minutes away on a beautiful 3 lane (each direction) freeway, arriving at Nobel Hotel 9:40 AM where we were greeted by Willy Tan. We went to eat a buffet breakfast at the hotel restaurant, checked in and rested until 3:30 PM. By the way, AR and the bus driver drove from Zakho to Erbil to get us, sacrificing their sleep Sat-urday night. Since it is spring, the country-side is beautiful, gently rolling hills, and because of the rains, lushly green. We could see sheep in several places, contently grazing in the green pastures (see map of area, the marker is Zakho, Duhok to the right and below, erbil where we landed further down, and Bagdad just off the map on bottom right. But in the summer, it is unbearably hot, AR said several consecutive days of 50 C (122 F). The Noble Hotel is suppose to be the best in Zakho, 4 star rated. Indeed, our room, where we will meet as a team for daily devotions, is a three room suite, living room with two couches, bedroom and bath, and a separate kitchen. The bed is comfortable, each room equipped with a heat pump to pro-vide cooling in the summer and heat in winter. It has good amenities, but like many Indian and Asian hotels, there is no shower curtain or door so the whole bathroom gets wet when one showers.

We rested and were to meet at 3:30 to drive back to Duhok to the Habibi house to have our devo-tions, but Kenny overslept and we had to wake him via hotel phone. Jason Kerner joined us soon after we held our first group devotion in the Habibi house living room, Jason briefed us on Arabic and Yazidi cultural issues, we ate some sandwiches that AR bought, and left to attend our first Arabic service at a Christian Missionary Alliance church. The room. was quite filled with a crowd of about 90, including many NGO workers from all over the world. The singing was lively and the tunes somewhat exotic; the only tune we recognized was How Great Thou Art but sung in Arabic. We sang The Name Above All Names, Psalm 121, and In His Time and listened to a visiting pastor from Canada share about the feeding of the 5000 from John 6. Although the message was good, we all had a hard time staying awake. We then re-turned home to the hotel to collapse on our beds (except for maybe Kenny who seemed most energetic after his long nap).

 
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  Monday, March 25We met at 7:30 to begin our day with devotions. We also continued sharing what we have seen our first day here. Meiring shared how the family who sat besides her on the flight to Erbil had a baby who cried incessantly for hours. Finally, she felt prompted to sing “Jesus Loves Me” to this baby. After only two choruses, the baby fell asleep. The parents said nothing, but today’s Daily Bread reading encourages us to “not be weary in doing good” even when we don’t see a response (from the parents) because “at the proper time, we will reap a harvest”.

After devotions, we ate breakfast then met up with some of our translators (some would go di-rectly to the IDP - Internally Displaced Person - camp) and we left at 9:30, arriving about 10 at Berseve camp. There are dozens of such camps around Duhok and over a hundred missionar-ies serving these camps, but only a few around Zahko ministered to by a handful of missionar-ies. That is one reason Habibi has chosen to minister in Zahko and is focusing on 4 camps. The previous medical team which left when we arrived served at two camps and we are serving at the other two camps (Berseve 1 for 4 days this week and Darkar for 4 days next week), all these for the first time. Pioneering work into a new mission field is exciting and very interesting, but also scary since there is no precedent and as Willy said, we don’t have to worry about step-ping on other people’s toes. We set up the medical team in one large room and they started to work about 10:30 with Christine and a translator doing triage and Johnny and Glenn with their own translators set up at their stations. By now a large crowd had gathered, but a local brother had divided the Berseve camp into 4 quadrants and passed out 100 numbered tickets in each quadrant so he shooed everyone away who did not have tickets and the medical team started to screen the patients numerically, lowest number first. Somehow, by word of mouth all these people had come when we arrived. Meanwhile, the rest of us sang one song and started to meet the children who had come, a half dozen at first, and soon over twenty in a second room. We taught them the alphabet (which most knew already) and then Sunday school songs - somehow Amy, Lily and Sharon kept ad-libing teaching material. It rained intermittently the whole day, sometimes quite heavily, so only Kenny braved the elements and set out with a local high school boy as his guide to explore the village. He ended up visiting an elderly man with a small canteen store and had tea with several men. We broke for lunch at 1 PM, with the medi-cal team seeing almost 30 patients. We resumed work before 2 and the medical team worked until it got dark after 6 PM and they couldn’t see before electricity was finally connected, so they saw a couple more patients, 82 in all today. The rest of us was was invited by a young girl to visit her home for tea and Willy and Marshall prayed for a young man named D who asked for prayer for healing. Communication was difficult even though this young man spoke some Eng-lish but we explained John 14:6 to him, stressing that Jesus is the only way and he could not believe in multiple gods. He promised to meet with us tomorrow when he left. Meantime, Ken-ny in exploring the camp found a pool hall where many young men hung around shooting pool. He spent several hours with these men, even inviting Marshall to join in. Kenny shooting pool in a cigarette smoke filled room reminds us of Jesus hanging out and partying with sinners. When we left the camp around 6:30, he received numerous invitations to dinner, which he had to turn down. We returned to the hotel, walked to a nearby restaurant and debriefed, before retiring for the night around 9:30 PM, very tired but grateful for our first day. Here are some comments from our team members:

*Lily - the people hunger for learning
*Sharon - kids are so lovely and welcoming
*Glenn - great working with a cardiologist. One 14 year old needed a heart transplant. Need to pray for her.
*Johnny - lots of patients are overweight, so lots of hypertension, diabetes. Surprised to see in a poor environment.
*Mei - great adaptability to respond to needs by our team, but we need to ask God what we are here for and focus more.
*Kenny - overwhelmed by their hospitality, hanging out in a pool hall; one of the guys wanted to take him to barber. Kept on being invited. A high school kid shared his hurt when a Yazidi girl burned to death last year.
 
