wocket in my pocket

Looking for the unexpected in the mundane.

More on the Books

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I have to share these photos with you, because they just thrill my heart. These are the children, the ones with the eyes-that-have-seen-too-much, that are benefitting from the books sent to the refugee camps in northern Iraq. David Godoy, who volunteered there in the fall, took these photos of some of his English students with the beginner science readers we hastily scraped together to send along in a suitcase. It was about $300 worth, a pitifully small offering for so many, many children. I made a big goal this time, to raise $2000, which Literacy for a Lifetime will match by 50%. So that is 10 times as much, and with some donations received privately, not through the website, we are over half way to the goal!

I asked David to describe his classes, then put his story on the Youcaring site, but it deserves a wider audience. Nearly all of the donations have come from you kind, generous folks who read the blog. I feel very humbled by this, so I am copying David’s words here for you to read just what it means to receive a book, with pictures, with fresh ideas, with new things to learn about the wider world in it.

   “Writing about the time I spent with the Yazidi children in Kurdistan, Iraq could possibly fill many pages with various happy, sad, or whimsical occurrences that I experienced. My aim with this is not to get carried away with many details but rather to condense several weeks into a few paragraphs in the hopes of influencing your mind to understand the need there among not only the adults but especially the children.
I taught English classes to the village boys ranging from ages five to
fourteen or fifteen. The day started around nine o’clock with the five
to seven year old boys. After going over the alphabet, the colors of
different objects, shapes, and so on for about an hour the children
from all the different classes would meet in a courtyard area and sing
children’s choruses at the top of their lungs. It was always enjoyable
to listen to them and also to sing with them and perform the motions
to many of the songs.
After two hours of classes in the morning school was adjourned until the afternoon. It seemed to me that along with the dry, 100+ degree weather a Middle Eastern summer afternoon brings the 15 ten to twelve year old boys of the first afternoon class also brought along to school their heated tempers and everything else that made the
afternoon much warmer due to the rise in frustrations. One would think the heat alone would bring a calming affect but it was quite opposite.

They would hoot and holler through the alphabet at varying speeds,
climb around on the desks and each other, spill water so they would
have the joy of splashing it around, get into fights, steal each
other’s pencils, and do everything except sit like good boys who are
trying to learn what a circle is, and that orange is a color and not
the fifth letter of the alphabet.
The singing after that class was always held by ourselves in our class
room as the other classes were similar in student attitude and would
have been next to impossible to maintain structured singing period.
After the dust settled and the room was put back into a presentable
state my last and favorite class would come in. There were usually
only four or five of them and they were the most advanced in English.
They could very easily recite the alphabet and could read small easy
phrases. The comprehension may not have been there but they are off to a good start.
All this being said there is one tool that I found extremely helpful
in the different things I taught them. Two weeks into my stay in Iraq
a wise and generous person donated a few of these tools to the school
over there and some of them were accepted very happily as a gift for
excellent learning by some of my students while I used the remain onesin my teaching.

What was this tool you may ask? It was a book! Yes, a book. Something that here in America I have taken very much for granted and have, to a degree, lost touch with the immense value and information that even a simple child’s picture book can bring.
Charles Darwin in his skewed philosophy was able to influence and
change the mindset of millions of people all through the power of a
book. And when the age group is too young to comprehend the stages of evolution, artists come up with the most absurd pictures

illustrating the process of evolution staring from a standard ape and transitioning into a creature I hope never to meet then finally ending with a human.
The sad part of it is all that information is taken in and processed
by many school age children shaping there minds into believing a lie.
Why did I mention this?
The same kind of approach can be taken with the Iraqi children. But
instead of pumping their heads full of artists perspectives of
nonsense wouldn’t it be better for them to see in detailed pictures
what the steps of a metamorphosis are? Or what the Himalayas look
like? Or what the earth looks like from space? Or how many continents there are?

If a Yazidi child can look at these things and process them in childlike manner they may begin to see that outside their torn apart

lives exists a bigger world, a world that is also looking for answers in
their desperation for the true meaning to life. The children may
slowly begin to understand that maybe there is a higher power that
created the world they live in, maybe there is forgiveness, and that
the Light and Love they sing about does really exist.

