On our recent Remedy Mission X in Fallujah, we were privileged to work alongside Drs. Kirk and Kim Milhoan. Dr. Kirk, one of the most traveled and experienced cardiologists in the world, brought a team of 6 Americans to Fallujah last week and provided 12 Iraqi children with an operation—it was an incredible success!
We had such a great time working with the team that we’ve asked them to share a little about their experience, and Dr. Kim Milhoan has graciously obliged. Keep reading below…
So, I’d be absolutely lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about this trip. Everyone who reads my writing prior to this trip knows that I spent the week really asking God for what He is trying to teach me. And often I find the lesson is very different from what I thought it would be.
By the time I arrived in Fallujah, I was actually excited for the honor and opportunity to step out in faith. In my mind, this had never been required of me to this level, where I truly thought my personal security and safely could be at risk. Here comes the part where I absolutely praise our Fallujan hosts: they have gone out of their way to protect us with constant armed guards, armored vehicles, etc. I never felt unsafe.
I believe that all of man’s defenses are ultimately penetrable, but they did everything in their power to keep us safe. They were gracious, welcoming, generous, and concerned for our every need and comfort. I could relax. And, as strange as it might seem, this confused me. I was actually looking forward to a difficult week of utter reliance on God. I realized how quickly I can revert to reliance on man.
The same is true in our care for the children. We’ve done this a lot. We’ve gotten good at making the best of less-than-ideal-circumstances. Once again, I began to rely on my skills or supplies rather than on God’s provision. So if I wasn’t exercising utter reliance on the Lord for safety or for patient outcomes, I was at least being a good witness for the Lord in whom I believe. It’s like the bible says, “they will know we are Christians by our love.”
We can laugh as a team because we’ve been doing this together so long that we know each other’s idiosyncrasies, weaknesses, and hot buttons. I’m sure mine are quite evident to my teammates. After we finished our five days of twelve caths and all the children were doing well, we were treated to a trip to the province Governor’s house late one evening. What an amazing caravan we were part of, absolutely impossible to describe! On the way home I was reflecting on all these things. I was disappointed in myself for not relying on the Lord like I wanted, for not praying without ceasing like I thought I should, and for failing to let His light shine through me. Then one of my favorite verses in the Bible (Injil) came to mind:
But we have this treasure in plain, earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.
It brought tears to my eyes. It’s not about me. I’m so “earthen” and limited, and so I fail. But the power to heal and love is God’s, not mine—thank God!
Once again I’m astounded by the freedoms I enjoy. No one chooses the country they’re born in. I was born into opportunity and choice. I’ve been given the gift of privilege and position. I can choose to be courageous and go and visit and hopefully help, serve, love, and encourage those who find themselves in completely different circumstances not of their choosing.
I pray we have the opportunity to bless and be blessed by the Fallujan people many more times to come.
We just need 25 more suture packs for our upcoming Remedy Fellowship training program! Help us save lives, and cut it to 24 today!
February 3, 2012 by Jeremy · Comments Off
I remember those early, heady days when we founded the Preemptive Love Coalition and we envisioned—for the first time—an Iraq free of the burdensome backlog of children waiting in line for heart surgery. I remember calling families to alert them that we could finally send their child to heart surgery, only to hear on the other end of the line a polite-but-devastated, “It’s too late. My child died yesterday.”
I’ve sat in different waiting rooms across the country where children were waiting to be seen by the doctor, and I’ve seen children die before my eyes—literally while waiting in line.
We’ve said from the beginning that our mission is to “eradicate the backlog.” But our vision, stated more positively, is that every Iraqi child would have access to the surgical intervention they require to thrive.
Since 2003 and the start of the war, an estimated 50,000 children have been born into The Backlog. There is no way of knowing how many were already alive and waiting in line before that time; nor do we know how many we have lost during that period nationwide.
In that time, while seeking to serve these children, we have faced bombings, death threats, the imprisonment of our staff, armed conflict in the cities where we’ve worked, political roils, funding crises, and partnerships that have turned predatory.
