Birthing a Community – By C-Section

The frigid air flowing through the broken window didn’t cool the flaring tempers. 

No surprise there. These women are urban survivors in a sectarian no man’s land. It’s what came next that shocked me.   A plucky teenage girl jumped in with both arms raised high.

“Stop! No fighting! STOP! No politics! This is not us! We are Joy of Giving. We practice love, forgiveness, respect. We gathered here to talk! To work together!”

Sure, teens are impulsive, dramatic, idealistic. But where bullets fly, her stance is profound. Here on the front lines, gunfire tattoos walls. Rocketing grenades pierce homes. Death visits early and often.

This was day one, gathering local moms to discuss how to raise their kids together in peace.  values-aligned visionary had called Dreams InDeed for help. Her dream? To birth a model community together, right on that demarcation line. 

Day two confirmed this birth would be agonizing. 

POP…pop, pop, pop. POP…pop, pop, pop…”

 “What’s that?” I wondered. I glanced at that same teen sitting next to me with her hair fashionably covered. Her eyes sparkling, she said with a smile, “Don’t worry – those are fireworks.”

 Puzzled, I queried, “Fireworks, midday? How do you know?”

“Oh, there must be a party. Gunfire sounds different. It’s easy to tell once you get used to it.” The headmistress of the school where we met agreed, “Guns definitely sound different.” We listened for a few minutes. Then my young friend exclaimed, “Now, that’s gunfire!”

Ringing the dismissal bell, the headmistress barked out, “Let’s go now! Leave! RUN!” The students poured out of classrooms and down the broken, uneven stairs. The agile ones sped past us. We sprinted over an open area and hopped in our van, our petite dreamer driving. As our teenage friend jumped out by her home, she waved goodbye with that same sweet smile, “Don’t worry!” 

Turning onto the main street, we screeched to a halt. A young man who recognized our van ran out to stop us. He diverted us down an alley to avoid a street battle. We weaved through more chaos and running uniformed men. Then, with a glance in the rear-view mirror, our dreamer’s face blanched.

A soldier with an AK-47 ready approached behind us. She hit the gas, and we were gone.

We made it to our overnight staging point, unharmed. A demonstration in another country had ignited tensions in our urban tinderbox, linked to regional clans. After a flurry of cell phone calls, we got the good news. No one killed that day. Just several wounded.

Cultivating trust had just become one step harder.

But our petite dreamer was undaunted. That next morning, we were back building bridges, home by home. Year after year, her teenage ally had seen the values at work in community service, cultivated in relationship.

Love. Forgiveness. Respect.

That’s how this teen came to embrace, model, and advocate for those values as an insider in a very hard place. With coaching by Dreams InDeed, she and her Joy of Giving volunteer friends are establishing a community center together to bridge sectarian divides for the common good of neighborhood children.

This neighborhood is a microcosm of a region in violent upheaval.        

In over two decades of work in Middle Eastern hard places, we’ve never seen such unprecedented turmoil and gloomy apprehension. However, we’ve also never witnessed such exemplary modeling of a tangible alternative about how to live together. Light is penetrating darkness, despite the turmoil.

Giving birth to a new community on a sectarian demarcation line requires a network of hands, linked in love, forgiveness, and respect.   Hands linked across the line, hands linked with those on the line, and beyond the line. Picture a new community with sustained peace of mind, where one people unified in their diversity, stand up together with each other in dignity and stability.

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We’ve got some great news to share from the Haskells!  

 However, before we jump into that, allow us to introduce ourselves as the chairs of the US and Swiss boards of directors for Dreams InDeed. 

I am
Rick Williamson, US board chair.  As a clinical psychologist, I specialize in trauma recovery and strengthening individuals and communities against stress impact. I prepare humanitarians and responders worldwide to serve effectively in harm’s way.  Over my fifteen years in this field, I’ve recognized the essential role of those special persons in every community who embrace and build up their most affected neighbors. 

I serve with Dreams InDeed not only because we engage in the world’s hard places, but we also aim to strengthen the “insider” for the truly transformative impact that the world so desperately needs. I am honored to serve along with each of you in support of the Dreams InDeed mission.

And, I am
Joe Campbell, Swiss board chair.  As a mediator in civil and political disputes, I contributed to peaceful resolution of the troubles in my home country of Northern Ireland, leading to the Good Friday Agreement.  I also mediated in Nepal alongside politicians, community activists, and church leaders in the search for a just and lasting peace. In both, I supported Dreamers and have often been a Dreamer myself. 

 

I know what it means to be affirmed and encouraged by outsiders who make it their business to be informed enablers.  That sensitive participation fosters hope amidst despair.  It is my honour to join in the crucial work of Dreams InDeed.  Together with you, I will do all I can to nurture sparks of hope into lights of joy.

Now, here is the news we just received from David and Janice in the Middle East:

 

Dear Rick and Joe, 

 

Thank you for your faithful and effective servant leadership as our US and Swiss board chairs.  We were challenged by the wisdom and faith of both boards setting such ambitious goals this year.  As our fiscal year gets underway now in July, we’re excited that strategic doors of opportunity are swinging open on every aim we agreed together!  

 

Goal: equip exemplary dreamer cases in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and East Africa.  Progress: despite escalating violence, dreamers are persevering with six initiatives among the hardest countries of the worldwide Fragile States Index.  This year, we’ll sustain both Dreams InDeed’s unprecedented regional registration and our continuing Jordan residency to strengthen these dreamers, guided by Janice.

 

Goal: research parable communications to engage closed minds via both word and deed.  Progress: The University of Oxford has approved David for doctoral field research on The Pedagogy of Parable.  To develop this Dreams InDeed training curriculum, David will shuttle between research in Oxford and case work on the ground in the Middle East.

 

Goal: research publishable Middle East cases on the transformation of pluralist conflict.  Progress: an exemplary Lebanese visionary has volunteered his civil society, public service, and business networks for rigorous field research.  Plus two Oxford professors, experts in values education and intercultural dialogue, will supervise the fieldwork.  

 

Goal: engage next-generation prospects to serve dreamers in hard places worldwide.  Progress: Kellogg College, with Oxford’s greatest number and diversity of international graduate students, has granted David membership.  Adjacent to Kellogg, Dreams InDeed has secured an operating base in Oxford for us to host and befriend global candidates.

 

Goal: expand our thought leader networks for aligned advisors and European board members.  Progress: upon review of David’s Pedagogy of Parable research proposal, six professors immediately volunteered their expertise in international development, political science, public policy, economics, leadership science, and character cultivation.

 

 

On behalf of the boards of directors of Dreams InDeed, we thank you again for journeying with us on our mission to strengthen dreamers in hard places so the poor thrive as God intended. We look forward to your continuing participation as we accelerate toward our shared vision: “a light in every hard place in our generation.”