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Tuesday, March 26 Even though we are tired, the time change from the jet lag caused some of us to wake up very early after initially hitting the sack. But that is also part of the missions trip and we trust God to mount us up with wings like the eagle’s. We had our morning devotions, ate, and left the hotel at 9:15 arriving at Berseve before 10. It is a beautiful, warm, sunny day today unlike yesterday’s cold rain. After setting up, we sang In His Time and John 14:6 to our “captive” audience before beginning our activities. The medical team is set up much like yesterday, but the rest of us has a more organized plan after consultation with Connie who heads the Habibi educational pro-gram. This consists of 20 minutes of singing, some free time, then arts and crafts for about 20 children. But, today, there are about 40 children, so during craft time, Lily had to take a large group of kids to sing more. The rest of us went to visit a family of one of the high school boy and listened to their struggle to find a better future for their children. Meanwhile, Kenny was taken by a couple of boys to their elementary school where he met F, the English teacher there. F in-vited Kenny and brought Willy to meet up at lunch. At the school, they “bumped” into another teacher who is a nursing graduate but couldn’t find a job in nursing so he is teaching temporari-ly. Willy gave him his business card because he could fill a need for Habibi’s future medical ministry. It turned out that F had the afternoon off, so he invited Kenny to visit the high school and arranged for Kenny to visit all 5 English classes at the school in the afternoon.

We ate lunch and resumed our activities after lunch. As part of the craft, we had the older chil-dren make the 5 color beads, which gave us a chance to present the good news to them. But instead of the forty plus kids this morning, we now had about 60. After we completed the les-son, AZ, our translator went over the meaning of the beads in their language, and was pleasantly surprised at the answers to the meaning of the colors from the kids. After dismissing the kids, AZ expressed his personal enthusiasm of this simple, yet clear presentation of the good news. The medical team finished about 4:30 when the 83rd patient came plus several who came with-out numbers (parents who came with child and wanted to see the doctor). But by finishing ear-ly, we had to locate Kenny. We drove over to the pool hall where we thought we might find him, but, no Kenny; but thanks to GPS, we were able to track him to the high school at the next camp (Berseve 2), where he was busy having a great time time talking to the different classes. He spent at least 5 minutes engaging the classes in conversation and among others, met a young high school girl who excelled in translating English to Kurmanji. Such high level young people are exactly the caliber of person Habibi wants to find, train, and develop into leaders and socie-ty influencers for the Yazadi people. We thank God for these divine appointments He allowed Kenny to encounter. We finally left Berseve at 5:15, arriving at the hotel for a few minutes of rest before leaving for dinner at 6:30. We debriefed after dinner where we could share these wonderful things God is doing and got ready for a good night’s rest at 9 PM.

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  Wednesday, March 27 Kenny shared a significant insight last night: before ISIS, the Yazidis were happily settled in their multiple villages, most likely never having heard the good news, an unreachable people group. Now significant numbers of them are living together in these IDP camps, two such camps here at Berseve (1 and 2) with an additional camp adjacent to Berseve sharing one high school for these three camps where all the future leaders are being educated and where we can reach them quite easily. What the enemy meant for evil, God has provided an opportunity for much greater good. At this time, the Yazidis feel the insecurity and hopelessness. The door is open, but for how long? Habibi wants to step into this opening.

Unlike yesterday, it rained throughout the night and it is much cooler and wet today. We started by singing The Lord Bless You and Keep You and The Name Above All Names. Then Kenny told the adults and children listening something about his background and that we had come to un-derstand their pain and love them. One of the men in the audience responded with how much they appreciated our coming. Then we started our regular daily activities. During the morning session, Mei, Amy, Lily, and Sharon had an arts and crafts session with the younger kids. The kids were given a blank piece of paper with a hole cut out in the center in or-der for them to place the sheet over their faces like a frame. They were asked to write their names on a piece of paper and on the bottom of the sheet to write a word to express how they were feeling such as “love,” “joy,” “happy,” or “kind” and to also decorate the frame with some artwork. You could really see the creativity of the kids as they drew flowers, hearts, and stars. After the children’s program, we went to the home of one of the high school students who had initially invited us over to his house on our first day at the camp. His name is T. We felt so blessed to be able to visit his home today as T is someone who could be a future leader for the Yazidi people. His whole extended family including his mom, two uncles, two brothers, in-laws, grandchildren, etc. came and we were able to talk about many topics, including God’s tremen-dous love for the Yazidis. We commiserated with them that 13 members of their family were killed by ISIS. One impressive thing that stood out to us is the emphasis T’s mother had in wanting her children to have a good education. After being served drinks and snacks, we blessed the family.

