Sunday, 19 August 2018

C Columns

Micah & Nancy Smith - Under Dark of Night, a Trip into Syria

Jul/ Aug 2018

 


 

 

By Gaye Bunderson

Syria  may  be  the  last  place  anyone  would  want  to  find  themselves  in  these  days,  but  when  the  ravages  of  war  depleted  medical  supplies  for  citizens  of  the  beleaguered  country,  two  organizations  stepped  in  to  fill  the  void:  Nampa-based  Hands  of  Hope  Northwest  and  Global  Gateway  Network.

Micah  Smith  is  president  and  founder,  with  his  wife  Nancy,  of  Global  Gateway  Network.  The  nonprofit  is  a  group  of  volunteer  professionals  who  travel  the  world  caring  for  the  sick,  building  homes  for  children,  drilling  wells,  teaching  agriculture  skills,  literacy,  and  much  more  (globalgatewaynetwork.org).

It  was  Micah  and  Nancy  who  slipped  across  the  border  from  Israel  into  Syria  earlier  this  year  in  the  dark  of  night,  while  the  jackals  howled  in  the  distance.  Their  mission  was  to  accompany  10  tons  of  medical  supplies  to  the  Syrian  people.  The  supplies  were  provided  through  Hands  of  Hope  NW  and  included  everything  from  gauze  to  surgical  supplies.  

All  of  the  Boise-area  people  involved  in  this  endeavor  acted  out  of  a  sense  of  Christian  compassion  as  people  of  faith.  For  Micah,  now  62,  that  faith  began  at  the  age  of  23,  and  it's  over  the  course  of  the  intervening  years  that  God  brought  him  and  Nancy  to  a  connection  with  Hands  of  Hope  NW  —  a  connection  that  would  critically  benefit  the  people  of  war-torn  Syria.

“I  don't  know  what  word  you'd  use,  but  when  I  was  'saved'  or  'born  again'  in  the  late  '70s,  I  was  a  farmboy;  I  never  dreamed  I'd  be  doing  what  I'm  doing.  But  a  year  later,  I  was  in  Stuttgart,  Germany,  preaching  with  a  translator  on  a  street  corner,”  he  said.  “I  have  an  adventurous  spirit;  I'm  highly  curious.  I  want  to  see  what's  over  the  next  mountaintop.”

He  originally  attended  a  vocational  school  and  became  a  journeyman  pipe-fitter;  later,  he  studied  for  the  ministry  through  Jack  Hayford's  School  of  Pastoral  Nurture  at  King's  Seminary.  He  led  a  church  in  Richland,  Wash.  where  about  500  people  attended.  The  congregation  was  full  of  Ph.D.'s  and  engineers who  captured  the  vision  of  what  Micah  wanted  to  do  in  his  “next  mountaintop”  ministry:  dig  wells,  build  schools  and  orphanages,  and  help  the  disenfranchised  around  the  globe.

“At  one  point,  I  told  the  congregation,  'Don't  give  me  a  raise,  send  me  overseas,'”  he  said.

Thankfully,  there  were  many  in  the  congregation  who  not  only  wanted  to  support  him  but  also  join  him,  and  who  could  bring  the  requisite  skills  to  dig  and  drill  and  build  throughout  the  world.

At  one  point,  Micah  learned  about  what  is  called  the  10/40  Window,  an  area  that  includes  North  Africa,  the  Middle  East  and  Asia  approximately  between  10  and  40  degrees  north  of  the  equator.  Within  this  range  are  billions  of  citizens  known  as  “unreached  peoples,”  and  that  includes  many  groups that  Westerners  may  not  be  familiar  with,  such  as  the  Shaikh,  Yadava,  Turks,  Moroccan  Arabs,  Pashtun,  Jat  and  Burmese.  These  people  are  predominantly  Muslim,  Hindu,  Buddhist,  animist  or  atheist.

“The  area  holds  60  percent  of  the  world's  population,  but  only  8  percent  of  Western  efforts,  resources  and  energy  are  going  into  preaching  the  Gospel  in  that  part  of  the  world,”  Micah  said.

Nancy  stated,  “These  are  hard  places.”  They  are  full  of  the  poor  and  uneducated  who  struggle  to  meet  basic  daily  needs,  who  are  not  guaranteed  a  modicum  of  moral  or  legal  rights,  and  who  may  live  in  the  throes  of  military  conflict  or  government  upheaval.

“We  want  to  reach  the  unreached,  with  compassion  and  humanitarian  needs  and  with  no  strings  attached  based  upon  Matthew  5:16,”  Micah  said.  “We  want  to  meet  people's  physical  needs.”

He  explained  they  are  also  ready  to  help  meet  spiritual  needs  but  do  not  put  pressure  on  anyone  to  convert  to  a  religion.  “God  is  not  a  marketing  tool,  and  people  are  not  consumers  competing  for  the  best  deal,”  he  said.

