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  • Action or Inaction: What Will Your Legacy Be?

    by Katie Carroll | Nov 25, 2015

    This post is unedited and republished with permission from

    by Roger Sandberg

    My great grandfather left his home to help refugees get back to theirs. How will you be remembered?

    On January 25, 1919, a group of young men sailed from New York to Beirut, Lebanon on a ship called Pensacola. Following the devastating Armenian genocide (1915-1918), these young men left their homes to live and work among the refugees and displaced people of Lebanon and Syria. Among them was a man named Ezra Deter.

     Ezra Deter. Image courtesy of the author.

    A conscientious objector to World War I, Ezra dedicated many years of his life to the refugees of modern day Lebanon and Syria. He spent his days talking with, working with, and in service to refugees. Relief organizations at the time set up refugee camps, clinics, orphanages, and vocational training facilities. They distributed bread and soup, blankets and clothing, medical and hygiene supplies, and were instrumental in the release of Armenian girls from Turkish harems.

    On a brisk night, March 20, 1921, Ezra sat in a small room in Beirut and wrote the following in his journal: Really, I can’t see a very good future for Syria unless different methods are used in the promotion for development.

    Almost 100 years later, I sit in a small room in Beirut and tap this sentence out on my keyboard: Really, I can’t see a very good future for Syria unless different methods are used in the promotion for peace.

    “He left the comfort of his home to help others get back to theirs.”

    Ezra Deter was my great grandfather, a man with a deep legacy of love. I never met him, but feel as if I know him. Recently, I visited a refugee camp in Zahle, a town east of Beirut. My great grandfather worked in Zahle. He wrote about it in his journals, letters, and telegrams, all of which now rest on a bookshelf in my home. I have been to Lebanon before and read his journals in the exact locations of their writing.

    Today, I work with Medical Teams International (MTI). MTI is working in Lebanon and Greece with refugees from Syria. The work of non-government organizations (NGOs) and relief agencies is not so different as it was 100 years ago, aside from some obvious differences. My journey via plane from Portland, Oregon took less than 24 hours. Ezra’s journey via boat from New York took 24 days.

    As a young man, my great-grandfather had a choice. We all do. In the comfort of his home in Illinois, he heard about the Armenians, a group of people being forced from their homes, many of them dying of starvation, many of them murdered. I can imagine the internal wrestling that he went through regarding the genocide of a people so far away from him.

    It was a time of war, both in Ezra’s heart and in the world at large. At times such as this, some may say there are only two options: fight or flight. Ezra saw a third one: love. He left the comfort of his home to help others get back to theirs.

    Bilbo Baggins, in The Hobbit, says it best, “I miss my books, and my armchair, and my garden. See that’s where I belong, that’s home. That’s why I came back . . . ’cause you don’t have one, a home. It was taken from you. But I will help you get it back if I can.”

    “Your action or inaction will be a legacy.”

    This week Americans will undoubtedly gather with friends and family to celebrate Thanksgiving. As you gather around your table, talk about what is happening in Syria. Say out loud that there are those who do not have a home, safety, or a table full of food. Pray for Syria. Pray that you may find a way to love.

    When I return home this week to my books, my armchair, my garden, and my table full of food, I will gather my children, and with my wife we will pray for Syria. We will pray for those who have been uprooted from their homes. We will talk about ways to love Syrians. We will go get supplies and pack kits that will be sent to Syrian refugees — or better said, to men, women, and children just like you and me. We do well to remember that no human wants to be a refugee and that if the roles were reversed, I would pray that someone would welcome my children and my wife.

    One day, when I am long gone, my great grandchildren might ask their grandparents (my children) about the Syrian refugee crisis. They will say that they knew what was going on and that the entire family took action. They will be able to say that they did for others what they would want for themselves if they ever became refugees.

    I hope that the story told will be a legacy of love.

    Your great grandchildren will one day talk about the Syrian refugee crisis of the early twenty-first century. Your action or inaction will be a legacy. I say this with great certainty. I can tell you exactly what my great grandfather’s actions were during the last great refugee crisis in Syria 100 years ago.

    Take action now. Here’s how.

    Join Medical Teams International’s initiative to create and ship 10,000 refugee kits by December 31, 2015. These kits will help 30,000 people. Here are three ways to help:

    • GIVE financially to support the effort. Donations will be used to purchase supplies for the kits and to ship the kits.
    • DONATE supplies, either in bulk or completed kits. They can be dropped off at or shipped to:
      MTI Tigard Oregon Distribution Center
      14150 SW Milton Court
      Tigard, OR 97224
    • VOLUNTEER to pack kits at an MTI Distribution Center. This is a great way to be hands on and give back with family and friends during the holidays.

    For more information and to find downloadable PDF flyers that you can print and distribute, go to

  • Ebola: Clinics stronger & ready to fight outbreak

    by Emily Crowe | Nov 24, 2015

    This week brought unsettling news from Liberia: After being declared “Ebola free” twice since the first major outbreak, the deadly virus has emerged once again.

    Is this reason to panic? Thanks to your support, the answer is: "No." MTI's Andrew Hoskins, Country Director in Liberia, reports from the field:

    "This is not a return to the emergency. MTI’s work (along with multiple other partners) has built the capacity of MOH & Liberian health care workers to handle these cases in a far different way than one year ago. 