The minefields you will have to endure while pursuing your vision are complex. All the easy stuff has been accomplished already! The things that remain are usually fraught with risk and even danger. Depending on your context, it will become impossible at times to move forward with your vision at all.
So what do you do when you are placed in a holding pattern? Like these Iraqi children I’ve sat with and held, the “waiting room” is where many a vision has died. Visions need activity. They need momentum. They need progress.
Below are three things I’ve consistently done to nurture vision while stuck, for reasons beyond my control, in the waiting room.
1) Plan. Whether the vision you are nurturing is one for your marriage, your children, your business, or some social issue across the world, nothing gets done well without planning. When you start to become dissatisfied with the world (marriage, business, etc) as it is; when you start to envision a better way to live or a solution to one of the world’s intractable problems, you must begin to plan.
Planning means different things relative to the vision in question. It might mean quiet research on the problem itself. It might require a lot of info gathering about proposed and enacted solutions currently in the marketplace. If the problem is really so bad, why has no one else tackled it yet? What are the obstacles to success? Is the space crowded with solutions already? What would you need to do in order to bring something new to the field? What will it cost if it all goes well? What will it cost if it all goes terribly?
Woe to the visionary who jumps in without planning. The waiting room is one of the most important places for a vision to begin, as it gives us time to make our missteps on paper before ever spending a dime or wasting the time of others in the real world.
2) Position. I’ve met many people along this journey who want to eradicate poverty, provide clean water, transform social problems across Iraq and the Middle East, etc. Among the worst things I’ve seen passionate visionaries do is a chronic failure to become well-positioned in the field of choice so that expertise and solutions might flow more naturally.
A well-intentioned twenty-something starts a new non-profit organization out of Idaho to help Darfur. A well-to-do family from the suburbs launches a ministry to the homeless downtown. A businessman seeks to change industries and launch a new venture at the invitation of a friend.
Sometimes these things work well enough. But if you are pursuing a vision for the future as it should be, and not merely as it is, you must position yourself for the desired change.
Whenever possible, I advocate networking and proximity. Trying to engineer a vision for another part of the world from the comfort of your living room in America is usually a bad idea. A reliance on internet material instead of diverse, first-hand accounts from your customers or constituents just won’t cut it. Whether you are in business or in international development—indeed even as a parent or a spouse—vision is about meeting the needs of others. We must be in a position to accurately understand the needs of those for whom we are pursuing our vision.
When the waiting room keeps you from fully acting upon your desired vision, sometimes the best thing you can do is move your body; get closer to the action; and hold more meetings with all relevant parties to ensure that you deeply understand the issues affecting them.
3) Pray. I won’t spend my time on a vision that I can accomplish on my own. Anything small enough to be accomplished by me, without the intervention of God, is a task that I am happy to forgo and leave for someone else.
When I pursue vision, I choose to work on things that overwhelm me and cause me to go to God in prayerful dependence. In fact, one of the greatest things for me about pursuing vision is the act of worship that it can become; not worship of the vision itself, but worship of the God who alone can sovereignly work through human freedom to bring about a better future.
I realize not all readers and visionaries will agree with me on this point. But when I am sitting in the waiting room of vision (or riding the wave of visionary success, for that matter), I commit myself again and again to God who hears, who cares, and who proactively works in this world to set all wrongs to right.
The snares that lay in wait for you on your journey to fulfill your vision are beyond number. The delays and unexpected detours have caused the death of countless visions and visionaries. Planning, positioning and prayer are neither exhaustive nor fool-proof, but without these disciplines, my vision that every Iraqi child would have access to the cardiac surgical intervention they require to thrive in childhood and become fully-contributing members of society would have long-since died in the many waiting rooms that have beset us along the way.
Are you in a holding pattern? Are you waiting on details to be clarified? Is your how still taking shape now that you’ve defined the what of your vision?
Keep planning, get positioned, and by all means I commend to you the God Who Cares.
These things are not passing. They are still a part of the active pursuit of your vision. Do you see it differently? Do you have other disciplines you use when stuck in one of life’s waiting rooms? I would love to hear about it. Send me an email by clicking this link.
