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blessings OPERATION BLESSING INTERNATIONAL | OCT 2016

THRIVING

together

Struggling family stays united through trying circumstances page 12

LOVING OUR NEIGHBORS

P A G E

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RESCUED, RESTORED AND REDEEMED

P A G E

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BAREFOOT NO MORE

P A G E

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HAPPENINGS

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Catch up with the goings on at Operation Blessing!

BILL’S BLOG

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Loving our Neighbors: Taking a look at why we want to help those in need in the wake of devastation

LIFE-CHANGING SURGERY SPOTLIGHT

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Learning to See Straight: OBI partners bring the gift of sight to a little boy in the mountains of Honduras


Inside this issue

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THRIVING TOGETHER Struggling family stays united through trying circumstances

RESCUED, RESTORED AND REDEEMED

18

With just two coins in her pocket, young Pilar planned a daring escape from slavery

THE GIFT OF LITERACY

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Thanks to an adult literacy program, Suzette is able to write her children’s names for the first time

BAREFOOT NO MORE

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Siblings in need receive new TOMS shoes.

operationblessing.org

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1

LOUISIANA: Operation Blessing president, Bill Horan, distributes water bottles and relief supplies in the wake of historic flooding in the Baton Rouge area.

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BRAZIL: A young man comes face to face with the horrors of human trafficking on the streets of Rio de Janeiro. Operation Blessing staff and volunteers worked to raise awareness for the fight against modern slavery using a cutting edge virtual reality experience at the 2016 Olympic Games. 4

LIBERIA: Young Mustapha wears casts to treat his bilateral clubfoot. After hearing about Operation Blessing partner MiracleFeet, Mustapha’s father traveled 10 hours to bring his son for treatment. The casting and braces worked, and now Mustapha is able to walk on corrected feet!


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NEPAL: Children orphaned in the 2015 earthquake stand together holding their new backpacks. With nothing to depend on but government support, these kids were without the school supplies and basic hygiene items they needed.

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HONDURAS: Operation Blessing’s national director in Honduras, Hilda Romero, cuts the ribbon to inaugurate a brand new safe water project in the village of Brisas. For the first time in 18 years, residents have safe water piped right to their homes!

HAPPENINGS OPERATION BLESSING

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IRAQ: Kids show off their work in an art therapy workshop run by the Edge Institute, an Operation Blessing partner. Here, refugee children are given the chance to address the traumas they’ve suffered during years of conflict in Iraq. 5


LOUISIANA

LOVING OUR NEIG

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On truck: Dan Moore, director of U.S. disaster relief, and David Darg, vice president of international operations. In front: Bill Horan, president of Operation Blessing, and Jody Gettys, vice president of U.S. disaster relief and programs.


GHBORS Bill's Blog by Bill Horan, President

Operation Blessing International Read more from Bill's Blog at ob.org/bill

W

e were surrounded by water the color of chocolate milk; it felt like we were on a boat, but we were riding on the back of a six-wheel drive Army surplus truck across flooded roads in the drowned neighborhoods of Livingston Parish, La. There were five of us in the truck’s bed sitting atop stacked cases of bottled water and plastic sacks full of fresh sandwiches, boxes of toilet paper and jugs of bleach. We pulled up in front of homes that looked occupied, in spite of water lapping at porches and window sills, offering free food, bottled water and words of encouragement. We had to shout above the roar of the unmuffled diesel engine as the truck plowed through water two to three feet deep leaving a swirling wake behind. Continued on page 8

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Small jon boats are used to ferry supplies from the truck to residents' homes.

