On September 6th, Hurricane Irma crashed through the small island of Barbuda—home to around 1,800 residents. The Barbudans knew the storm was potentially coming their way and boarded up their homes to wait it out. What they heard might be a Category 3 or Category 4 hurricane came in as a terrifying Category 5. It's a miracle that only one life was lost in the storm. Please continue to pray for the family whose toddler son died when he was literally ripped from their arms by the strong winds. In the days that followed all the residents of Barbuda were evacuated to their larger sister island Antigua. They've been there ever since with limited opportunity to return.

Thankfully Antigua didn't receive much damage from Irma. We are able to operate from a base in Antigua to support our work in Barbuda. Every morning Mark and a construction crew board an early flight to Barbuda for a long, hot day helping the residents clean up and make repairs to their roofs. They've distributed tarps to help nearly 100 homes so far. For the homeowners who need assistance, Mark and the team are installing the tarps for them. Most of the homeowners have been able to do the work themselves and have been grateful to receive our materials. The team is also providing small generators for homeowners who are coming over to stay for a few days to start the cleanup efforts. Keep in mind that many Barbudans have not even had a chance to return to Barbuda to see their homes. Slowly some are starting to come back, but there are no major services on the island in order to actually move back and stay for any length of time. So far our organization is the only one providing clean drinking water on the island. There is no electricity and there is major damage done to the water and plumbing system.

It's been an emotional weekend for homeowners returning to Barbuda as the home assessments have begun. A structural engineer and others have been going from house to house declaring which houses can be saved and which will be condemned. Some homeowners who thought their house could be repaired are now learning that it will have to be demolished. Another trauma on top of the loss they've already experienced. Please pray for them as they process this catastrophe and face the days ahead. I am encouraged, however, by the many stories I'm hearing from Mark and the team about how they are seeing hope restored to the Barbudans when they see our teams working hard to help them. Our presence and friendship on Barbuda is making a difference and we trust will make a lasting impact on their lives for years to come. And that's our prayer... that we'll be used by Jesus to be His hands and feet each day and that the fruit of our work, both physical and spiritual, will remain long after we're gone. 

This is C.G. Behind him is the shed his mom and dad, his daughter, and his two grandkids weathered Hurricane Irma in. As the first blast of the storm passed over their roof was ripped off. Then, in the calm of the eye they ran into the little shed because it was dry. Before they could get the door closed the second blast ripped the door open and then broke the little building into pieces. C.G.'s mom was sitting in the chair and couldn't move. The freezer had her pinned in but it also kept the wall from slamming down on them. C.G. said it was a miracle anyone survived. 

Thank you for your continued prayers and encouragement. We are honored to have the opportunity to serve the people of Barbuda and we're meeting many incredible people through our base of operations in Antigua as well. We'll keep you posted when we can and please follow along with us on Facebook and Instagram for more photos and updates.

Some of you may have already read this on Facebook. It is difficult to process what we experienced in Northern Iraq and seemingly impossible to explain. Mark's post has been such a gift to me and to so many others who were there. Putting into words what our hearts have struggled to comprehend. And reminding us of the Hope that still and always remains.

Read his post here... 
Tomorrow we will leave the emergency field hospital and return to Erbil. Early Saturday morning we will begin our 24-hour journey home. I don't know how to sum up my time here. Certainly I will be processing these past six weeks for months to come. I hope my occasional updates have given you some glimpse into what we have experienced. And I thank you again for all your prayers for us and the team. We've seen the horrific results of what evil can do. And we've witnessed the beauty of love bandaging up those wounds. We've seen God bring about miraculous healing. And we've seen lives transformed by the truth of the Gospel. One of our national doctors made a decision to believe in and follow Jesus just a few days ago! Despite this being such an intense and difficult time, I am so thankful to have had this opportunity and to see God working in such a unique way. I will forever carry the sadness in my heart of what we witnessed here, but I will also remember the sweetness of God's love in such a dark place and the unity of His people to care for the broken and the dying.

A Shining Light

One night as we were standing at the bedside of a dying little boy, a European security guard started encouraging us about the work we are doing here—and not just the work itself, but how we are carrying it out. He said that his Iraqi staff were hesitant about working at the hospital. They knew we are a Christian organization and joked (with more than just a hint of seriousness) about whether we would poison their food. Many people in the Middle East have been told lies about us. These men have been faithfully guarding us nonetheless, and this supervisor was saying he has seen a change in his guards because of the love we have shown to the patients. Most of them wanted to stay longer after their two-week shift ended. He went on to say, "There is a light all around this place and you would have to be blind not to see it." Praise God people are seeing the Light that we have carried into this darkness. May our good works here, spurred on by the love of Christ, bring glory to God and draw others to Him.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

This was removed from the side of a ten year old boy's chest. He is still recovering here at the hospital and we would appreciate your prayers for him and for all our patients. We've seen many healthy discharges and there have also been many who are transferred to other hospitals for further care.

