My blood pressure was climbing in that long airport security line.

I impatiently shifted from one foot to the other as my line inched forward. Then I felt a tug on my backpack. A bit more irritated, I pivoted to investigate.

Behind me stood a mom, eyes wide with fear and concern as she yanked her son back and scolded him. I looked down…and there he was. A rascally little grin beamed from a friendly youngster with Down’s syndrome.

In seconds, my hot impatience faded into warm delight.

Little Mahmoud had ten years of experience turning strangers into friends. Time sped by playing with him. We cheerfully chatted with his parents – war refugees. He ran up with a big hug as we loaded our handbags onto the security belt.

Mahmoud led the way, turning strangers into family.

He modeled the mystery that Dr. Martin Luther King learned from Jesus long ago: “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.1

And Mahmoud’s not the only one.

Hundreds of mentally challenged individuals are leading the way to transform relationships in war-torn countries. In conflict zones, these unsung and overlooked ambassadors are winning hearts, turning enemy strangers into family friends.

After devastating forced displacement, a group of refugee volunteers set up a social center. They planned to give mentally challenged refugee children in over-crowded camps some relief. But that center also became a refuge for traumatized volunteers to taste peace and joy along with their challenged “brothers and sisters.”

 

After three years, everyone was traumatized yet again when forced to return to their war-damaged homes and burned villages. Rebuilding ransacked homes was costly; rebuilding trust in broken relationships was harder.

The volunteers opened a second center for the challenged and for returnees. Once again, the challenged led the way, joyfully and honestly accepting new struggles.

David and I sat with one family, while their sweet little boy with Down’s syndrome climbed around and over us. His mom adjusted her head scarf while we talked.

With pain in his voice and agony in his eyes, his father described the stigma they suffer. “Our university colleagues asked us, ‘Did you give birth to a monkey?’”

That rejection made their welcome at the volunteer center all the more stunning.

The volunteers invited us into their center, and then to their annual celebration. We drove two hours across the country to attend. I had never set foot in a church before. As we entered, our son was whisked out of our arms. For hours, full of giggles, he was kissed and passed from person to person. They loved him as one of their own.

Now this father wants these volunteers to help him spread that love and open another center in the epicenter of the destruction. He’s learning the wonder of those prophetic words, “a little child will lead them.“

Spread across battle zones, these groups of the mentally challenged, their parents, and volunteers are forming a three-strand cord of strength.
This regional network of over two thousand is enduring in conflict zones. Even when fleeing violent destruction, they sustain trust and reform into new cell groups that turns strangers into friends, and friends into family.

Dreams InDeed walks with these volunteer leaders through their ups and downs.
We guide their discernment of core values and mission. We provide them stewardship training and shepherding encouragement. We customize study guides to strengthen servant leaders throughout their networks.

As one local visionary said, “Dreams InDeed doesn’t just offer money. You accompany us in the hard times. You ask about the details of our lives. More than the money, please keep standing with us. Come be with us in the hard places.”

Let’s join the weak as they shame the strong, and the simple as they confound the wise.

 

 

1 https://www.onfaith.co/onfaith/2015/01/19/martin-luther-king-jr-on-loving-your-enemies/35907

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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.”