Continued from page 7

When we hit an especially deep spot, the driver had to really punch it so we wouldn't get stuck, and when the engine sucked in water, it bellowed clouds of wet, oily soot that peppered our faces and shirts. Our driver, Clay Schexnayder, the Louisiana state representative of District 81, had borrowed the truck three days earlier and had been behind the wheel night and day carrying relief supplies to stranded residents. David Darg, OBI’s vice president of international operations; Jody Gettys, vice president of U.S. disaster relief and programs; and Dan Moore, director of U.S. disaster relief, and I offered to join him, providing relief supplies and extra hands. Volunteers were also with us, and all of us were drenched because of a torrential squall with lightning and thunder so loud it sounded like God was bowling in heaven. Doug, whose day job was captain of a cargo boat on the Mississippi River, was wearing tattered 8

shorts and a sleeveless T-shirt. His face and arms were burned ruby red, and he hadn't shaved for a few days, but his eyes were bright as he told me about the night the flood waters came into his home “like a tsunami in reverse.” I asked Doug why he used the word tsunami. He said, “Everybody knows that a tsunami comes from the ocean and water rushes ashore and wipes everything out. In this flood, the water came from the the sky. Storm clouds circled out over the Gulf and sucked up moisture then came ashore and dumped the water, then circled back for another load. It was like a hurricane without wind and lasted seven days. Three times as much water came down as in Katrina. All that water had to go somewhere, and it funneled down here to these parishes and drowned everything — like a tsunami.” Doug said his own home was flooded, but in spite of that, he was with us on the back of the truck handing out


water and supplies to neighbors he had never met. To me, this spirit of willingness to help in spite of personal problems is what sets Americans apart; regardless of social status, followers of Jesus feel a need to help when neighbors — even people they don't know — need help. The teachings of Christ compel us to reach out to

” ’Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” ( Mark 12:29-31 NLT)

those who are weaker, poorer or in a situation worse than our own. If we heed the call, we feel good; but if we ignore the call, we feel bad. It's as simple as that. Christians are hardwired to help. In the Gospel of Mark, when Jesus was asked which of the commandments were most important, He replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your

heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12: 29-31 NLT, emphasis added) We are profoundly thankful for the people who answered the call and supported our efforts in Louisiana with prayer and donations, and for the volunteers and the many churches that acted as hubs of healing during and after the crisis. Organizations like Operation Blessing and churches all over America serve as a conduit for people of faith who need a channel through which they can help their neighbors — even ones they don't know. For that, we will be eternally grateful. ◆

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“I was praying to God to help me, and, soon after, Operation Blessing came to my home to tell me that they wanted to help me and my baby,” Griselda said. “I have no words to thank you.”

LEARNING TO SEE STRAIGHT

I

n the mountains where Honduran coffee grows, Griselda lives with her husband, Toño, and their two young children, Elmer, age 5, and Winder, nine months. When Winder was an infant, Griselda noticed something was not right with his eyes. He was soon diagnosed with strabismus, a condition in which the eyes are misaligned. Treatment for the condition would involve expensive surgery and continued follow-up care. Two months of harvest time on the coffee plantations provide Griselda and her husband a chance to work, but the rest of the year their income is unreliable. Temporary jobs earn Toño and Griselda just $3 or $4 each day, enough for only basic needs. They estimated they would need two years of savings before they could get little Winder the help he needed.

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HONDURAS

A community health worker in Honduras, trained by Operation Blessing to educate and help impoverished communities, learned about Winder’s condition and connected the family to the local Operation Blessing team. With the support of OBI, Griselda and Winder moved to a more centralized location in the city of Santa Barbara to be closer to medical care for Winder. After lifechanging treatment and a special set of eyeglasses, Winder’s eyes are on the way to complete correction.

Overcome with gratitude, Griselda believes her prayers have been answered. “I was praying to God to help me, and, soon after, Operation Blessing came to my home to tell me that they wanted to help me and my baby,” Griselda said. “I have no words to thank you.” Winder will be reevaluated after wearing the specialized eyeglasses for six months. Continued treatment will be provided by Operation Blessing until Winder’s eyesight is restored to its fullest, a gift that will give Winder the chance to truly thrive. ◆ 11


THRIVING toget STRUGGLING FAMILY STAYS UNITED THROUGH TRYING CIRCUMSTANCES

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UGANDA

ther Annette and little Rahima.