Micah  was  invited  to  attend  Billy  Graham's  Amsterdam  2000  event,  where  evangelists  from  all  over  the  world  —  including  the  developing  world  —  convened  and  were  involved  in  finding  ways  to  reach  the  unreached.

“Every  day  in  a  think  tank,  we'd  sit  at  different  tables  and  identify  unreached  people  groups,”  Micah  said.  He  started  to  focus  on  three  specific  groups  that  he  wanted  to  reach  with  his  own  ministry.  They  included:  

  • The  Hill  Tribe  in  Vietnam  and  China  (the  Kim-Mun)
  • The  Albanian  Tosk  in  Egypt
  • The  Urdu  speakers  of  Europe

In  all,  there  were  10,000  people  from  90  nations  at  the  event;  a  lot  was  going  on,  and  Micah  prayed,  “Lord,  put  me  with  the  people  You  want  me  to  meet.”

He  said  event  organizers  served  lunch  in  a  huge  dining  area,  feeding  one  large  group  after  another  in  a  very  efficient  way.  In  the  gathering  of  10,000,  there  were  only  11  Egyptian  evangelists  in  all,  but  three  times  Micah  sat  by  an  Egyptian  during  lunch.  The  odds  of  that  happening  other  than  supernaturally  were  pretty  slim,  and  he  began  to  see  the  Lord's  hand  at  work.

After  he  narrowed  down  the  focus  of  his  ministry,  he  began  to  seek  out  information  about  the  people he  set  his  sights  on.  His  sense  of  adventure  was  stirred.  “We  researched  all  the  people  but  found  little  information,  so  we  got  on  a  plane  to  find  them,”  he  said.

Nancy  would  frequently  accompany  her  husband  abroad,  except  when  their  five  children  were  small.Others  in  the  group  would  be  the  vision-catchers  who  wanted  to  help  minister  and  build.  Their  global  searches  produced  results,  as  they  met  and  worked  to  provide  for  the  unreached  people  Micah  chose  while  in  Amsterdam.  Their  work  has  taken  them  to  North  Vietnam,  Burma,  Thailand,  and  Egypt,  all  in  accordance  with  Matthew  25:40:  Whenever  you  did  one  of  these  things  to  someone  overlooked  or  ignored,  that  was  me  —  you  did  it  to  me  [Jesus].  (The  Message)

Thousands  have  been  fed  and  clothed,  provided  with  medical  services  and  clean  water,  and  given  shelter  and  hope.  More  than  50  teams  have  been  sent  out  all  over  the  globe.

Micah  and  Nancy  came  to  the  Treasure  Valley  from  north  Idaho  two  years  ago  to  care  for  Micah's  mother,  who  has  Parkinson's  disease.  She  was  once  involved  in  ministry  herself,  living  in  Israel  for  10  years  and  working  with  Bridges  of  Peace,  a  Jerusalem-based  Christian  organization  supporting  Israel.  Micah  fostered  connections  with  Israel  through  Global  Gateway  Network.  “We  have  projects  there,”  he said.

The  couple  visited  Vineyard  Boise  Christian  Fellowship,  and  around  that  time,  had  two  pivotal  meetings.  They  met  the  leadership  team  of  Vineyard's  i61  program,  a  global  ministry  for  justice  and  compassion,  and  met  Hands  of  Hope  Northwest  board  member  Gwyneth  Bledsoe.  Meeting  Bledsoe  eventually  led  them  to  meet  Hands  of  Hope  NW  Executive  Director  Debbie  Wheeler  (now  retired).

Hands  of  Hope  NW  wanted  to  find  a  way  to  get  medical  supplies  to  Syria  —  a  huge  challenge,  considering  the  turmoil  in  the  country.  Even  a  route  through  Israel  presented  obstacles.  “Israel  is  a  difficult  country  because  of  its  security  protocol,”  Micah  said.  Other  problems  included  getting  medical shipments  to  Israel  despite  high  tariffs  on  imports,  and  insufficient  infrastructure  in  moving  anything  from  Israel  across  the  border  into  Syria.

The  Smiths  were  asked  if  they  could  help  Hands  of  Hope  NW  find  a  way  to  overcome  the  obstacles.  Ultimately,  the  answer  was  a  third  nonprofit  —  this  time,  one  in  Israel,  a  volunteer  humanitarian  non-government  organization  that  provides  lifesaving  aid  to  communities  affected  by  natural  disasters  and  human  conflict  but  that  wishes  to  remain  anonymous.

“Two  U.S.  nonprofits  worked  with  an  Israeli  nonprofit  to  help  Syrian  Muslim  refugees,”  Micah  said, aware  of  the  counterintuitive  nature  of  his  statement.