The streets were absolutely silent. No kids running around, no mothers yelling after them. It was a little after one on the first day of Ramadan and the whole neighborhood seemed to be telling me, “For goodness’s sake, get out of this heat, go back inside and preserve what few bodily fluids you have.”
But I had a specific mission this day. Having been raised a Christian in the Midwest of the United States, I have very little first-hand experience with Islam. So on this day I was headed to a friend’s home to learn more about this Ramadan business.
Medya and her family welcomed me into their quieted home. The soporific atmosphere had already gotten to her older brother, who lay sleeping on the couch, while other family members wandered around in their house clothes alternating between reading the Koran and staring into space. So this is it? I wondered.
Thirty days devoted to inactivity and religious texts? If there’s one thing I’ve picked up on about my Muslim friends its their whole-hearted love and respect for God’s will. They are intensely devoted to knowing it, following it and furthering it. I soon discovered that the scene in this room demonstrated no less than this.
For the next hour and a half Medya and her siblings (and Google Translate) walked me through the ins and outs of Ramadan. I learned that any good deed done during these 30 days will count for many times over during the rest of the year. They explained people will be more generous, more kind and more caring during this time than any other.
Ramadan is “the month of forgiveness”—a time of fasting and petition before the Most High. A sin forgiven during Ramadan is a sin forgiven 100 times over for the next year. And as Medya reminded me, “God is at all times merciful.” Similarly, if you read the Koran during these 30 days it will be to God as if you’ve read it 30 times. (Medya and her sisters will each read the Koran twice this year—to build a credit of 60 times).
As the afternoon wound down (if that’s possible) they began explaining the concept of “Zikat”. It’s a percentage of all your “saved” assets that must be given to the poor. Any money you’re not using, gold you’re not wearing, or livestock you shepherd must be accounted for. 1 oz of silver for every 140 oz you have, 2.5% of your gold, 1 sheep for every 40. This rule instated by the prophet Muhammed himself has changed some over time.
In most Muslim countries, there is no longer a “Ministry of Zikat” to monitor and distribute these offerings. Instead each family brings their personal percentage of wealth directly to a family in need. “In need” ranges anywhere from abject poverty to refugees to those people displaced because of volunteer work or schooling.
As we covered this last category, Medya’s brother looked at me and laughed, “Lydia—that’s you! Maybe you will get a sheep.”
Remember Jenga? That crazy game where you pull blocks out of the wooden tower, hoping it doesn’t tumble over? Making plans often feels like a game of Jenga. You build a tower of ideas piece-by-piece, then life pulls at pieces of your plan, and sometimes our tower of plans comes crumbling down…
About a month ago, we received some disappointing news, and the PLC staff had to make a difficult decision. The Remedy Mission we all hoped to experience in our city, was canceled. For many of the interns, this Remedy Mission was the biggest reason we fought so hard to get the PLC internship. From the start of our internship process, we wanted to meet the families and kids who would be on the receiving end of lifesaving surgeries. Some of the intern’s assigned work even revolved around there being a Remedy Mission.
To make a complicated situation simple, the hospital and a local nonprofit partner didn’t prepare enough for the impending surgical mission. The hospital wasn’t as equipped to handle these complex surgeries as it should have been and funding was withheld. Surgical missions always have some risk involved, but PLC won’t dive into a Remedy Mission with unnecessary risks that could cost children their lives.
PLC could have provided more funds to make the surgical mission happen and just hoped the hospital’s current equipment was sufficient, but this is about long term solutions over short term gain. The problem could have been temporarily fixed with a handout, but we would much rather empower local organizations and hospitals to take ownership and responsibility for their community–for saving the lives of their children.
We don’t ram solutions down people’s throats. We’re here to aid local desires and local initiatives. So when local preparations fall or local enthusiasm wanes, we don’t force it. Part of creating long term solutions lies in ensuring that this is something local doctors, government officials and parents of sick babies really want–without our patronage.
Thankfully, PLC was still able to host a Remedy Mission, but it was relocated to a partnering city which was better-prepared, in a place most interns were unable to go.