A

s a loving mother of six, Annette wanted nothing more than to see her little ones thrive. She and her

children lived in poverty in Uganda, making them extremely vulnerable to hunger and sickness. When her twins were just one month old, little Rahima began showing signs of malnourishment. When Annette sought help, she was advised to give up her children to a local orphanage so they could be cared for. Heartbroken both at the thought of her babies suffering and the idea of giving them up when they were so loved, she

When they walked inside, they found new beds, a new kitchen and a new beginning... "Mommy, wow, look!" Wubby, 6, said. "I have my own bed!"

approached the orphanage. Thankfully, the orphanage Annette went to referred her to OBI partner organization Abide Family Center, a local group that works to keep vulnerable families together.

Continued on page 14

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Continued from page 13

At Abide, little Rahima and

Operation Blessing also helps

her twin brother, Shukrah, were

these moms and children receive

immediately given formula filled

the health care they need, including

with the nutrients they desperately

medicine, a full-time nurse on staff,

needed. Annette’s other children —

and referrals to hospitals and clinics

Kevin, 2; Mafabi, 5; Musana, 7; and

when necessary.

Wangoli, 9 — were also provided

Through the generosity of partners

with nutritious supplements, and

like you and this special partnership

Annette was enrolled in business

with Abide Family Center, Annette

classes and eventually given a small

and her precious little ones are able to

grant to start her own business.

thrive as a family. Today, Annette runs

Thanks to Operation Blessing

her own small business selling fresh

partners, struggling families like

fish. She and her children are healthy

Annette’s, in which children are at

and together. ◆

risk of being placed in orphanages due to lack of resources, are being provided the help they need to keep their children in their own loving homes, including formula, nutritious supplements, healthy meals and more. Families without adequate housing are provided shelter while they get on their feet. Children too young to attend school are cared for at the Child Development Center while their parents attend skills training, business classes, parenting seminars and more.

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Annette with twins Rahima (L) and Shukrah.


COMBINED FEDERAL CAMPAIGN

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WHERE WE WORK

You are helping provide strategic relief in countries around the world through Operation Blessing and our partner organizations!

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1 NORTH AMERICA UNITED STATES

1 Bolivia 2 LATIN AMERICA & CARIBBEAN MEXICO | GUATEMALA EL SALVADOR | PERU HONDURAS | CUBA DOMINICAN REPUBLIC BRAZIL | HAITI | BOLIVIA COSTA RICA | NICARAGUA

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2


4 5 3

3 AFRICA GHANA | RWANDA LIBERIA | LESOTHO TANZANIA | UGANDA KENYA | SOUTH SUDAN SIERRA LEONE | NIGER ETHIOPIA | NIGERIA

4 EUROPE AND MIDDLE EAST ISRAEL | UKRAINE GREECE | SYRIA IRAQ

5 ASIA JAPAN | INDIA |THAILAND CAMBODIA | CHINA NEPAL | INDONESIA PHILIPPINES | PAKISTAN

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RESCUED, RESTORED and REDEEMED With just two coins in her pocket, young Pilar planned a daring escape from slavery

F

rom an early age, 17-year-old Pilar* knew what it meant to hurt. Now she knows what it means to hope. At three years old, Pilar and her younger sister, Monica*, were abandoned by their mother. Their father was in prison, so they were sent to live with him there. After a short time, the girls’ Aunt Bertha took them in. Monica went to live in a shelter because their aunt couldn’t care for them both. For eight years, Pilar lived safely with Bertha.

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BOLIVIA

At age 11, Pilar became curious about her mother, so her aunt did some searching and found her nearby. Upon their first meeting, Pilar was worried about her mother’s character, hesitant to trust the woman who had abandoned her when she was just a tiny girl. After a few weeks, however, Pilar accepted her mother’s invitation to live with her, hopeful that they would have a future together as mother and daughter. “The first few weeks it was going well,” Pilar said. “But soon she started yelling a lot. After the yelling started, it graduated to beatings, and then something horrible happened.” For the next two years, Pilar’s mother used her daughter as sexual bait for men who would pay to abuse the young girl. Pilar didn’t know why she was being trafficked, but she knew she hated her life and that she felt “nasty” inside. For a time, she wondered why she was even alive. Yet, she had hope. “I remembered the way my aunt treated me [well], and I thought of going back to her,” she said. With just two coins in her pocket, Pilar planned her escape. Telling her mother she was going to school, she instead bravely boarded a bus that would take her to her aunt’s town.