This afternoon, Kenny took over Christine’s triage duties so she was able to join the children’s ministry, leading the children in a series of physical exercises. Later that afternoon, Mei, Chris-tine, Brandon, and Sharon were invited to the home of N and his wife, S, and their son. We also met S’s mother. N shared with us that 3 families shared 2 tents. N used to work as a journalist and cameraman back in Sinjar, and also informed us of his hemophilia. When we asked if we could pray for his family, N said yes and made the comment that he believes in God and that God is above all things. Christine then said a prayer to bless N’s family, and they in turn ex-pressed their deep gratitude for visiting them and blessed us by saying that their home is our home, which was very touching. Late in the afternoon, one of the patient was a lady who had been purchased (rescued by paying a fee) from ISIS only 6 months ago. Her husband is still missing and her parents (or maybe her parents-in-law) paid a ransom to secure her release from the slave market, so now she is living at Berseve1 with her 4 children. Her parents are in a different camp but her in-laws are also living in this camp but not in an adjacent tent. She did not share the details of her trials during her captivity but seeing her gave life and reality to the news stories and touched those among us who heard her. We left the site at 4:30 after seeing 80+ patients today, ate dinner, debriefed the day quickly at the restaurant (not a good practice due to the noise even though we were in a more secluded section), and returned home before 9 PM.


 
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  Thursday, March 28 Since our schedule is more or less settled in, only deviations or special activities will be reported even though it is our last day at Berseve1 camp. We sang Psalm 121 and In This Very Room to the children and adults and Kenny shared a bit with them, but the audience was less engaged than they were yesterday. During the children’s program, we passed out some balloon which caused a ruckus as the children fought to get them, so we stopped it and thought we could teach them about learning to get in line and wait in the afternoon. Meanwhile, Kenny and Mar-shall decided to help the local economy by going to the camp barbershop and get trimmed. While waiting, they were able to talk to several men, and empathized with their loss at being brutalized out of their home villages by ISIS. Statements like “we are peaceful and we love eve-ryone, why were they so evil?” Marshall was able to say although there is much evil, but God loves you. It wasn’t clear how much communication took place because of the language barrier. They did meet the English teacher at the Arabic secondary school at the camp who translated our haircut preferences to the barber and then invited us to his classes in the afternoon. He al-so offered to pay for the haircuts (costing 2000 dinars, or the equivalent of $1.67) but of course his offer was refused. All the singers except Dr. Glenn went to visit T’s family and sang The Lord Bless You and Keep You to them. We also tried to follow up with the lady who was re-leased a months ago but could not locate her. Since T’s mother was not able to get a number to see our doctors, we offered (and had previously obtained Willy’s permission) to escort her and bypass the ticketing system, which Christine and Brandon did at 2 PM. Willy was able to get a local pastor and his German-Kurd speaking friend to meet with D (the young man who asked for prayer Monday). Both these pastors recognized that D was wearing a demonic amulet. After much discussion during which they asked D to discard the amulet, D said he would ask his fa-ther’s permission to come to their church tomorrow where we would be going and (we hope) not be wearing this amulet. Pray for this power encounter. Then Willy, Kenny, AR, Mei and Mar-shall went in the afternoon to visit the English classes taught at the Arabic school, but the school supervisor said we did not have the required permission from the school board so we were turned away. In the meantime, the balloon standing-in-line lesson almost turned into a riot, as many, many more children and even parents fought to bypass the line. After handing out more than 100 balloons (apparently, word of mouth spread so instead of the 60 or so “regular students”, more than double that number showed up, becoming more boisterous (photo 6 #0140). Many were still waiting when we terminated the balloon giving program. The whole process took almost two hours and left us exhausted, vowing not to do balloons again. Chris-tine was able to share the good news with T when she saw him in the late afternoon. At de-briefing time this evening, we saw that today was a harder day with some success (T and his family) and some tough resistance (not finding the lady, getting denied at the Arabic school, Dawoo spiritual warfare). Glenn pointed out that encountering spiritual resistance may also be a sign we are doing something right, so keep on praying for us. Many of us are quite tired due to jet lag, long day’s work, especially Dr. Johnny Gaw, who is 70, seeing 40+ patients a day, almost non-stop.