A book can go a very long way in influencing a child’s mind. Even if
they are taught from a reader, what they learn will form words in
their mind giving them the ability to one day comprehend the Book that has the key to eternal life.
I will always remember the uncontainable smile the gift of books
brought to my little students. The way they proudly shook my hand on the way out of the room that last day of school helped me to see

that one little picture book may be one tiny stepping stone in the walk way towards a better life. But if eternal life is gained through the small gift of a book, I would give every last book I have.

I look back over my time spent in Iraq and am greatly humbled by the fact that God uses all sorts of ways to show His love to the precious people of Iraq.”

There you have it, the cause that I feel passionately about: the children and literacy. When I see those little faces in the news, I think that they will grow up to be either the next generation of fighters or peacemakers. So much depends on now, on the influences that come into their lives. As David so eloquently pointed out, books can introduce a child to a whole other world. (I want to sincerely apologize for the fomat of the quote. WordPress is giving me fits tonight, no matter how much I edit. This is a problem with blogging on a budget, also known as free blogsites. : } You don’t get so many pretties. )

Many of us cannot volunteer to go to the camps, but we can share. I thank you. Some day, I believe, there will be children who have received Love and they will thank you. I put more of the photos on the sharing site, if you would like to take a look. When you go there, read the comment from a little girl named Ellie. It brings tears to my eyes and a nod to some wise parents who are raising their children to be kingdom-minded.

If God moves your heart to help us  (<Click there, obviously) reach the last half of our fundraising goal, I thank you in advance.

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Something I Can Do

I appreciated hearing from some of you after my last post, that yes, you make yourself look and care, too. Even when it haunts your dreams and you carry the weight with you throughout the day and the only thing you can do is pray. Look at the little children squeezed in those masses, caught up in a chaos where innocence and routines are shattered.

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Refugee children

See them carrying burdens too heavy for them. Burdens too heavy even for the adults in their lives who are worried every day. And yet. Look at them. Still little children.

Iraqi children

There are makeshift schools going on in the camps in northern Iraq, a sad reminder that life in the dispossessed world of the tents in the wilderness is indefinite. On the bright side, the children are learning and have something to do during the day. There are volunteers teaching English classes. Many of these households average 8 children. So much potential and energy!

One day while this was heavy on my mind, a thought flitted through. “You know, you could do a fund raiser and send those children books.” It startled me a little, because I hadn’t really thought about being able to DO something. Usually that is my default mentality: I just want to be able to do something to make things better. And I hate feeling like I am powerless, so sometimes I rush in when I should stay out, you know.  I decided to wait a good little while to make sure this was not an impulse I had just cooked up on my own.

Meanwhile. A small stash of savings that I was cherishing hopes to use on a bit of unnecessary spending got delegated to another need. I have to be honest, I really struggled with this. I just wanted to buy what I wanted this time. Also meanwhile I kept seeing so many GoFundMe’s and St. Jude’s Hospital at the checkout, and Salvation Army bell ringers. I realised again that the causes dear to my heart are not always the causes that others feel drawn to support. With a little spanking from God about my uncheerful attitudes and the reminder that there are many ways to care for the world, I decided to ask my husband what he thinks of the fundraising idea.

He said sure, go for it. I contacted Plain Compassion about shipping the books. They said they like the idea and will be glad to arrange shipping. They said it’s fine to use their name in the fundraiser, as well. I certified with Usborne Books to do fundraisers, and here we are.

My ambitious goal is to ship a whole skid of books to the refugee camps in northern Iraq. I want to send them phonics readers with bright illustrations, beginner science readers with easy text, picture books, even coloring books and activity books of all sorts.

Of course, I share all this with you, my kindly readers. 🙂 In doing this as a fundraiser, I am using the Literacy for a Lifetime provision, which matches all sales or donations with a 50% grant.

If you feel a tinge of desire to share in this endeavour, here is how it works. I set up my Usborne sales page so that all sales will benefit refugees (not me 🙂 ) by 50%. You can buy books, really nice books at this site, for the children in your life and the refugees will get half the amount in books with Usborne’s matching grant money. Or if you want, you could donate here and your donation would be matched 50%. All this to say that $10 will stretch to $15.