It appeared to have worked, but just three weeks later, while her aunt was traveling, her mother came calling with a government official, insisting she was required to return home. Pilar argued and pleaded not to have to go back under her mother’s care. The official sent Pilar and her mother to a temporary shelter, where Pilar was able to tell a psychologist everything her mother had put her through. Likely in fear of going to jail, Pilar’s mother disappeared and hasn’t contacted her daughter since. That was four years ago. Since then, Pilar has worked hard to heal and redeem her time lost to abuse. After two months at the temporary shelter, Pilar moved to the Operation Blessing supported shelter, Munasim Kullaquita, “where, from the beginning, I found peace,” she said. At Munasim Kullaquita, she learned that the life she had been forced into didn’t have to be her life Continued on page 20 19


Continued from page 19

going forward. She has also learned how to bake, a skill she has honed enough that she earns a base salary each month from the sale of cookies she makes for the Bolivian government’s national nutrition program. Operation Blessing recently provided Munasim Kullaquita with new bakery equipment, including industrial ovens, a blender, a dough mixer and more. “Thanks to Operation Blessing for helping in the bakery training program,” Pilar said. “And for giving us tools to work with dignity.” With the money she has saved, Pilar has purchased her own bed and wardrobe for her aunt’s house, where she now lives full-time, as well as the clothes and shoes that she needs. She even has plans to attend university after graduating from high school next year, a dream she credits to the support she has found at Munasim Kullaquita. “It is the place where I found love, respect and the warmth of a family.” Pilar’s strength in moving forward has given her a peace about her past. “I can say now that I have no bad feelings against my mother, because I have forgiven her,” she said. Pilar’s innate resiliency and support from friends like you have given her a sense of anticipation for the future, as she dreams of becoming a professional chef. Her once-impossible dream of seeing a safe adulthood is now on the horizon. ◆ *Name changed to protect identity.

“THANKS … FOR GIVING US TOOLS TO WORK WITH DIGNITY.”

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I couldn’t write.

With the adult literacy program, I learned to write my name. I was very happy when they taught me the letters of the alphabet …

now I can write my children’s names.

Suzette (HAITI) Read more of her story at

OB.ORG/SUZETTE

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BAREFOOT NO

SIBLINGS IN NEED RECEIVE NEW

B

riyeika is a curious and independent two-year-old who loves to run around and play. She lives in a partial flood-plain region of the Peruvian jungle with her parents and older brother Giovanni, 6. There is plenty of space in their village for Briyeika and Giovanni to play and explore, but without proper footwear, safety is a constant concern. The kids’ father works for $5 a day at a local poultry farm, earning just enough to provide for the basic needs of his family such as food, housing and simple clothing; sadly, shoes don’t always make the list.

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Giovanni used to wear sandals, but even they were not enough to guarantee protection from poisonous insects, as well as environmental dangers such as rusty nails and parasites. When Briyeika was learning to walk, her grandmother managed to purchase a pair of sandals. But when the nearby river flooded, they were washed away and her family could not afford to replace them. Little Briyeika had no choice but to go barefoot. Operation Blessing learned of Briyeika and Giovanni’s need for dependable footwear through a local early-education program. Through a partnership with TOMS, a company that gives one pair of


PERU

MORE TOMS SHOES

new shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased, Briyeika and Giovanni each received a brand new pair of TOMS shoes. “Briyeika is so happy with her new shoes,” Erika said. “Every morning when she gets up, she asks me to put her shoes on, sometimes she tries to do it by herself!” Briyeika and Giovanni won’t have to go barefoot anymore while they play, and their parents can be confident in the kids’ safety as their little explorers learn and grow with each passing day. ◆

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WILL YOU BE A BLESSING TO

CHILDREN IN NEED? VISIT OB.ORG/CATALOG TO BROWSE OUR 2016 GIFTS!

operationblessing.org

P.O. Box 2636, Virginia Beach, VA 23450 Copyright © 2016 by Operation Blessing International

(800) 730-2537

Thriving Together - Blessings Magazine - October 2016  

Struggling family stays united through trying circumstances. Blessings is a monthly publication of Operation Blessing International, sharing...

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