 
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  Friday, March 29 Today is preparation day since the sabbath starts at sundown Friday. No work today or tomor-row, Saturday. Sunday is the beginning of the work week. We left at 9:30 to visit Al Qosh, the legendary tomb of the prophet Nahum, located about 20 km from Duhok. There is a Jewish syn-agogue here abandoned when the Jews returned to Israel in the early 50’s which is being re-stored. But there are two ancient churches here and a new sanctuary a few minutes walk from the synagogue. We stopped at the first church, St. George Chaldean Apostolic Church. We sang several songs including Lamb of God, Palestrina’s Holy, Holy, Holy, and a couple other songs, enjoying the natural acoustics there. We then walked across the courtyard to the new sanctuary, where we found about 25 late teens to early 20’s meeting in fellowship led by a nun. We asked if we could sing for them and received approval, so we sang I Will Lift Mine Eyes (Psalm 121) and Majesty and Glory (Psalm 8). We then walked to another ancient church where Nahum is supposedly buried. No one was there so we sang Lamb of God. Then we drove to St. Hormitz’s Monastery, located in a beautiful mountain top. The cars can only drive up some distance, and we have to walk several hundred stone steps in the drizzling rain to get to the now semi-abandoned monastery. Only Glenn, Johnny, Christine, Amy, Lily, Brandon, Sharon, and Kenny made the trek, returning and saying it was quite an adventure. We then drove to Duhok for a scrumptious late lunch, paying about twice what our normal dinners cost (but we are eating leftovers for dinner after the church service) so it averages out.

After returning to our hotel and resting for a half hour, we headed to an Arabic church in Zakho for their Friday service. Tonight is the inaugural service in their new sanctuary, which seats about 50 people, and the place was packed with an overflow crowd of ladies in the adjoining room. The service is very homey, the worship leaders trying to decide what to sing just as the service started. Nevertheless, the singing was enthusiastic and we could sense the presence of the Spirit. We sang In This Very Room, Lamb of God, and In His Time. Then a visiting pastor from Germany preached about Peter walking on water followed by Kenny sharing his testimony and explaining that we came to love the Yazidis. The pastor then asked us to sing a Chinese song but we sang the Kurmanji John 14:6 song instead. Then another brother shared a long tes-timony. The 2-1/2 hour service finally ended, we stayed for some picture taking and chatted, and returned to our hotel just before 10, tired but grateful for a nice day. We met a lady who had just become a believer during the previous group’s visit last week. Mei talked to a lady from Turkey who accepted Christ 2 years ago and learned to forgive, a very for-eign concept in the Muslim culture. We found out that there were a few Yazidi believers in the congregation. One man recorded Kenny’s sharing and wanted Kenny to repeat the first part be-cause he missed recording it. We also learned there were a few Christians in Berseve so Willy wants to track them down. We plan to sleep in tomorrow on the sabbath so we stayed up late and made porridge from the lunch left over rice and a few of us ate porridge and/or ramen noodles.


 
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  Saturday, March 30 Thanks to Joshua Yeh, he was able to take a Johnny Gaw’s video and reduce the file size so it could be posted. This is a portion of our singing Lamb of God at St. George’s church in Al Qosh. The stone walls’ resonance made 8 of us sound like a full choir!

Several interesting observations from last night’s meeting. There was definitely a multiethnic flavor with participants and congregation from Asia and America (us), Germany, Kurds, Arabs, Turkey and maybe more. When the German pastor spoke, he was translated to Kurdish which was then translated into English, not into Arabic, even though it was an Arabic church. Be-cause Kenny spoke after the German pastor, he did not preached his prepared message and PowerPoint on Agape love, but switched at the last minute to his powerful and Spirit-led testi-mony. We also heard an interesting story from Kenny about one of the better English speaking teachers at Berseve school. When asked how did he learn English, he said he listened to Joel Osteen and got one of his students to do the same! We will try to recommend he listen to Chuck Swindoll instead. It is amazing how God prepares hearts for the good news,

We walked around to an ancient stone bridge after breakfast. This was the location where many Jews were relocated after the Northern Kindom of Israel fell to Assyria. Then we took a rented van to KZ’s home for lunch. KZ is a key leader Habibi relies on for logistics help. We asked KZ to share his story. At 27, in 1983, he was captured by Iran and held as a prisoner of war for 15 years. As a Christian they were treated as cats and dogs, whereas Muslim prisoners were treat-ed very well. There were 27 Christian prisoners, but 5 converted to Islam when tortured. When caught even with a pencil, the prisoners were severely punished. At this point, we were called to lunch, a scrumptious feast cooked by his wife and niece. After lunch, we sang and left to go to Seje, where Dr. P. has built a safe house for girls (and guys) fleeing slavery or death because they became believers. Dr. P. is a retired (but he is only about 60) educator who quit his job because God called him to care for these (primarily) young women. Himself not married, but adoptive father of many boys (over 20), he mentored these young men to build an incredible dorm for young ladies consisting of 7 bedrooms and 5 baths and an adjacent house where he and the boys live plus a garden to raise their own veggies, fish ponds, sheep, etc. Please check out his website, www.medeast.org for more detail and pictures. He has writ-ten several books which Vision highly recommends (available at Amazon). Because he rescued a young Yazidi girl who was raped and became pregnant by an Islamic fighter (and had now emigrated to Canada with her toddler, he is currently shunned by the Yazidis who have very strong beliefs that this baby is unclean due to his not having pure Yazidi blood. In the next few days, Syria is releasing hundreds of young Iraqi girls and their “half breed” children to Iraq, dumping them in the Iraq desert. He anticipates a crisis of enormous magnitude since the Iraq government does not want them nor have funds to care for them and the UN and news media consider this “old news” and not covering this crisis. Pray for wisdom for Dr. P. how to deal with this situation. Donations online to his organization is desperately needed. When we sang In His Time he was deeply moved and we prayed for him (Habibi is a minor supporter of Dr. P.).

