Yes, I'm going to Iraq in January.
On the day after the Paris terrorist attacks, I sent a Facebook Message back to our trip coordinator,
Count me in and keep me posted on details.
We'd been in discussion about a week about me joining a team to go and serve refugees that have been displaced by ISIS in the Syria / Iraq area. By most accounts, there are between 2.8-3.2 million refugees in Iraq caused by ISIS overrunning cities, towns, and villages in the past 18 months, forcing many families to drop everything and flee for their lives. While many in the U.S. are debating whether we can safely help Syrian refugees resettle here in the U.S., it's a non-issue for me. There are millions suffering and what better way to show you care than by going to them?
So we are going.
I get it. It's a bit out of the ordinary.
I've preached to my kids since they were little that we need to be people of service. That we need to be uncommon. Common is what the masses do, and they often focus solely on their American Dream and that next rung of upward mobility. My aim for my family is that we not get stuck in a self-centered U.S. middle class comfort-first mentality but realize there is a big world out there with big needs and we are richer for being part of it and serving, not by staying away from it. So I need to model that, and this is a opportunity to do so.
My faith in Jesus Christ is the primary foundation for why I'm wired this way. Jesus was pretty straightforward:
"Love God as you love yourself and your neighbor". (Luke 10:27)
But, Jesus, who is my neighbor? Go read the Good Samaritan for yourself, and ponder this message in light of discussions online today about whether we allow refugees in or not. For me, the answer is clear. Jesus says to go in His strength and do as He has commanded. So I am going to those in great need.
"Are you scared?" I've gotten that question a number of times already. I am a bit nervous about the flight into Iraq, in airspace that has been volatile and unsettled but more than that...I'm pumped! I'm excited beyond measure to have the opportunity with some other great guys from Grace Community Church to be "hands and feet" of service to those that have been displaced by ISIS.
I'm getting this question too. My answer: We can show we care.
We can take supplies. We can play with kids.
We can shake hands and look into the eyes of father's trying to do what I'd be doing....find a way to take care of their family.
We can continue long-term work already going on alongside our partner there to help move refugees out of tents and into apartments. This is a key way of helping them "find a new normal" including getting furnished places to live so they can settle and make a new life in a new city, some permanently, others with hopes that they will one day be able to return to their home area.
I think there is something powerful that can happen when they see we've ventured from our land to where they are to meet them and reach out. We can show them Christians care, we can show them practical kindness.
Our partner church in Iraq will be our hosts and facilitators for our time there, providing translators and a plan to weave us into the work they are doing.
So that's what I'm planning to do! I'm heading to Iraq in January!
Believe it or not, yes.
Gail has been married to me for over 20 years so she knows how I am.
She's knows I like to push the edges and I love to find my way in new places, even "hot type" places. She's seen me go to Morocco a few times, Indonesia, Kenya, and more, so she understands my sense of mission and I'm grateful to have her support in this venture.
We are together in this vision of me going and serving. I couldn't go without that and you can support her during those days I'm gone and she does have her hands full at home then!