When you leave the village, and head over the windy road that crosses the mountain, you will come to the most wonderfully refreshing pool of water from which has been created a swimming/ picnic area, complete with full separation of men and women for bathing purposes. Its name is Bandawa, the cold, pure water coming from a nearby mountain spring. It was originally used as a threshing floor for wheat. It's kind of like coming across a cluster of grapes in the desert.
With the month of August approaching, plus all the swirlings, all of the uncertainties, all of the never ending dust storms that have stubbornly continued way beyond the usual 50 day period, and it being the hottest summer in living memory, we knew that it was time to head to Bandawa and simply chill in the cold spring water. A place of refreshing for mind and body.
We packed up our minivan, engaged all our drivers and headed out fully loaded with supplies and 100 students, those who were rescued from captivity in ISIS.
NABA. ISIS SURVIVOR.
“Thank you for providing us with this beautiful day in a beautiful place full of water. We have just finished our exams and were mentally tired and in need of refreshment. I hadn't been with my friends for a long time because of preparing for the exams (and I have years of education to catch up on), so it was wonderful to be together with friends as a family again. It was an unspeakable feeling to dive into the pure water and to wash all our worries away. And to eat together as one big family was simply the best, to know that we are cared for in every way. Thank you.”
Naba. ISIS survivor.
“I am a big fan of SOHF picnics because I know that each one is memorable and that every detail is taken care of. I prepared myself with special clothes. The night before I could barely sleep as I was longing both for the fresh spring water and to be with my friends.
The atmosphere is so tense at the moment, exams were hard, and now the summer is scorching so that it's too hard to function. We all really needed this change of “weather” and to get away from the camp.
It is at times like this when I notice the detail of preparation and the lavishness of care that Springs of Hope showers on us, then I know how much I am loved and valued by them. I am their family and they take care of me.”
“For those of us who were in captivity and missed years of schooling, it is very hard to study and to succeed. We have many years to catch up, so the exam period is very stressful. It was not easy for me to return to school, I faced many challenges and pressures that the other students do not have. So, when there is an opportunity to get out of the camp, go on a picnic with SOHF, it is such a gift from heaven for me. I greatly value these times out.
These times make us become closer to each other, both with the staff and to our friends. There is always great joy and willingness to come together and prepare the food, to lay the table, cut the salad, prepare the watermelon. We love doing this together.
Eating together, sitting, laughing, and sharing jokes is always the best, even without the clear water, our souls come alive again. We take endless photos which we later share with each other. After such picnics I look at my photos all the time, they help me to breathe until the next time.
The water was not so important to me, but eating and dancing with my friends was the best. Thank you.”
“Thanks so much for this beautiful day which I really appreciate. Whenever we go out for a picnic I am always the photographer. I love taking photos and my friends call on me to record our times together. It makes me feel so happy to see that I can be of help to everyone, and to document our new and healing memories.
It's always Alo who calls me first, and tells me that even if I am busy I have to cancel everything and come on the trip and take photos.”
“I really appreciate you taking us to this picnic. I was very excited to go and spent the whole week in great anticipation. Going out with my family and going to special places like this greatly helps me build new memories, new experiences so that I focus less on all that I suffered when I was in captivity.
The water was wonderful, we guys learned to swim when we were in captivity, we had no choice, so we just went straight into the water, which washed all my stress, and all my negative thoughts away.
But most of all, the most important thing is eating together like a family. Springs of Hope is my family and I need those family meals together. I know that I belong, that I have my place. They calm my soul. Thank you.”
“These picnics are both happy and sad. Happy because I am with my family. Sad because I then go back to my tent and think about the happiness that I am already missing. I was especially happy as I made three new friends, Lina, Hamda and Vina. Making friends with them was such a gift to me and it meant that I would not be sad at the end, knowing that we will be together in the Hope Centre and that my happiness would continue.
It was the most wonderful and perfect day. Thank you.” Julia
“Thank you for this beautiful day. I don't get out of my tent much. I don't talk to people so much. But inside of me there is a different person, one who loves life and who loves people although it's very hard for me to show that. I do want to go out of the house and be close to people.
It is enough for me to be in such a beautiful place with the shade of the trees, with the cool water and to see people happy and laughing. I am happy to see them happy. I hope that one day my inside will come outside. The picnic helped me with that as I became a little more connected with some people.”
“My friends and I live far away in Qadiya camp, there are no water springs close to us, so going to Bandawa was a very special gift to us. The weather in Qadiya is always so heavy that sometimes it is even hard to breathe normally.
It was fantastic to be with my family, all eating and dancing together. It’s times like this that give us all strength to continue, that encourage us and show us that we have family who really care about us. Thank you.”
“Being together with my friends causes me to relax and to be totally comfortable. When we go on picnics we do everything together, the same as we did in captivity only now it's different, now it's good. We prepare the BBQ together, help salt the meat together, whatever is needed. We all dive into the water at the same time as we all learned to swim in captivity. We ate, played games together and danced together. It was such a great day.”
“Thank you, thank you, I was so happy. I love being in the water and there was such delicious food, so it was a great day together, as one, as family. Thank you, thank you.”
Every time that we take Our Tribe out, we spread a table. A table where family gathers. A table in the wilderness. A table, as the psalm says, “in the presence of our enemies.” In that place it's where “our cup runs over”. It is around that table we come to know that “goodness and mercy will violently pursue us all the days of our lives.” Our table, as the root of the Hebrew word indicates, ( S. L. CH. ) Shalach is the sending place. The place from which Our Tribe moves out, into a new week, a new experience, a new paradigm, a new memory. We send them out full.
As we have journeyed over the years, we have gathered around many tables and sent our kids out many times. Banadawa is yet another one of our Stones of Help and Sending Places.