After leaving Seje, we drove to the Family Mall because a local doctor wanted to meet up with a cardiologist and we happened to have Dr. Johnny Gaw with us. Just as we pulled into the mall, our rented van died in the middle of the driveway. We pushed the van to the edge of the road and walked to the mall where the doctors talked and arranged for Johnny to go to a clinic at 9 AM tomorrow to consult on a case. Eventually, a replacement van was sent to drive us back to Zuhok where we were invited for dinner by one of our translators, AZ. Because of the car prob-lem, we arrived at 8, an hour late. AZ’s extended family including his parents greeted us and we ate our second big feast of the day. After dinner, we sang to the family and walked back to our hotel to sleep and prepare for our second camp starting tomorrow, Darkar.


 
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  Sunday, March 31 Some points of clarification: Failed to explain that the ancient stone bridge we walked to yester-day is the site where the Jews were relocated after the Northern Kingdom of Israel fell to Assyria (2 Kings 17, especially verse 6). You also may want to look up Nahum 1:1, which says “Nahum of Elkosh” now spelled Al Qosh. That is why this village claims Nahum was buried here. During our morning’s devotion, we shared many thoughts about our visit with Dr. P. He is alone, fighting incredible odds, living full time (alone) among the unwanted Yazidis. All of us were so awed to meet this man. Here is a living model of a man who gave up everything to follow Jesus to a distant land like Hudson Taylor, living by faith for his needs like George Mueller. Yesterday, Dr. P. pointed out the vast valley below his compound and mentioned that the Garden of Eden was probably somewhere around here. He said Noah’s Ark is in the distant hills, that the origi-nal translators mistranslated RRT as Ararat, and that even as late as the fifteenth century, many travelers broke off small pieces of the Ark for souvenirs. On a different note, D never showed up at the Friday night service in case you were wondering.

Johnny and Willy left to go to Zakho Hospital while the rest of us went with KZ to Darkar camp, located close to Berseve, but further up the hills. This is a smaller community of 4000 and the camp is actually a lot nicer. The families live in trailers instead of tents, and the community center we went to has working electricity, but it is raining quite hard continually since we ar-rived, so it has limited our activities. Dr. Glenn is the only doctor working until Dr. Johnny ar-rives. At noon, we were surprised to see D here. He did not come to the Friday night service as we had hoped, but somehow he found us here. Again he requested prayer and this time he came with his dad. Since Willy had not yet returned with Johnny, Kenny and Marshall talked to them with AR and AZ translating. Actually, AR and AZ did all the talking, encouraging D to receive Jesus as his only God, no angels, nothing else but Jesus. It was good to see the local be-lievers step up to minister. This time D took off his amulet, gave it to his dad, and Kenny led D in the sinner’s prayer while AR translated. Then Kenny prayed for healing and release from all oppression for D in English. On the bus ride to Zakho last Sunday, AR had giv-en Kenny a microchip memory card containing the Scripture in several local dialects, the Jesus film and some Bible stories. Kenny was now able to give it to D (what divine provision). D and his father promised to go home and burn all the amulets. They thanked us as they left and we rejoice we had this divine appointment. Willy and Johnny finally returned to eat lunch and resume treating patients with Glenn. Amy is teaching children and Sharon, Mei and CV (translator) had tea with a local lady living in a nearby trailer, the rain finally abating. After returning, they started a knitting group with some of the Yazidi ladies and Christine led them in some ex-ercises while we had a few more short visits to different families. Since we are invited to another Sunday evening service, we closed shop early - about 4 PM, having seen 50+ patients.

We attended another Arabic service, this time at the Free Methodist Church, the only other evangelical church in Zakho (the other was the church we attended Friday night) quite different in style but with equally enthusiastic worship singing. We sang Psalm 121, John 14:6, and The Name Above All Names, and Kenny gave a few words of greetings and encouragement. We re-turned to our hotel and ate a home cooked meal of rice porridge with tea eggs and veggie soup made from the leftover chicken and beef from yesterday’s lunch and veggies we bought during our walk to the bridge. At debriefing, we praised God for a great day - for anytime someone comes to Christ is a great day. Brandon seems better from his cold but Christine might be com-ing down with symptoms similar to Brandon’s. We thank God no one is seriously ill and we are able to do our ministry in spite of the throat tickles.


