Snowflake in the Desert

17 February 2024

There Once was a Dog Named Snowflake 

Poem by Suuzanne Eubank 

There once was a dog named Snowflake, 

Who lived in a village surrounded by opium. 

She played by herself, as her village ran away, 

Until one day, rangers came for a one-night stay. 

Snowflake loved all she met, 

And put every mountain to the test. 

Bringing light to a dark place, 

Her white fur, soft to embrace. 

But evil comes, creeps in to steal, 

The joy and love we hold so real. 

Some years later, another light showed through, 

But this time it eliminated darkness in Baghouz. 

A small white donkey, with nowhere to go, 

Standing next next to her mom, shot dead on the road. 

With granola and apples we brought her back to our base,

We gave her kisses and love, and a new safe place. 

Just like the puppy, Snowflake shown bright, 

We renamed the donkey, in honor of her light. 

Everyday we would help thousands, covered in darkness, 

But to coming back to Snowflake, broke through the hardness. 

She was playful and joyful, always eager to love, 

Running with us in the mornings, and a breakfast nuzzle. 

When I sat alone, on the brim of our camp, 

She would walk up and stand by me, looking for a hug

Snowflake to me, was more than just a donkey 

She was God’s hands holding and comforting me

Strange to think, He’d use a small donkey 

But that’s exactly what He does,

Giving us exactly what we need.

Dear friends and family,

Thank you for how you love us, love people, and love animals as well! In our life and work, we have had many animals – horses, mules, monkeys, dogs, an assortment of other wild animals. All of them became part of our family. Some of them just come along with us for fun and some of them, like our horses, provide tremendous service by carrying meals, loads, and people as well; we love all of them. In Iraq and Syria, we adopted horses and dogs during the height of the war and they’ve also become part of our family. During the Battle of Baghouz in Syria, we adopted a special donkey; the story of how we got her and what a blessing she was follows below.

It was January 2019 and we were at the last stronghold of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Baghouz, Syria. Over 35,000 ISIS members had gathered at a bend of the Euphrates River on the Syrian-Iraqi border to make their last stand. Thousands of ISIS fighters were killed. As their organization began to fall apart, some fighters started to flee Baghouz with their families. Of those who came out, we treated 4000 wounded and fed 25,000. It was a bloody, horrible time.

In the middle of the chaos we were blessed with a new member of the family: a donkey the kids named Snowflake.  When we first drove in to the desert outskirts of Baghouz, we saw destruction all around us, and then in the distance, we saw a donkey standing over something. As we got close, we realized it was a baby donkey standing over its dead mother. The mother donkey had been killed by ISIS and the baby wouldn’t move.  Sahale, Suu, and Peter dismounted our vehicles and carefully approached the baby donkey. They talked gently and sweetly and began to pet the donkey. She pricked up her ears and looked at them. At first she was afraid, but as the kids kept touching and speaking sweetly, the donkey softened. Finally, after about an hour, the baby donkey was nuzzling up close to them. When they started to walk away, it looked at them then looked at its dead mother and followed the kids. Watching this almost made us cry.

The baby donkey followed the kids into our little berm in the desert where we had parked our vehicles. We were sleeping in tents and had piles of relief supplies we were distributing every day. The donkey settled in with us. The baby donkey was white as snow so the kids named her Snowflake. The kids fed her and treated an infection she had, which cleared up quickly. In the morning when we got up, we would go for little runs in the desert and Snowflake would follow us like a large dog. During devotions, she would come up to us as we shared. When we sang hymns she became especially happy, wagging her tail and moving her ears. Anytime Sahale, Suu, or Peter would get up to go anywhere, Snowflake would follow them and bump them playfully from behind. This was the most unusual donkey we had ever seen.

After two months, ISIS fell and the last of the fighters were sent to camps. It was time to leave and the kids asked, “What do we do with the donkey, dad?“

I said, “Yes, we love her and want to keep her. So let’s pray for a way.”

We prayed and then Bashir, our Syria coordinator, said, “I have cousins who are farmers and they love animals. They have a male donkey and they would want a female. Let’s take her to them.” We packed up all the supplies, packed up Snowflake in the back of one of our pickups, and then drove our convoy 16 hours out towards Qamishli in northeast Syria. It was a long night, we were dragging a broken Humvee and the kids rode in the back with Snowflake. We pulled into the farm at 0330 in the morning. Bashir‘s cousins woke up and came out rubbing their eyes. What did they see?  A group of Americans and Burmese, some army vehicles, and a donkey. Merry Christmas! Here is a donkey for you. Can you please keep it for us? We will take care of all the food and the cost. The farmer family woke up completely then.

Thankfully, they smiled and said, “Yes, of course! We love this donkey!” We told them the same story I’m telling you: how we got Snowflake and how she survived the war. The family took good care of her, and two or three times a year when we went on Syria missions we stopped at what became known as the Donkey House. Snowflake helped us develop a relationship with the family and the whole community. We would meet with Bashir’s cousins and laugh together at how a donkey had brought our families together. This village has become one of the main Good Life Club (GLC) areas and a sanctuary for us as we move through Syria.

Three years ago Snowflake got donkey married to the male donkey at the farm and a little baby donkey was born. The kids named her Miracle and she looks like her mother. Just like her mother, she is very loving and became part of our family as well. Every time we would come, whether it was morning or late at night, Snowflake and Miracle would greet us with loud brays. The kids would jump out of the vehicles and run to hug them. It was a beautiful, heartwarming sight.

Now, for the sad part of the story: one day, while on a relief mission here in Burma we heard from the “donkey family “ that Snowflake had passed away. This was a big blow to us and it makes me sad to write about. But we want to honor the memory of Snowflake and remember the love and joy she brought to us. I also want to thank God for the blessing she was to our lives. God did indeed gave us two miracle donkeys, a Snowflake in the desert and foal named Miracle. Miracle continues to live on as her mother did, full of love. Thank you for letting me share a story so important to our family. We are thankful that God cares about all creatures, great and small. We thank God for every kind of miracle, even if it’s just a little donkey. May God bless all your loved ones in Jesus’ name, whether they have two legs or four.

Thank you and God bless you,

Dave, family, and FBR