A Paradise of Land and Projects for the Foundation
By Joelle Perry
We have arrived!
I travelled this week with Sister Hatune Dogan to her foundation in India. It was late at night, after many delays at the airport, and the drive to the foundation was very bumpy, loud, and crazy– typical for India, I soon learned. I had no idea where we were but to my amazement, when I woke up and looked out of the window, I was in a paradise!
The view was stunning. Her property boasts a six-acre land that is abounding and fruitful. That morning, Sister showed me all the various trees and plants she has cultivated. I learned about how the property, which was once a chaotic tangled wilderness, was honed out and built into this paradise under her plan and farming skills.
She had every fruit tree and plant that I could imagine, and she quickly began her week by planting new vegetables and pruning some trees she planted the year before.
Breakfast was served, straight from the garden, to the table! This was the best breakfast I ever had; the fruit was so full of taste. Unlike at the markets, where the fruits are picked before they are ripe, these were picked off of the tree, fully ripe and full of flavor.
She named this paradise the Tur-Abdin Village, after her hometown Zaz in Tur-Abdin, Turkey. I was amazed at the beauty of the picture in her living room. This painting on the window, with the light coming in from behind, seemed to be an icon of sorts that linked back to her spirituality and heritage in Zaz. It is a world of symbols of it’s own, and I spent some time climbing up it’s stares, entering it’s convent walls, and gazing into the landscape. The theme in my heart this week here has been hope – hope for a good future, and hope for restoration. Will Zaz ever be a place that Hatune’s family’s lineage can return to? Will her old broken down home in Zaz and the fallow grounds ever be re-built and cultivated? Or, will the Dogan’s forever be in a strange land of refuge from persecution from the Muslim’s? To this day, it is not a possibility, but in their hearts, and in this image, is hope.
We know that Jesus will one day come again and make all things new, and this is my prayer for her life, for her hometown, and for the millions of people in this world who only know war, who only know need and persecution. Whether in this age or the next, I know there will be a day that Sister Hatune climbs up those stairs and explores those convent walls in a peaceful world, free of wickedness, and full of the presence of the Lord.
My friend from the army called me this week, suddenly, out of nowhere, after three years of silence. It was a confirming moment in my heart as I began to speak the words of Jesus, of peace and hope and a good future, to a worn torn man, a beloved friend of mine who has been consumed by war. For now, in this life, we have been born into a war, and Sister Hatune is running her race and fighting the good fight of faith until that final day of victory. Every conversation I have with her, it is like speaking to a commander of an army; she knows fully well that she is in a war. She too, is war torn. This small image though, the memories of her hometown Zaz reminds me, remind her, that in the end of her story, she will return to her roots. At the end of the story, we know that Jesus wins and evil is triumphed over.
The next day, I was able to visit the students of the Hatune Foundation’s seamstress school. Every year, the schools Sister Hatune has established, puts out 4,800 seamstresses and IT workers in the world. They take in the poorest of the poor and give them the ability to work and earn for themselves. The students were certainly happy and often celebrated and prayed together.
Then, it was off to visit some friends of Sister Hatune Dogan. Our first stop was St. Mary Magdalene’s Convent, which Sister Hatune built and played an important role in helping when they were once stricken by poverty and taking care of 18 nuns and 24 orphans. Now, their former problems have cleared up and Sister Hatune was able to spend time with them and have a nice conversation. While there, I was able to see one of the countless wells built by her foundation. It was an impressive sight!
We then visited St. Ephrem Seminary and her beloved former professor and friend, Father Thomas. These two go back 17 years. When we arrived, he said that he had just been mentioning Hatune’s name before she appeared.
He took out a wooden cross from beneath his shirt and showed it to her; she had given it to him six years before. The friendships I saw between Hatune and her various friends were all very warm and loving. Her roots certainly do go deep here in India.
We then went to Jensie and Peter’s house to celebrate her and her husband’s 30 year anniversary, and her birthday at the same time. Jensie plays an important role in the foundation, as she is the regional director for five of the foundations computer and tailoring institutions. More than this, she oversees the medical camp, the housing projects, and water-well projects in the entire region.
The next day, Elias set us up on a boat outing for us. Elias is the engine of the foundation in India as well as all the surrounding South Asian countries. From our arrival, I was stunned by the beauty of the Indian people. India, it’s land, it’s people, and it’s culture all gave us a warm (maybe too warm because its’ 38 degrees Celcius here) welcome!
Today, Sister Hatune will sit down with the board members and set up a busy and productive schedule to run medical camps, distribute medicine, build and inaugurate houses, build wells, and distribute financial support to those who are unable to survive. Also, she will visit the institutions she’s built to hand out certificates to those who have finished their courses. After the celebrations, Sister Hatune will also speak to the students to motivate them to succeed in earning their own daily bread, as well as inaugurate and motivate the new classes.
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