 
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  Monday, April 1 This morning, Sharon came in with almost no voice, so we prayed for healing for Christine, Brandon, and Sharon. We also prayed for Lily, Amy and Marshall who have a lot of mucus and might have colds. Our devotions passage was from Eph. 2:11-22, so fitting as we see the ani-mosity between Muslims and Yazidis, the ostracizing of women who had children from ISIS - actually a tradition dating back thousand of years, like the Jews despising the Samaritans. How much we need Jesus to bring unity to this region, in fact, everywhere on this earth. Because Glenn went with Willy to consult at the hospital today, and several of us have semi lost our voice, we had a harder time singing In His Time to the waiting crowd. So Kenny spent a longer time greeting the crowd, telling the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand. They were so absorbed, after Kenny was done, they said they had never heard anything like it so they asked him to talk some more (any preacher’s dream) so of course, Kenny told them more, including details about his family fleeing the Japanese and emigrating to Myanmar, something these IDP’s can readily identify with. Since today is the second non-rainy day since we have been here, we visited several homes and were invited for lunch at their homes. In spite of their poverty, their hospitality and generosity is overwhelming, full spread of foods, even bottled coke. Mei, Christine and their translator, HL went to one home but only the mother-in-law was there. Sharon and AZ on the other hand visited a home and were able to share openly, planting seeds. The funniest story is Kenny’s adventure. He was invited by a little boy to his home, where he met the child’s grandparents. Since extended families live together in these trailers, Kenny also met the little boy’s mom and a young lady who is probable the mom’s cousin. Kenny made the mistake of complimenting how cute the boy was and how pretty the young lady (boy’s aunt) was. At which point, the grandmother jumped on the compliment, brought her two index fingers together (a symbol of marriage) and asked (via google translate) if Kenny wanted to take her niece back with him to America. Flabbergasted, Kenny quickly turned the conversation back to how handsome and intelligent looking their grandson was, a close shave, indeed! Kenny rushed back to where we were to avoid being asked to stay for lunch. In fact, the grandfather came here and invited Kenny over for lunch, but Kenny explained he had eaten.



After lunch, the ladies came over to do a second session of crocheting while Lily and Sharon collected a group of junior high girls to have English conversation. Afterwards, Brandon collect-ed a group of boys for English lessons while Christine led the ladies’ exercises. The weather turned and it started getting cold with lightning and thunder. Then the Yazidi ladies taught Amy and Sharon how to Yazidi dance, which actually is quite a bit of exercise too. Even though it was raining, Johnny, Christine, Sharon, and translator HR went to visit a family, and had a chance to pray for them. Meiring and Marshall went with AZ to prayer walk, met a middle aged man who invited them into his home where they met his mother, his two brothers and a sister. After being served water, cookies and tea, they told how they escaped ISIS by running into the mountains where US helicopters dropped food and water for them and others with them. A live-ly conversation followed about their beliefs, which basically concluded with we are Yazidis, if we became Christians, we would no longer be Yazidi, and they did not want to be prayed for. We returned back to wrap up the day.

Here is a view of (photo 11 #0410)) Darkar taken from the hill above it (the red square is the school). Note how beautiful it is in the spring time. To the left of Darkar is Berseve 1 and 2, probably less than a mile as the crow flies but maybe 20 minutes by car as it has to wind around on potholed roads.


 
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  Tuesday, April 2 Bad throat and all, we sang Name Above All Names and Kenny talked about Jonah with AZ translating since AR wasn’t feeling well - starting yesterday afternoon and he slept for at least 14 hours straight and was still sleeping when we left the hotel. We were joined by two young ladies, Siang and Marsha visiting from Duhok. Siang just arrived in Iraq two weeks ago from Singapore and is committed to stay for 2 years. Marsha is from New York City, has been here for four years and staying for at least two more years. Right after Kenny spoke and the doctors ex-amining patients, Marsha, AZ, and Kenny started talking to a young Yazidi girl having problems sleeping and brought here by her mother. Marsha shared the good news and found out this young girl was already a believer. We were able to pray for them. Siang was asked to counsel a lady with HL translating. As soon as she was done, another lady came in for counseling. It was good to meet these two new friends.

We did our children’s teaching in the morning and also visited some homes, having opportunity to pray for them this time. Christine was also able to teach some exercises to a couple of elderly ladies with specific physical problems (for example, backaches or stiff neck) AR arrived at the camp at noon, fully recovered after all that sleep. He decided he suffered from dehydration but we decided he had not slept enough the last week. After lunch, it really started pouring, in fact, it hailed! That did not keep the ladies from coming for their exercise and crocheting classes. We saw about 75 patients today and was finished at 3 PM when no more pa-tients showed up. So we left camp at 4 PM and Meiring cooked a simple meal, soup with lots of veggies in the soup, porridge and ramen noodle, an almost vegan non-sishkabob meal, but we had tea eggs left, beef jerky, and pork sung. We debriefed and thanked God that we were able to accomplish our tasks even with bad throats and coughs.


 
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  Wednesday, April 3 Today is our last full day at Darkar. Siang and Marsha were to return to Duhok last night, but the heavy rains made travel hazardous, and KZ opened his home to have them stay the night so we get the pleasure of their company for a second day. After we sang John 14:6, Kenny told them the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. We started to prepare the story to tell the women after lunch, which we had decided was the same Samaritan women story. Siang and Marsha found the young girl who had sleeping problems and spent some time following up with her. SZ, a believer, joined us as another translator today and he translated. Praise God, she was able to sleep last night. Sharon, Mei and Marshall with AZ visited two different families and had opportunity to pray for them. Our pharmacist, a Yazidi who comes from Khanke (a camp in Duhok) is addicted to smoking (like the majority of males here) and Marshall had an opportunity to pray for breakage of this bondage for him. After lunch, Siang and Marsha left in a taxi to return to Duhok.