When  a  Hands  of  Hope  NW  shipment  of  supplies  left  Seattle  for  Israel  late  in  2017,  with  the  ultimate goal  of  reaching  Syria,  Micah  and  Nancy  were  there  to  accompany  the  shipment  across  the  border.

“We  were  cautious;  we  were  in  vehicles  in  a  secure  zone.  We  had  a  team  of  snipers  with  us  for  protection;  young  Israeli  soldiers  were  all  around  us,”  Micah  said.

The  following  information  was  taken  from  the  Hands  of  Hope  NW's  “Heartbeat”  newsletter  and  is  inMicah's  own  words:  “Nancy  and  I  traveled  at  dusk,  then  under  the  cover  of  darkness  to  the  border  where  the  supplies  are  transferred  one  item  at  a  time  to  a  waiting  truck.  The  work  is  done  in  darkness  because  of  the  constant  threat  of  snipers,  and  the  items  are  carried  individually  by  the  Syrian  rebels  across  a  short  buffer  zone  to  prevent  any  vehicles  that  might  be  armed  with  high  explosives  from  getting  too  close  to  the  delivery  team.

“Each  night,  when  this  operation  takes  place,  if  needed  the  critically  wounded  are  brought  on  Israel’s side  of  the  border,  then  taken  to  hospitals,  while  medical  supplies,  coats,  baby  formula  and  diesel  fuel  are  transferred  to  the  Syrian  side,  where  they  are  dispensed  at  field  clinics.  This  is  a  humanitarian  disaster  that  is  exacting  a  price  on  innocent  children  and  families  of  non-combatants.  Israel  is  allowing  30-50  Syrian  children  to  come  in  for  treatment  every  week.  The  hospitals  that  have  not  been  bombed  are  severely  lacking  in  equipment  and  supplies.”

Though  the  nation  of  Israel  is  under  constant  threat  from  jihadists  (Islamic  militants),  there  are  people  in  all  Middle  East  countries  who  simply  want  to  live  in  peace.

“Israel  learned  it  must  have  a  strong  defense,  but  they  are  the  people  of  Abraham  and  want  to  be  a  light  to  the  world,  they  want  to  be  good  neighbors,”  Micah  said.

The  Smiths  went  to  Israel  and  Syria  in  January  and  did  not  return  until  March.  They  praise  others  involved  in  getting  medical  supplies  to  those  facing  profound  suffering  within  Syria.

“The  Israelis  have  low-profile  medical  field  clinics  in  Syria  that  they  man,”  said  Micah,  who  then  gives  credit  to  HoHNW  for  its  work.  “Debbie  and  Hands  of  Hope  NW  did  a  great  job.”

The  Smiths  aren't  done  with  their  travels,  nor  is  Hands  of  Hope  NW  done  with  medical  supplies  provision  for  Syria.  In  late  April,  a  fundraising  tea  was  held  to  raise  money  for  another  shipment.  At  the  Tea  for  Hope  at  Chateau  des  Fleurs  in  Eagle  on  April  28,  host  Claudia  Weathermon  Tester  spoke,  followed  by  the  new  executive  director  of  HoHNW,  Todd  Durbin,  and  then  Micah.

“From  A  to  Z,  from  Nampa  to  the  Golan  Heights  in  Israel,  it  was  a  miracle,”  he  told  the  audience  regarding  the  Syrian  shipments.  A  miracle  of  compassion,  hard  work,  and  God's  love,  he  said.  With  that  trifecta,  as  well  as  the  generosity  of  people  in  the  Treasure  Valley,  many  nations  will  continue  to  be  blessed.

For  more  information,  go  to www.GlobalGatewayNetwork.org, Hands  of  Hope  Northwest  Inc.  on  Facebook,  or  contact  Micah  Smith  at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Shipments  Update With  the  money  raised  from  the  Tea  for  Hope  and  Idaho  Gives  Day  events,  Hands  of  Hope  NW  is  now  ready  to  send  two  more  shipments  to  Israel.  One  will  be  distributed  by  Global  Gateway  Network  and  the  other  by  The  Joseph  Project,  an  organization  that  imports  aid  into  Israel  from  charities  worldwide.The  goal  was  to  raise  $30,000  between  the  Tea  for  Hope  and  Idaho  Gives  Day  2018.  A  total  of  $27,810  was  raised  through  Tea  for  Hope,  including  event  donations,  silent  auction  sales,  ticket  sales,  and  sponsorships,  and  $2,625  was  raised  on  Idaho  Gives  Day,  held  May  3.The  HofHNW  warehouse  is  full,  and  six  shipments  of  medical  supplies  were  in  the  works  as  of  late  May.  More  shipments  are  planned  for  Israel/Syria,  as  well  as  shipments  for  Gambia,  Nigeria  and  Guatemala.  Note:  This  information  is  taken  from  the  May  Hands  of  Hope  NW  “Heartbeat”  newsletter.

 

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