Middle East Project
In a pavilion packed with patients, crew members, and Day Crew I sat, participating in the Sunday morning service at the Hope Center. At the time I was working on Mercy Ships, which gave free surgeries to those in Africa. Every Sunday, the Day Crew would hold a service for all Crew and patients who wanted to attend. This Sunday was no exception. The day was hot with people crowding on the benches. Many patients were there sitting with their crutches leaning beside them. The Day Crew were telling one of Jesus parables. It was of the rich man who held a feast for his friends. However, all his friends gave excuses. Some said that they were busy, others that they just got married, and still others that they had oxen to take care of. The man was not happy. He told his servants to go into the lanes and street and bring in the crippled, the lame and the poor. While they were telling the story, they were inviting people to come up and act out the poor, crippled, and lame. One girl came up with her arm wound up in white bandages. She was still healing from a surgery that released her from a burn contraction. One boy came up whose legs were straight and in dark blue casts. Two weeks before, he had come from a surgery that straightened his bowed legs. As I watched the excited children come up and act out the story, I realized that I was watching the parable come alive. These were children who had been looked down on and in pain, but here they were being brought to the banquet table of love. As I continued to watch the story unfold, I realized that this reinstated what I wanted to do: Bring those who are cast out, to come to the banquet table. With whom? Where to? and when? Were questions I needed to answer, but I knew eventually I would get there and become a part of that parable again.
Through a friend, I found a group who is passionate about following Jesus. I was impressed with their desire to serve the invisible and oppressed without leaving Jesus out of the picture. They strove to combine compassion and discipleship in every country that they served. Jesus did both in his ministry on earth. I want to do the same. I want to encourage and help the oppressed find the tools that they want and need to be able to stand on their own two feet and to teach others to do the same. By tools I don’t think of just hammers and nails although that is included in that category, I am also thinking of self-worth, confidence, and love. Those tools need to work alongside hammers and nails.
In the Middle East the culture is patriarchal this makes it difficult for the women to find jobs. Many women have graduated from high and technical degrees. In fact, in the last 15 years about 17% more women received various degrees than men did. However, a degree doesn’t say you will get a job in that field. Although women make up a quarter of the work force, less than 5% of them have senior positions.
The Middle East is also known for being rich. However, not everyone in the country is rich. Many school children in middle or low economic families don’t have the opportunity to do extracurricular activities. This is the case in the village where I will be working. The couple, whom I will be working with, asked the community what they needed. The community said activities for their children. Their children are bored they said. As the couple began working with the families, they found many families who have children with disabilities. In that culture, children with disabilities are often hidden away. Although half of the schools in the country have a special education program, most of these programs are in the big cities, so those in the smaller cities have no access to them at all.
I would like to see children or adults with disabilities or without disabilities to become visible and loved and that each one would find a place in their community. In connection, with that I would like to see people loving and serving the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
How can this happen? Making relationships is a big key. In the Middle East culture, taking time to drink coffee with friends is very important. It is considered an honor to be visited by friends. The Community center was set up to help bridge the gap of the needs felt by the community. It is a place for girls and women to come and do art classes, learn English, participate in business classes or any other new activity that is developed. There has been talk of starting a recreational program at the center later. My plan is to help at the community center with the programs that are already set in place. I will start by learning the language so that I can begin to get to know the women and girls that come. I hope that through the center, I will be able to make deep relationships with the women and girls that enter. I hope to continue to help to provide a place of fun, learning and acceptance within the center. I would love to find an opportunity to work specifically with the children with special needs within the community.
In the parable of the rich man giving a feast, after he called the cripple, poor, and blind he found that table was still empty. He told his servant to go to the highways and the byways and compel people to come in. I have often found it interesting that there wasn’t enough poor to fill the table. Perhaps it is because as people, we can’t serve others by ourselves. Like the rich man, I don’t only invite the poor and crippled to the feast, but I also want to invite you. I invite you to join with me in bringing Jesus to the lives of women and children in the Middle East. The community center is not a paying job. I am looking for people would like to partner with me and support this ministry. Your donation will go towards language classes and daily living expenses.
(On behalf of Deed and Truth Ministries we would like to raise $20,000 to help with expenses for this young lady as she goes to the Middle East to show Christs love by serving the women of that culture.) Please send your donation to: Deed & Truth Ministries, 906 Tennessee Ave, Etowah TN 37331