In the afternoon, the sun came out, the third partial day it was pleasant and warm. Meanwhile, Kenny, the pool shark, had found 3 pool tables located in the village just a few hundred feet from the entrance of the Darkar camp yesterday and after lunch today, he headed off to fellow-ship with all the young men hanging out there. This time, even though the young men wel-comed him, the owner asked him to pay to play, unlike last week or yesterday. At camp, just a few women showed up for story telling, but many children came and packed the room, so much so that there was no room to exercise after the story telling. What ensued was quite chaotic. We tried to thin down numbers by separating younger children from teenagers but more kept coming and they would pound on the door trying to join the others inside the room while those outside tried to organize them. Later in the afternoon, D came. Unfortunately, he was again wearing the amulet around his neck. He said his father would not allow him to get rid of the amulet, even though he knows it is creating his problems. AZ gave him a New Testament and AR said it will take time but promised to follow up with D, including giving him an audio Bible in Kumanji on a microchip. Still later, Marshall caught our pharmacist friend sneaking a smoke, and jokingly confronted him. These spiritual strongholds are difficult to break and need much prayer (and maybe fasting too). Johnny and Lily with translator HR, on the other hand, had a wonderful home visit, very open and candid, but the family did not want prayer at the end even though they asked us to stay for dinner three times. So we had a harder day spiritually with both triumphs and seeming failures and that just shows how much we need God’s power when we are on the spiritual front lines. We also discussed how to handle our thank you notes which we will be passing out tomorrow to all our local coworkers.
 
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  Thursday, April 4 Today is our last day here in Iraq and it is turning out to be a beautiful sunny day. Northwest of the Darkar camp, beyond the hills above the school, there is still snow on the mountain tops. It is hard to believe we have been here for 12 days already. We sang The Lord Bless You and Keep You to the audience and Kenny said farewell on our behalf and told the story of the Good Samaritan. Our doctors started their day while Willy and Marshall were in deep meditation, and we plan on visiting families with whom we made connections in the last 4 days here. Surprisingly, no ladies showed up for crocheting even though they said they were coming and we had planned to give them a set of crochet needles (eventually 4 ladies came). Christine and Mei went with AZ to visit two homes and were able to pray at both homes. The second home had a child with cerebral palsy and Christine suggested she could qualify for a special wheelchair so she could get around. In between, they met a man who complained our doctors couldn’t do anything for her daughter who had a toothache so bad she could not sleep. Fortu-nately, Habibi is bringing in a dental team next week to Berseve1 next week and we were able to get his phone contact to ensure a dentist could see her. Meanwhile, C asked Marshall to see B, his cousin, who lives with her uncle, so she could go to school here. Her parents are still in Shinjar. B is an 18 year old girl who is a talented artist. Some of her work is shown below, including a sketch she made of Marshall in a few minutes (photo 14,15,16 #0188,0189. 0203)). C works for a German NGO, WFP, to provide aid to his fellow IDPs and also a believer who attends the church we sang In last Friday. Lily, Sharon and AZ joined the group which made communi-cations easier. After praying, we went to C's home to pray for his family. Pastor Fadeheel, whose church we attended last Friday drove to the camp. He accompanied Mei and Christine to visit the girl Kenny, Marsha and AZ prayed for Tuesday who had trouble sleeping, S. Praise God she has slept well every night since. Her mother is Shabak, a small minority unreached group from Mosul who are Shiite Muslim. But she showed us in the Quran that the prophet Isa (Je-sus) is important to her Muslim faith, and now after seeing prayer work on S, she now believes He is the only way to God the Father, as we sang John 14:6 a few days ago. We encouraged her to read the Bible too, but she said that is very difficult in her culture. Pastor Fadeheel invited her to attend his church tomorrow (Friday night) and would send a car for her family to come and she said yes. Pray for her to grow in her new-found faith. This all happened because our bus was an hour late arriving at Darkar, God’s timing that allowed this visitation to occur includ-ing Pastor Fadeheel arriving just in time. Brandon meantime observed how cruel the Yazidi boys were to another boy with a physical handicap. Glenn mentioned how many kids he saw with genetic problems probably caused by inbreeding within the Yazidi community.

We returned to the hotel to host a luncheon with all our helpers and give them the gifts we had brought from the US as well as say our farewells. This was a late, late lunch, eaten about 3 PM. We then asked Johnny and Christine to share what they learned as he is leaving in a few hours and Christine is staying longer to join Jenn Tam and the OT rehab team also coming next week. We will be leaving our hotel about 4 AM tomorrow morning to catch our 9:30 flight from Erbil to Istanbul. Today was a great day, praise God!

