Life has not slowed down since the last blog I wrote where I was the Middle East traveler and went to 5 countries in 2 months.  Well, that is not entirely true about slowing down.  At the end of May we had the joy and privledge of attending our 3rd son’s high school graduation (Jacob).  I must pause and give a big shout out to Jacob who at age 9 was diagnosed with severe dyslexia. He finished his last year of high school with a 3.49 GPA and used no accommodations. Nor did he ask me to help him with one assignment.  Up until he was 11 years old, I thought I would have to go to university with him.  We studied every single subject together.  What an accomplishment and a 100% testimony to God’s faithfulness in providing an incredible special ed teacher while we lived-in far-flung Papua, Indonesia. Unbelievable. I’m so grateful and proud of the obstacles Jacob has overcome and the resilience he has built.

Back to the slowing down part of this story. Within days of the graduation event Darron and I had our turn with COVID. Quarantine has a way of breaking the pace.  The incredible thing was the way our housing was provided for (always an annual leave challenge) and the forced time we had to work on some big projects that needed our attention.  Sadly, it did mean mi必利勁 ssing spending time with friends and family. A comforting fact was we would be returning for our 2nd son’s wedding (Andrew) in July.

Flying back to Beirut at the beginning of June found me on a major declutter the house mode (so liberating). It is crazy the stuff that has gathered in 3 years. A friend offered to film a video for Woven Dignity. You can view that here:  https://youtu.be/vMGgcQSXKl0  Such a huge gift of time and effort. I spent many hours writing proposals for Woven Dignity and working on different systems and aspects of this little non-profit.  I never dreamed it would have so many layers and require so much of my attention.  If I had known this at the beginning, I would have never started it. So, I think that lack of foresight is sometimes an advantage (especially to the refugees whom the organization benefits).

My part-time job gave the satisfaction of finishing an on-line interactive health portal that uses short videos and a bot to try to get people to think about ways they can improve their health. It is designed to be contextualized for the Middle East with the images, stories, and statistics. You can check out the link here https://livehealthylivewell.online/. Our goal is to now get it translated into 5 languages.  This job stretches me in ways I never imagined.  It is so far removed from bed side nursing, but it is rewarding in its own way, and I am sure it is building important skills in me.  Hopefully, the material that is being created will benefit many.

Smushed between work, Woven Dignity, and de-cluttering the house, I had the amazing privledge to go to Jordan (the week of July 4) and attend an Indigenous worker’s retreat.  The goal was that these precious workers could be taught and enjoy learning in their own language.  Far from being even remotely fluent in Arabic I was invited to teach the women in 4 sessions. Such an amazing experience.   Perhaps one advantage of being a foreigner is that I can bring up important topics that might normally be taboo. One session was on: His needs/Her needs.  After talking about what men need, I told them that it is OK for them to express to their husbands’ things they need (i.e., help with the kids, or the house or perhaps some flowers). The room erupted for 20 minutes with extremely animated discussion as the Upper Egyptian women expressed that they are culturally not allowed to share their needs. They must be silent. Other Middle Eastern women encouraged them to try and find ways to begin to change this tradition. I have always longed to mentor women, what a thrilling experience this was.

Returning from a week in Jordan we had just over 48 hours to regroup and pack to leave for the USA again.  If it was just packing it would not have been a big deal, but it is also getting hundreds of cards from Woven Dignity packaged and counted to travel. In addition, there were going away parties to attend, zoom meetings and even a wedding that started at 5 and we left for the airport at 6! Our crazy lives. But before I could leave, I had to go and visit my refugee ladies who Woven Dignity started with.

They fed me an amazing salad despite my protest that I wasn’t hungry, and we sipped on the best home squeezed lemonade. One of the women shared the incredible challenge of finding insulin in Beirut currently and being able to afford it (an issue for most Lebanese, no mind the refugees). We chatted about how she desperately needs a glucose monitor, because she goes by feeling if her sugar level is high or low.  But we can all testify that feelings are not a good judge of reality in more than one way, especially a diabetic’s blood glucose level.

I always try to bring them back something from the US, but I have never asked them what they would like.  So, this time I decided I would.  At first, they were shy and would not suggest anything, but with coaxing and my insistence they began.  One sister requested sunglasses, but then changed her mind for a watch.  The other sister asked for only insulin, but when I told her I can’t bring back medicine that requires a prescription she jokingly asked for a husband.  Their 60+ year-old Mom emphatically said “LA, LA, LA” (no, no, no) when I asked her if she wanted a husband but then this gave her the courage to ask for some shoes. Meanwhile, the first brave sister rethought her request for a watch and decided to exchange it for a husband too.

As I left their apartment, I teased them with my US shopping list.  “2 husbands and 1 pair of shoes”. I kept reciting it, as if to make myself not forget. “2 husbands and 1 pair of shoes”. We laughed, we hugged, and I was reminded again why I fight for these women who have suffered incredible loss.

We all know that I won’t return to Beirut with the shopping list completed, but hopefully I will return with the good news that Woven Dignity took wing, and they can be secure in their work. If you would like to help, get part of their wish list (and for the other ladies too) click here: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/dl/invite/0gEXAFi?ref_=wl_share

If you would like to support Woven Dignity through card purchases or donations click here: https://www.wovendignity.com/

As always, thank you for reading and praying.  God’s hand is not short in the Middle East nor is it towards you.  Courage dear one.

P.S. Aug 22, 2022: I just wanted to give a quick update to the last blog I wrote and the responses I received.

Thank you. Thank you for trusting me with your gifts and money.

I was able to bring back lovely gifts for all my refugee workers from your generosity. My oldest worker was delighted with her Clark shoes (and they fit perfectly). Her daughter commented that when she used to travel to England to study (before the war) that she would buy Clark shoes for her Mom and Dad.

The glucose monitor is an amazing gift for my diabetic worker. I went to her home yesterday and taught her how to use it. Not surprisingly her sugar was 376. I told her to start checking her blood sugar levels 3-4 times a day. She is scared to use the test strips too fast. Sigh…. life is so challenging here for most.

The sunglasses and watches were received with great joy, along with the toys. And the money… I am using it to give bonuses. Desperately needed bonuses. As prices soar and the Lebanese pound weakens my people so need this help.

So thank you again. I can’t tell who purchased what, but I wanted you to know that your gifts did much to encourage hearts, along with mine. And even though I didn’t bring back 2 husbands, I did come back with 1 pair of shoes (and more). I also came back with the hope that Woven Dignity will continue on…. more on that in the next blog!