I am hoping and praying that many of us can do a little bit each and send a great big pallet of educational supplies and story books to these precious little children. Everybody should have a bedtime story.

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We Have to Look

Is there anyone else out there who can hardly bear to read the international news these days? Something about the plight of homelessness in winter strikes me as unbearable hardship. Add to that the loss of loved ones, the gouging of life savings by unprincipled men taking advantage of desperate people, the mud and the trekking in the cold and the uncertainty of when life will ever get better and it is just more than I can stand. I look at the photos of refugees huddled around small fires built out of bits of scrounged trash, the chapped lips, the bloodshot eyes with a film of hopelessness and I can’t stand it, but I can’t look away. Because it could be me. By some accident of grace (is there such a thing?) it isn’t me, but it could be.

All last week Gabe and I were fighting off a cold/cough that kept sitting hard on our chests every morning with that ugly feeling that it was settling in to stay for a while. We fought it with all the stuff in our cupboard: the Vicks rub, the eucylyptus oil, the Emergen-C, the echinacea by the handful, the Immunotea with raw honey, the elderberry syrup, the grapefruit seed crush to gargle for sore throat. And we won. It never did get a chance to settle in. Every time I fixed another cup of soothing tea, I thought of those refugees shuffling miserably through the mud, wiping a runny nose on a coat sleeve, hoping for asylum only to come up against a barbed wire fence. No comfort and no hope. I can’t stand it , but I can’t look away.

I keep reading opinion bits here and there on the interweb about short term missions and how ineffective they are. “It should have been sold and given to the poor,” Judas said about the priceless ointment Mary used to bathe Jesus’ feet. That is what some folks say about youth group missions trips. All that money spent on tickets for 6 weeks in a foreign country. It’s a waste. You could feed hundreds of people with that money. It’s not a good use of funds. They go, take a bunch of pictures of themselves being the angel of mercy to post on their social media, and they go home again and feel good about having done their bit, and then they buy the next generation phone. I suppose there is some truth to that, and the funds may be wasted sometimes.

But. What if that youth can never be the same? What if she is impacted profoundly by the dignity of a lady singing as she bends to her twig broom, sweeping her packed-dirt courtyard outside of her mud hut.. what if she thinks about this countless times when she wants to grouse about the state of her kitchen floor? What about the pastor who is spending his entire life in evangelism, living by faith, cheerfully serving the youth team cooked spaghetti noodles and fruit compote and they bless the food and are truly grateful… what if she remembers this when she serves bread and soup to her visitors and she doesn’t apologize because hospitality is not just food and she learned this in a village in Ukraine? What if she thinks about the mile walk to the well for water and the small amounts allocated to washing and general cleanliness because it is just really far to that well… and she cannot find judgement in her heart for the dirty begger standing by the intersection because without easy access to water, who can be clean? What if she met someone who literally never had a chance and she learned to care about the family that is all across the world? What if she learned an entirely new and perfectly acceptable way to peel a banana and got thoroughly embarrassed by her own condescending ideas of how things ought to be done? What if that short term missions trip changed the way she lived her whole life, made her see how much she has been freely given? What if she could never just not look because the people are all God’s people?

I don’t even know what this post is about. You are allowed to do that on a blog, I have heard. Maybe it’s about investing in a plane ticket, or exposure to the miseries and inequities in the world, about stripping away the insulation that keeps us self-centered and absorbed in our entitlement to more and better stuff. Maybe it is just plumb stream of consciousness. But we have to look. We have to see around us. What can we even do about it? As much as I would like to be there at the barbed wire, handing out hot coffee to the refugees, I am here and my children want popcorn.

Still. What if we all look at the brokenness and let it settle on us and know that there is only one solution, so we lift it up with groaning and pleading. What if all our collective whispers and petitions rise and God moves to change the affairs of nations? What if we don’t look away and we see what is coming with eyes of faith, so that we start investing in a better place “where righteousness dwells” instead of busily attempting to make heaven on earth?

As hard as it is, I really think we have to look.

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