Through the Pain…Hope is Rising

Sometimes, things are beautiful. So beautiful they make you want to sing and jump and cry- all at the same time. Sometimes, you can so clearly see the work that God is doing it’s as if you can almost taste the goodness.

Those things are beautiful.

 A few days ago, we experienced something beautiful. An international team was in the area, and we were able to go into villages to screen hundreds of children for heart defects. Performing hundreds of echocardiograms; hundreds of EKGs. So many squirming, wriggling, oh so precious little bodies…heartbeat after heartbeat echoing down through the rooms. The emotion in each room was high.  Anxious parents holding their hopes and dreams in their arms, waiting to hear the coveted words…”Your child has a beautiful, healthy heart”…while bracing for the worst. Sighs of relief at good news heard are palpable, then quickly followed by endless thanks. But the sharp intakes of breath- the dashing of those hopes and dreams- are what pierce my heart instead.

 Please…please help us. This is my child.

 A family came to this clinic, with a precious twenty day old gift. The little boy was clearly very sick, with a tell-tale blue-ish tint. Again, the familiar chorus from the wearied father…”Please. He is my baby boy. Please help him”. He was diagnosed with Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA)…a complex CHD. There wasn’t much time, but the visiting surgeon thought that he could give him a chance. In God’s perfect timing, he had come into town…just in time to meet this little gem.  He agreed to operate as soon as possible, as early as the next day! Plans were made and things fell into place…this little one had hope. As soon as he could arrive at a city much farther south, he would have his chance. A chance to grow. A chance to flourish. A chance to live.

 This. This, my friends, is beautiful.

 But sometimes, sometimes things are painful. Sometimes things are so painful that you can’t begin to understand. You can’t think. You can’t shout. Sometimes, you can’t even cry. You can only sit stunned, and pray that things will begin to make sense. Pray that it’s wrong…that this can’t be true…that there must be some mistake.

These things are painful.

 Yesterday, we experienced something painful. Something that wrenched my heart, pierced my soul, and left me raw…questioning…trembling. This precious one, for whom mountains had been moved and great hope had been placed…

He passed away.

 Just minutes after reaching the hospital in the south. Just minutes before a life-giving surgery could begin. And it was too late. It was shocking. It was unexpected. It did not match in the slightest our expectations of the hope and joy in this day…for this boy….for his family. Hope was dashed. Life was lost. The reality stings.

 This. This, my friends, is painful.

 But there is beauty in this pain. Because you see, this little one had a chance. He had a hope. He was not turned away…sent home due to a broken medical system…or given up on. His story here was rewritten, and the hope in it shines through.

 He was fought for. He was given a chance for life. And he was loved.

 In a country where this type of medical care is rarely seen…where thousands of children with heart defects have previously sat on medical waiting lists without a chance or a hope for an unbroken life…this story infuses hope. Because maybe someday, all the children of Iraq will have the same chance at life this little one was given. Maybe someday, all the children with broken hearts will be mended, learning to run and jump and play, experiencing life like they never have before.

 This little one was so worth it. He is the symbol of the hope that is to come. Because out of this dusty, broken country where hope is dry…He is creating beautiful things. Because his chance, his fight, his life…is the beauty.

 Hope is rising. Can you feel it?

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All around,

Hope is springing up from this old ground.

Out of chaos, life is being found in You.

You make beautiful things,

You make beautiful things out of dust.

You make beautiful things,

You make beautiful things out of us”

– Gungor “Beautiful Things”

A Conundrum of Sorts

What does it look like to be brave? What does it look like to have courage?

I’m wrestling with these very thoughts as I walk the streets of Iraq for the very first time these first few days. My corner of Iraq is nothing like what I expected…but yet everything that it should be. Dusty mountains against a crystal-blue sky dot the horizon…except when the wind swirls the dust all through the air, clouding the sky. Colorful, flashing lights and signs top street corners and buildings. Busy streets filled with people of all colors, dress, and language. Modern café and gelato shops touting free wifi are just blocks away from beautiful shops filled with Middle Eastern paintings, huge urns filled with exotic dried fruits and roasted nuts, and hand-woven baskets spilling over with spices in the brightest and most brilliant shades of reds, oranges, blues, yellows.

When telling others about my upcoming time in Iraq, the phrase I heard most often was “Wow. You must be really brave. That’s not an easy place…I’ll be praying for you!” While I CERTAINLY need your prayers…this really shook me. As I look around at this place and her people, and then at myself, I don’t see bravery. Obedience to a calling? Yes. But bravery? Friends, I look around me and see bravery like I have never had to display in the faces of each and every person I see. Iraqis who have had their lives devastated by wars, corruption, and poverty…but who live each day with a smile on their face. They have picked themselves up, and have kept on going. I see bravery in the parents who bring their weak, broken-hearted children to our doctors, who after hearing the risks and hardships that accompany each procedure, give everything in them to provide their precious little one a chance at hope…a chance for life. I see bravery in the faces of the Iraqi surgeons attempting these complicated heart surgeries in a country where this type of medical care is seldom seen. These surgeons who go to any length to heal a precious child’s heart. I see the faces of the children undergoing these life-altering procedures, most of them old enough to know exactly what the procedure and recovery process will entail. And I see them accept it will open, willing arms…bravery stamped right on their foreheads.

You see, my friends, Iraq is brave. She’s growing, struggling, shaking, and finding her foothold once again. In the three days I have been here, I have learned much from what she has to offer, and I know this is only a glimpse of what is to come. Iraq is beautiful and a sort of cultural conundrum, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Iraq is brave. And my hope and prayer is that I will learn to be brave right along with her…and her people.

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