When the rug is pulled out from under us, we can’t help but feel disappointment. However, we must come to the realization that GOD will reconcile our plans. Even when our Jenga tower crumbles to the floor, GOD is still in control.
Now Remedy VI is finished in southern Iraq, and we can praise GOD for each of the 18 kids who received a successful heart surgery and for zero fatalities!
The internship is now over and–Remedy Mission or not–each of us experienced so many valuable events and lessons. Our plans never really work out quite how we anticipate, but we’ve seen that GOD is trustworthy and will work everything out for the best.
February 14, 2011 by matt · Comments Off
This month’s featured Coalition member is David Beccue.
Working internationally as a software engineer and business owner, his chief aspiration is to know, love, and serve GOD well with what he’s been given.
He also shares our Core Value of all-inclusive care: “I’m really attracted to the model of addressing people’s needs so holistically: health, spirit, vocation, politics, worldview, etc.”
But that love for the whole person isn’t just a pithy abstraction. For David, caring for others begins with the person next door and extends outward:
“Continue to love people around you, but don’t neglect getting involved in ministering to the whole world as well. Organizations like PLC are a great way to lengthen your arms to serve people where your legs don’t travel.”
So if you haven’t perused our Core Values lately, I’d encourage you to go check them out. We want you to know exactly what the Coalition is all about and what we’re asking you to take part in. Then, if you like what you see, go add us on Facebook so we can stay in touch.
There is no Coalition without you!
December 15, 2010 by Cody · Comments Off
Remember Ahmed, Noor, Hussein, and Riza from our first Remedy?
They remember you!
They were the group of four who traveled 600 kilometers north to receive their life-saving surgeries last August. Today, they only had to go down the road to show us how well they were all doing!
I didn’t even recognize any of them! Can you? Together, all four have gained a total of 33 pounds since their operation! All their parents said the same thing, “They won’t stop moving or eating!”
All signs that their body is getting stronger each day with their whole hearts.
Ahmed’s parents are doing great after their car accident. His father is back at work and his mom has the new full-time job of keeping up with Ahmed!
Riza’s mother said, “She’s a completely new child since the surgery. Before, she couldn’t stand or crawl but now she’s running everywhere!”
Hussein’s mother said, “He has a fresh face now! Before, he was tired and his heart would beat fast. Now he’s full of energy and his heart doesn’t hold him back.”
They thanked GOD for you today and they remembered how you made Remedy possible. They told me, “We’ll never forget what you did for us!”
July 18, 2010 by Jeremy · Comments Off
Her purple dress could not have matched her skin tone any better. As Nivar disembarked the airplane after arriving safely in Istanbul, I was more than a little scared that all our efforts were going to amount to a movement from the frying pan to the fire.
The oxygen in a crowded airplane cabin at cruising altitude is not the ideal environment for a child with a heart defect that inhibits the flow of oxygen throughout her body. And when I saw Nivar crouching down in the airport after going through the first round of security, I was really afraid that we might lose her right then and there.
In GOD’s kindness she worked through her breathing difficulty with the determination of someone who has never known any better. While I was worried about her, she seemed to hardly know anything was wrong. This shortness of breath, clubbed hands and toes, and deep blue skin is all she’s ever known.
Upon arriving at the hospital it was more of the same. She preferred to crouch on the floor to sit in her beautiful private bed. In fact, she preferred to crouch on the floor to pretty much any thing else at all.
But she’s here. She survived the flight and the travel across town – two things that we are constantly concerned about with children who are as sick as Nivar. Now she is in the capable hands of the medical staff at the Anadolu Medical Center. In a few days’ time, she will have had her heart surgery and, with great likelihood, will be on her way to a totally new life of long walks and intense soccer matches with her brother.
Stay tuned for more…
From the day I first met her in our office, what I remember most are her eyes. In the land of dark skin and eyes to match, Nivar and her hopeful, green eyes separate themselves from the rest.
Nivar is a young girl who feels the effects of her heart defects, a girl who is reminded daily of her need for surgery. Unlike some of our kids, who can live lives without many outward signs of their inward battle, the results of her defect is evident.
