Sunday, October 21, 2007

You went where?!

Afghanistan - May 2007

In May of this year we were able to take one of the most amazing trips we could have imagined taking. With one suitcase for the three of us, we got on a plane to Kabul, Afghanistan to visit my parents, Dan and Mary Allison. We had thought about going and tried to plan it earlier, but this was the time that worked for all of us. Our minds raced to imagine what we might see or even the dangers we might face, especially bringing a six month old with us. On the way, we had an overnight layover in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and then flew into Kabul the next morning.

We got off the plane and entered into another world altogether. Every woman, and there were not very many at the airport, had her head covered and showed no skin on the rest of her body. The men were serious and businesslike. The women and men didn't interact much. As we walked into the customs area, a man pulled me up to the front of the line with Maya and left John at the back of the line. I admit it was a little scary, but I waited for him on the other side while he went through the line. Maya was, of course, dazzling everyone and calling attention with her bright blue eyes. After the luggage arrived we walked out of the airport to meet my parents and Fayaz, who works with them in the HOPE office.

The air in Kabul is orange if you can imagine it. There is dust everywhere and you can't help but think of the time when Jesus lived because it is at least closer to what he might have seen. The day we arrived, President Karzai had also been traveling and so we saw a good number of military officers and military vehicles around the airport. We arrived at the HOPE compound in the heat of the day and for the first time met the staff my parents have come to love so dearly. They greeted us with as much warmth as they could muster. Afghans are not generally affectionate, but in there eyes you could see how glad they were to have us visiting.

We got acquainted with the offices, the rooms where the international staff live and the room where everyone comes together to eat. It was incredible to finally see and feel what my pare

nts had been living for the past year and a half. In the subsequent days, we were able to visit a few different parts of the city, including the Malalai Emergency facility that HOPE Worldwide is constructing and a women's prison where HOPE WW plans to provide some vocational training. In the afternoons, we were able to jo

in the staff, along with some of the orphan children that they care for, in some friendly games of volleyball.

One of the highlights of the trip was traveling with nearly the entire HOPE staff to a mountain that jets out into the center of Kabul. Rumor has it that the wall lining the top of this mountain was built by Alexander the Great thousands of years ago. We climbed for a couple of hours until we reached the peak and could see the entire city. It was breathtaking!

During our time there, we were able to see and hear about the grants that they are applying for and get a picture of all of the ways that HOPE is planning to serve in Kabul and the rest of Afghanistan in the years to come. Often times when we hear of Afghanistan, all we hear about is violence and we get a sense that there is no hope for the country. What they never put on the news is the hundreds of organizations that are there risking their lives to rebuild it. It was so obvious to us that there truly are beacons of light in Kabul and people that are trying desperately to bring hope to a hurting people. We are so grateful that we were able to take the trip to see my parents, their home and their work. It is an experience we will never forget.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

HOPE in Santiago

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. Psalm 82:3-4

But he answered, "You give them something to eat." Mark 6:37

God's heart has been and will always be a heart of compassion, sympathy and mercy towards those who are in need. Jesus himself demonstrated this when he fed the 5,000.

Within the church here in Santiago, we have a small ministry of HOPE. The group is made up of disciples who have deep desire to help the poor and needy. Right now the ministry has two projects that happen every weekend. On Saturday mornings, a group goes out to the central market to give food to the many homeless people who gather there. Another group goes on Sunday afternoons to a home for orphans to spend time with the children there.

I've started going on Saturday mornings and it is has been an incredible experience for me. Many of the disciples wake up before 7 am on Saturday to make it to the location by 8 am so that we can prepare the sandwiches and coffee for the people who are waiting. Although at first it seemed like a sacrifice to wake up early and go out in the cold, it has become one of my favorite times of the week.

Each week I get to spend an hour talking with and listening to people who have very different lives than mine, but who's souls are in need of the very same things: love, encouragement and hope. Sometimes I can share a scripture with them, sometimes I just listen. But every time I walk away amazed by God's grace and the hope that we can find in Him.

On September 15th to celebrate the "Fiestas Patrias", we brought empanadas and music. Also, some disciples who dance the tradional "Cueca" came and performed. It was inspiring to see the transformation that occured with a little music and dancing. The men and women who usually appear discouraged and sad about life, became joyful and alive. I realized then how a small amount of love and thought could really make a positive impact. If you want to see more photos of that day, click here to see the photo album.

I've decided that every saturday that I am able, I will go to serve those who are in need. I know that it will help my heart to be more like Christ and to be more grateful for all that God has done in my life. I pray and believe that at the same time God will bring hope to those who are hurting here in Santiago and everywhere in the world.