 
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  Friday, April 5 We woke up early and were ready to leave before 4 AM, but by 4:15, the bus still had not shown up. Willy, who came to see us off, called KZ who woke up another bus driver who finally showed up at 5 AM, an hour late. Our plane leaves at 9:20 but we did not arrive at the airport until 8:20. By the time we cleared security and got to the gate, it was almost 9 AM, and the gates were closed and no amount of begging could convince them to board us. We went to the Turkish Airlnes office, and were told today’s 9 PM flight, tomorrow’s 3 AM flights, in face all the Saturday flights were booked solid, but maybe on standby, some of us could get on. This is not a viable alternative. The Sunday morning 3 AM flight has seats available but only premium seats which cost $742 per person, almost the cost of our round trip LA to Erbil flights. We called Willy who found us flights on Pegasus Airlines for about $360 each, leaving a 1 PM today stopping somewhere and arriving in Istanbul at 7 PM tonight. So that’s our plan. Since we only ate snacks, we bought some food from the airport cafe (for a king’s ransom) but found out the cafe worker is from Indonesia. Further conversation revealed he is also a believer who said Christians used to be 5% in Indonesia but are now 30% due to outreach efforts. We checked in at 11:30, not wanting to miss this flight, but Marshall lost his walking cane when security would not let him bring it in and put it in a trash can with several other walkers. Those who have prob-lems walking may have real problems. So we show up at the gate and start to board. The agent said, no, your tickets have been cancelled, two hours before departure, apparently minutes after being issued the boarding pass. Willy had booked our flight on line and used his credit card, but somehow it was rejected. The agent said we had to pay $2910 cash if we wanted to fly! Pooling all our cash, we found out we have just about $3000, so by depleting almost all our cash, we were able to board and now we have arrived in Ankara, Turkey and cleared immigra-tion. Learning from our mistakes, we went to the Turkish Airlines Reservation desk. Lo and be-hold, because we did not fly the Erbil to Istanbul leg, we have to rebook and pay a penalty then on the Istanbul to LA flight Sunday. It makes no sense but that’s the airlines policy. Fortunate-ly, they accepted Amy’s credit card to pay the $15 to 18 penalty per person. So by the bus com-ing late, this cost us an extra $3000 above what we had budgeted. After finally getting our con-firmation, we went down to the food court to eat our first non-snack meal of the day (it is now 5 PM). What lesson is God teaching us? It must be more than just encouraging an Indonesian believer in Erbil. Maybe it is to tach us patience which we had to learn as all these ticket changes took a looong time. One practical lesson is for future teams, when taking the bus, to leave at 3 AM instead of 4 for the morning flight, because if we had left at 4, we would be at the tail end of the check in and it is better to have some margin. While waiting, we used the time to debrief our lessons learned. One last adventure to our long day. We were able to get on a do-mestic Pegasus flight leaving about 2 hours earlier. The agent said our luggage will also be on that flight. When we got to Istanbul, no luggage showed up even with much prayer. Finally, someone said we need to go to the International terminal, and there they were! We finally left the airport around 9:45, arrived at the hotel at 10:45. Praise the Lord. We all got here with our luggage. The hotel is very expensive, the rooms tiny, but elegant. Listed price is 200 Euros for a single and 300 for double, but I think we are paying less. Tomorrow is a rest and sightseeing day so this might be the last report from our group.  
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Saturday, April 6 We slept late and all of us started the day energized. After breakfast, we met in a side lobby and debriefed. One key observation is that as hard a day as we had yesterday, it gave us a little perspective into what the refugees and IDP’s experienced when they fled from ISIS, except their situation lasted for days and weeks while ours was only 20 some hours. They had to run not knowing where, had no food (or water) for days, and when they sought refuge, many times they were rejected and had to keep going. What we faced compared to their experience must be like a walk in the park.

We then met our guide, Bahar, a charming young lady getting her Master’s degree in history concentrating in Mesopotamia and wants to get a PhD and do archeology, while continuing to guide groups. She met us at 10 and immediately led us to the old Sultan’s Palace, technically Topkapi Palace Museum. This took about two hours and we must have walked 2 to 3 miles go-ing through different gates until we got to the Dultanks secure inner personal palace. This photo of our team is taken from the Sultan’s favorite breakfast shelter (to the right of where we are standing). Then around 12:15, we went to Hagia Sophia, a pagan worship hall to the god of wisdom from a couple of centuries before Christ, which became St. Sophia Church, the center for the Eastern Orthodox Church in the fourth century, which then became an Islamic mosque before being turned into a museum, but each time keeping the name Sophia. We walked across the street to eat lunch at 2 PM at Lale Restaurant (a.k.a., The Pudding Shop). After lunch, we visited Sultanahmet (Blue Mosque), after which Marshall left the group because his stomach was a little upset while the rest of the team went to the Hippodrome, and ended up at the Grand Bazaar, where our guide Bahar departed from us. We completed our debriefing from 6 to 8 PM, praying for each member of the team and went to eat dinner. Tomorrow, we plan to depart our hotel at 9 AM, since the newly opened (at 2 PM today!) Istanbul airport is quite a distance from where we are and almost twice as far as the old airport which shut down at 2 AM this morning. So we should be back in LA Sunday evening around 5 PM, PDT, Lord willing.


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