If you want a glimpse into the battle in Mosul, click here for a 30 minute news documentary. Parts of it are hard to watch and there are a couple bad words in the subtitles, but it's quite informative. It's easy to see why we receive so many civilians causalities as the fighting is literally happening on the streets and around the homes where hundreds of thousands of people are still living. Many of our national staff members have family still living in these dangerous areas. Please pray for their safety and for a quick end to this brutal war.

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
John 1:5
Meet Aliza

I've enjoyed the opportunity to get to know some of our incredible Iraqi staff members. Last night I sat in the pharmacy for a while with Aliza* to hear some of her story. She and her family fled their home in 2014 when 1S1S was sweeping through the area. They left just in time—two hours before 1S1S arrived. Aliza's family is now living in Erbil but her father wants to one day return to his home. A few months ago she had the chance to go by her house which is not very far from our field hospital. "It was so dirty," she told me. "1S1S members lived in our house for over one year." Not only did they leave it a mess, but as is common in so many homes, they left behind deadly explosives. The military found two unexploded devices in her home.

Every three days Aliza leaves the safer city of Erbil and travels towards Mosul through a number of security checkpoints on both the Kurdistan and Iraq sides to come work with us at the hospital. Although it's difficult for all of us to see the tragedy of war in this way, Aliza enjoys working here. "It is so different here than anywhere else I have worked." I am so thankful for our national staff and the invaluable resource they are to us. This is their country. Our patients are their neighbors. They can serve them in ways we cannot. Thank you for lifting up all our staff in prayer. It is my hope that everyone will see that the "difference" here is the love of Christ flowing through us for every person who enters these gates.

 *Name changed for security

There are many structures like this near the field hospital. Homes, apartment buildings, businesses. All damaged and scarred by the violence of war.

This is one of the huge IDP camps for those who have fled Mosul. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes. Our teams are helping in camps like these in addition to the field hospital where Mark and I are serving.

Thoughts on Leaving

In a little over a week Mark and I will board a plane and head back to the States. I'm honestly trying not to think about it much. As with everywhere I've served, the roots of my heart sink down deep and it soon feels like home. I suppose it's not this country that feels like home—my view basically consists of giant concrete walls and the big blue sky overhead. But it's this community of believers serving together to bring comfort and healing to those who are suffering. When I heard God calling me to full-time ministry in 2005, I remember feeling a love and passion stirring in my heart for vulnerable people—those who were struggling to help themselves. While my role of serving others has looked different in different locations, I have always kept this desire. Here, in this place that often feels as if we're sitting at the doorstep of Hell, we have an opportunity to not only save lives, but to bring a hope and healing that goes beyond this physical world. Outside these walls people have experienced some of the darkest evil imaginable. Inside these walls they've encountered a love many cannot explain. I am so thankful, honored, and humbled to be here. I'm not quite ready to think about leaving. But since I know it's coming, I'll just dig in even deeper as I pray for God to use me to bring His love to this hurting nation. Thank you for your prayers as we finish out our final days here.

"I lift my eyes up to the hills— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord the Maker of heaven and earth." Psalm 121:1-2

It's like scrolling through a silent movie reel. Dozens of patients I have touched and who have forever impacted my life. Their faces are burned into my memory. The little girl on my first night at the field hospital who cried out for hours. Tortured by memories and horrors I can't even imagine. Another little girl days later who was so scared and in pain and just wanted her mommy. For days her mother fought for her life in the ICU. At one point when her mother woke up, they were able to be reunited for a couple of hours. I remember walking by and seeing them both asleep in the mother's bed. There were a few intense times throughout the mom's stay where she almost died—and by any medical standard should have died. But God miraculously intervened each time and our staff was able to eventually walk her out of the hospital, finally reunited with her family. She left our hospital having experienced the love of God in amazing ways through our team. I cannot forget the faces of the young boys I sat with who shortly after breathed their last breath on Earth. And I'll always remember the sweet face of a new friend who came in a few days ago. He was an older man who had shrapnel in his back after a drone attack. He had lost six of his eight pints of blood and I stood at his feet that night praying hard for him. The next morning I heard the good news that he survived the night. I also learned that he is a French professor in Mosul, so I've been visiting him each day and speaking to him in French. Spending time with him has been one of many highlights of my time here.

An update on the toddler who lost both of her legs. She has been able to come in for follow-ups (a miracle in itself!) and Frank our orthopedic surgeon has been straightening out her knee so that as her body continues to grow and adjust she will be able to use prosthetics. Praise God! Thank you for praying for her and please continue!