I went to visit Nivar and her family in the volatile Iraqi city of Chamchamal and was again reminded how I hate seeing the innocent suffer. While some stayed inside to talk, I was outside with Nivar and her brother, playing with their futbol, as has become the norm.
We started to kick it around, allowing the futbol to distract us from the pain of this situation. We forgot about thoughts of her failing heart; that she was different from me and her brother. We forgot this until Nivar walked away from us and lied down on their swing.
At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of this. Did she just not like futbol? Did she not like me?! What was it? I asked her to come back and play with us, and she quietly replied, “Natwanim, helakim” (I can’t. I’m tired).
Then it hit me. She really couldn’t keep playing. Her heart couldn’t handle it. She had no choice but to sit and rest.
And this is when I again started to grieve. What did Nivar do wrong? I long for restoration, when bodies no longer fail; when children no longer fear their hearts; when all is made right. I look into Nivar’s strikingly green, innocent eyes and need someone to blame.
This isn’t fair; it isn’t right. I am weary of child after child being brought to us by hopeful parents, praying to God we can save their son or daughter. Today, I just need someone to blame.
Is this Saddam’s fault, like so many claim? The chemical attacks, the gassing of thousands, the testing of primitive nerve gas agents on abducted Kurds − is this all his fault?
Those bombs he dropped; those slow-falling bombs filled with chemicals designed to savagely destroy all things living − what about those? Can I blame them? Are they the root of these issues? Did those weapons ever realize their deadly poison would be seeping their way into the heart of a little girl named Nivar years later?
Could Saddam have looked into these green eyes and continued to follow through with his attacks?
Many say it’s his fault. There’s no way to say it conclusively. Today, needing someone to blame, I blame Saddam. But even this is not complete.
No, we must go further than Saddam. For even he was driven by something. I can blame only sin. As a follower of GOD, I grieve the effects of our rebellion. I acknowledge these things also break GOD’s heart, and I long for things to be restored. I come to GOD hopeful, believing his promises that he loves his children, like Nivar, far more than I am ever able to.
And so, I hope.
SEND NIVAR TO SURGERY! Nivar has a four-fold set of heart defects known as Tetralogy of Fallot. At eight years old her growth has been stunted by lack of oxygen in her blood and subsequent lack of energy, activity, etc. But a total corrective surgery can still free her up for on-time development as she moves into her ninth birthday in September. Her father has gathered $3,500 from savings, friends, and family to help send Nivar to surgery! We need less than $2,000 to send her in July! Donate the amount of your choice below to get her on her way!
CLICK HERE and read the post…
Then check the comments about 11 comments down.
Last week Hussein was given the official clearance to head back home to Iraq! He had a bit slower recovery than the other kids have and required a pacemaker to maintain the health of his heart- but he’s pulled through like a champ! Hussein and his family are excited about his healthy heart, but are also bearing a great weight of concern about the safety of their city in Iraq. Our partner staff in Jerusalem wrote about Hussein’s mother:
“She had an emotional departure from our house in Jerusalem two days ago, and it was obvious when we visited them last evening in the apartment here in Amman that her heart was still full of conflict about leaving the people and the place where Hussein had received the help he needed. She spoke of how wonderful the people are, that there are many good people in Jordan, and how thankful she is for the help they have received. And it is clear to those of us who first met her at the echocardiogram screening in October that the experiences they’ve had have changed the heart of both the mother as well as the son.”
“Hussein’s mother was quietly emotional during the time we spent together this day. They return to a very dangerous area of Iraq, and it is beyond the comprehension of most of us the extreme contrast she is experiencing at this time. While with us, she so enjoyed the freedom to go about the city and know she was safe… now she returns to the reality of a life I honestly cannot imagine. She was carrying so many things in her heart! I felt as we rode home from the airport it was as if a revolution was being birthed within her, one which perhaps represents the desires of many others in her nation who have not had the opportunity to experience the things she has. Please join me in praying for this beautiful mother and her son, and their family, as well as for the peoples in the land in which they live, to fulfill the good purpose God had when He created them.”