    MTI_Liberia_MonroviaDuring the initial outbreak, community misconceptions about Ebola as well as Liberia's already weak health system caused the virus to spread out of control. Our staff focused on teaching, mentoring and helping clinics and communities gain tools to protect themselves from an outbreak.

    "Already we have seen very positive improvements on coordination of the response effort, contact tracing, isolation, etc." 

    Instead of a "smoldering epidemic," your support has been used to build up Liberia's infrastructure: helping stop Ebola before it can spread-- protecting children and families from becoming victims.


    Your generosity is truly saving lives in Liberia-- bringing care and knowledge to those who can make sure children are kept safe, communities are protected. We are relieved that, now, clinics are better equipped to prevent a disastrous outbreak.

  • Humbling moments with Syrian refugees

    by Emily Crowe | Nov 23, 2015

    Syrian_refugee_mother_children_GreeceHeartbreaking violence has forced millions of innocent Syrians to flee for safety-- countless homes and families have been destroyed. Your support is on the ground-- providing medical care and supplies for families simply trying to survive.

    This week, Medical Teams International's President & CEO Jeff Pinneo is visiting Greece & Lebanon to assess refugee families' needs-- and is witnessing the amazing ways your gifts are making an impact.

    In Greece, resilient refugee families prove that overcrowded camps and a lost homeland aren't enough to break the human spirit-- many have risked their lives crossings seas and facing freezing winter temperatures in a desperate search for safer lives.

    Follow Jeff's journey-- and see the people and places where you are making a crucial impact and bringing care and support where it's so desperately needed.

    "Some images from my day with hundreds of Syrian families who've fled their war torn homeland for safety and freedom, often risking their lives in the crossing to Greece. Inspired that MTI & our Greek partners are able to bring some light into their day and outlook--thankful for the many supporters and friends who make it possible."

    MTI's Trina meets with a refugee mother and her child. In spite of losing their home and homeland, the sweet innocence of a child is a reminder of God's love and peace.

    With meager accommodations, many refugees are forced to wait outside, exposed to cold winter temperatures and with no way to buy food or winter clothes.
    Families wait near the sea they risked their lives to cross. It's a dangerous, deadly journey that has taken many lives.

  • World Toilet Day: How do toilets battle poverty?

    by Emily Crowe | Nov 19, 2015

    Today is an unusual day: World Toilet Day. Created in 2013 United Nations General Assembly, it's a day entirely to an often-overlooked tool in the fight against poverty: toilets.

    Compared to more "glamorous" health tools like new clinics or innovative food programs, a toilet may not seem like the most exciting way to save lives. In reality, this couldn't be any further from the truth.

    Why is a toilet an important tool to end poverty? This year's theme focuses on one of the big ways toilets (and safe drinking water) hurt developing communities: Better sanitation for better nutrition.

    Without a safe toilet, it's easy for water sources to become contaminated by human waste-- causing diseases like repeated diarrhea and intestinal worm infection-- both of which produce roughly 50% of all malnutrition cases around the world. Nearly 1000 children die every day from diarrheal diseases linked to a lack of safe water and sanitation.

    So, in honor of World Toilet Day, we're sharing snapshots of some of the many ways your support is at work around the world, from Cambodia to Latin America-- bringing safer sanitation to children and communities and bringing these deadly statistics down.

    latrine guatemala
    GUATEMALA: Volunteers & locals install a latrine, as well as hand washing stations, in a rural village in Guatemala. Learn more about our health projects in Guatemala.

    CAMBODIA: Children practice proper handwashing with their mother, who was trained at local Community Health meeting led by MTI. Learn more about how you can help families in Cambodia.

    Handwashing Nepal
    NEPAL: Local women are taught about the importance and basics of handwashing at a post-earthquake clinic led by MTI. Learn more about our work in Nepal.

  • An early Christmas gift brightens Edena's smile

    by Tyler Graf | Nov 17, 2015

    The holidays seem to come sooner and sooner each year, a fact not lost on Edena, a Native American woman who lives a humble life in the American Southwest on a reservation.

    Edena grew up during World War II, a time of rationing and food shortages for her family. All they had were each other during Christmas, but that was plenty. On Christmas day, they gathered friends and family and gave out handmade crafts and baked goods.

    Edena said she wished people still focused on being with their families on holidays instead of shopping. People should still make things for each other, she said.

    Edena reflected on the nature of giving at a community health screening held at the reservation. The event had a Christmas theme tied to "giving." 

    Shipping, Edena in the SW, 2015
    Edena opens her early Christmas stocking and is happy to find health supplies and assorted gifts.

    At the screening health workers were able to give Edena a stocking filled with health supplies-- a gift that you provided. Some of the gifts were hard-to-come-by dental supplies, much needed in a region with some of the highest instances of tooth decay and gum disease in the country.

    The stocking included top-of-the-line toothbrushes and other important hygiene and health supplies. Among the elderly population of the reservation, poor dental health is a major cause of other health problems down the road, such as heart disease and pneumonia. 

    Edena was so thankful for what you provided. It reminded her of the useful gifts she used to receive as a child, and embodied the spirit of Christmas "giving" she truly treasures.

    Thanks to your gift, Edna is better protected from these preventable diseases-- this holiday season and for years to come.