I have seen many needs in Armenia.
I've seen people who have lived in shipping containers that were used to bring over aid after the 1988 earthquake. Promises were never kept to get them into a real home.
I've seen countless homes heated by a stove full of cow dung in the midst of a bitter winter cold.
I've seen disabled children who were abandoned at birth due to their conditions and parents who felt overwhelmed in a nation where there is not a lot of support for them.
These are all difficult things to experience - especially when I compare the memories I have of growing up in prosperous America to the lives many people endure here.
I graduated high school in 1996. The Armenians talk about those years and the ones that surround it as the "Dark Years." Communism had fallen. Their infrastructure had broken apart. They were cutting down every tree and park bench in sight to find wood to heat their homes. They were given 2 hours or rationed electricity a day. Students often studied by candle light, and walked home at night, after classes, along unlit streets filled with the unknown.
What was I doing in 1996?
Hmmmm....I was applying for college scholarships, busy with school work and extracurricular activities, attending chilly Fall football games, planning my graduation open house and making sure there'd be enough taco chips from Barbados to feed all the hungry guests who would arrive with Dr. Suess' Oh the Places You'll Go in hand.
Since being in Armenia, I've often thought about the differences between me and Armenians. But, ultimately, there is only one difference - I was born in America and they were born in Armenia.
The world is open to me and my American passport. My education and job opportunities are somewhat limitless.
Most Armenians cannot get a visa to travel anywhere out of the former Soviet Union. I've met many who have dreamed of higher education, but lacked funds. Many who would love to have a decent paying job or a chance to start a business, but they've lost hope in the face to true impossibilities that stand sternly in their paths.
I know that they have passed through valleys that I have never been forced to set foot in, and they have developed a spirit of perseverance I may never have.
I've thought of this truth often, but I was never so moved to do something about it until a few months ago.
I've been up to the Kurdish villages many, many times. But, in March, I was invited to have coffee with our Kurdish friends' neighbors.
That day I saw "me" in the Kurdish Village. She was a young wife in her 20s. She was cowering in a corner; would not speak; no eye contact. It was obvious she had been beaten down. She had worked hard every day of her three year marriage to please her husband's family whom she lived with. She did all their laundry by hand, cleaned their home, made the food, and never said a word. Her in-laws proudly showed me the dowry she had brought into their home on her wedding day.
But, she couldn't do what they desired most: produce a child. She was about to be turned out of the home and returned to her father's home, rejected, with no hope of remarrying.
I realized that if I had been born to this Kurdish family in Armenia, that would have been me. I have a disease called PCOS, and without medical help from very well-trained doctors, I would never have been able to have Oliver and Ava.
I would have been scorned and thrown out with no hope of a future.
I left the village, and her face was burned in my memory.
I remembered something I had once heard Andy Stanley say, "You can't help everyone equally, but don't let that stop you from helping the one with whom you can truly make a difference."
I felt like God was telling me that I could not just walk away, forget her face; her situation. I had to do everything in my power to help her.
Months have passed, and today I had the opportunity to revisit that home with a doctor from America. I do not want to exploit this situation for my betterment. But, I do want to share this so those of you who read this blog can pray and believe with me.
The doctor was able to discuss her specific situation and give her a plan. We met with her. We met with her husband. We decided to not meet with the interfering mother-in-law. We were able to pray with each of them and I hoped that this visit gave them a hope that God has heard this Kurdish woman's daily cries for a child that is not only her family's future, but her future.
Please pray with me that God will do a miracle, that the couple will follow the plan, and that God will give them the gift of a home filled with the sound of barefoot feet and children's laughter.
That is my wish for this woman.
That is the wish God granted for me.
We are not all that different.
I have seen many needs in Armenia.