Prayer Requests

Thank you for every prayer lifted up for us and the team. The days are often long and intense and we depend on God to renew our strength each morning. Thank you for praying for God's protection for the hospital and for our team members as some travel back and forth. Please pray also for the details of the hospital itself. Pray that the generators keep running well. And for all of the behind-the-scenes operations that allow us to do what we're doing.

Thank you for praying for our patients and for peace in Iraq. Yesterday's press release from the UN states, "People, right now, are in trouble. We are hearing reports of parents struggling to feed their children and to heat their homes. Children and their families are starting to face critical shortages of safe drinking water. [As the military campaign begins] tens of thousands of people may flee or be forced to leave the city. Hundreds of thousands of civilians might be trapped— maybe for weeks, maybe for months." Truly the people in Mosul are facing a humanitarian crisis. Thankfully we are in a position to respond to some of the medical needs, but that is only a small part of a huge crisis. Thank you for continuing to pray for these families as they are constantly living in fear, struggling to have enough food, and suffering in the cold as temperatures are still often below freezing at night.

The more I travel the smaller the world seems sometimes. Bill Ragon walked into the EFH proudly wearing his Tennessee ball cap. We became fast friends. And it turns out his brother and sister-in-law go to my aunt's church in Milan, TN. I could brag on each person on our team, but I was especially encouraged by Bill's tender heart and gentle spirit no matter how difficult the day might have been.

I can never say it enough... Thank you! We appreciate your prayers and encouraging messages so much!

"The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him." Nahum 1:7
Today marks our second week at the field hospital. Time has been quite a fuzzy thing here. It feels like we've been here so much longer. I suppose that's due to the intensity of what we've seen and experienced here so far. I want to thank you again for your prayers and encouragement. I know the last update was hard to read, but I think it's important for people to remember that war isn't just two sides fighting against each other. War means homes are destroyed, families are separated, children have no safe place to play, and the people affected will never ever be the same. It's the ugliest, most heartwrenching thing I've ever seen. And yet I have been so encouraged to see God working here. How He will make a way for something that seems impossible. How He sustains and strengthens us when we're at the end of our own abilities. And how He has brought this incredible team together from across the globe to minister to the hurting, the broken, and the dying. Despite the physical and emotional toll of serving in a place like this, I am so humbled and honored to be here.

This little girl is perhaps our most popular patient right now. She is a little over one year old and came in with her cousin as victims of an explosion. This baby's legs were so badly injured that they had to amputate both of them below the knee. Looking at her cherub face and rosy cheeks you would hardly know anything was wrong. Several of us have enjoyed the task of rocking her to sleep each day. Please pray for her and her family as they face the challenges ahead.

I have loved getting to know everyone on our team. During the slower moments I get the chance to hear a bit of their stories and what God has been teaching them here. Vicky was one of my bunkmates who recently left. It was cool hearing how God brought her to the field hospital. And a special coincidence with my family... her daughters' names are Rebekah, Elisabeth, and Hannah. :) Please continue to pray for our team here, and also those who have already headed home. As you can imagine, transitioning back to "normal" life after experiencing something like this is a difficult task. Thank you for lifting us up!!
This is been the most intense assignment I've ever had. My job title is Emergency Field Hospital Admin, but my daily tasks have included holding the hands of dying children, praying with nurses who are at the end of their own strength (Thank you Jesus for Yours!), and rushing around during our busy times to bring patients warm sheets and towels as they come off non-heated ambulances in nearly freezing temperatures. These are on top of my actual admin tasks of keeping up with the comings and goings of our staff, providing orientation for newcomers, and answering a dozen emails. I'm constantly amazed by our team and how they are able to do what they do again and again and again. When I mention how appreciative I am for your prayers, I mean it more than I can explain. We are depending on God every hour and we know your prayers are being heard and answered.

1S1S is hunting children

These are the words I heard out of the mouth of one of our head security guys. We have seen a high volume of children coming into our hospital. Yesterday five children were taken to the morgue. Two had already died before the ambulance reached us. The other three died in the hospital. Some of these casualties are the result of weaponized drones 1S1S has created. Many are like the ones some of you fly around in your backyard. Others look like tiny planes. When they send these drones up, often they have a camera on them to show who they're about to attack. Whoever is watching that footage can see whether they are about to drop a grenade on a soldier or on a child. So when we get a group of children admitted due to a drone attack, they weren't just victims of an explosion nearby—they were the intentional targets. This is an evil I absolutely cannot understand.
I recently read an article that said, "1S1S is using snipers, suicide car bombs and drones to attack Iraqi forces." Yes, that is true. And they are also using all of these things to attack children... in case you never hear that on the news.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for your prayers and your encouraging emails! While this experience is difficult and impossible to wrap your mind around, we are so honored to be here and pray that what we are doing here will transform lives long after we're gone.

"Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

Hebrews 4:16
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