Good morning and greetings to those here in the U.S. and to our new friends who may be reading this in Iraq. Please pardon my being out of touch a bit, as since returning to the States my body, mind, and spirit have had to readjust. My body is used to such shocks, and my mind is fine, but to be honest it’s my spirit that has me unable to sleep.
In a conversation yesterday someone said to me, “How does it feel now that it’s over?”
Actually, I told them, getting over there and making new friends and colleagues and capturing my journey for a film was only the end of the beginning. Now, this wonderful opportunity for our communities—separated perhaps by geography but of one spirit, one heart—of shared mission, and mutual understanding, can really start.
As a practical matter, the $13,500 we raised for an initial plate offering was shared as follows:
- 25 Samsung tablets for all the teachers of Mar Elia. $7,000
- A special embroidery sewing machine for the sewing business at Mar Elia $2,500
- Food bundles for 80 families in Banasour $3,000
- Monies distributed in cash to 5 families in the Armenian Orthodox church $1,000
All of these distributions were filmed and may be seen here on the Stand With Iraqi Christians Facebook page and website in segments, and will also be a part of the film to be finished sometime in mid-to-late November (God willing).
I am deeply grateful for every penny of your contributions, and while I was there only wished that we had more to give. Their humanity, strength, exuberance, and determination to survive in body and spirit in the love of God no matter what utterly humbles me. I miss them.
It is great to be home in the country and with the people I love. The comfortable and spacious home I share with my wife and pooch Sadie feels like a sanctuary and is a blessing beyond expression. As I sit in our kitchen, a nice cup of tea streaming in front of me, Amanda upstairs sleeping, Sadie curled up on her little bed snoring, all I can think about are some of our friends, families of up to 10, living in 10′ x 15′ containers, now going on years.
I don’t feel guilty, though, I feel motivated. The Iraqi Christians I was privileged to meet are every bit as diverse, opinionated, contentious, and different in outlook and aspirations as we Americans in our big, unwieldy faith traditions. As the film will express, some of these Christians in Erbil want to to leave the Middle East entirely. Some want to stay and return to the homes and the country they deeply love, and miss. Others are searching and praying about an uncertain future they have put in God’s hands.
I have come to understand that my role (and I would encourage our role) is to first and foremost listen to them. Listen, without judgment, pre-established views, or prescriptions on what they ought or ought not to do, and then honor their dreams, desires, and ambitions as best we know how. That, without question, is what all of us can do right now. And we can also continue to work together to assist each of them materially to not just survive but to thrive in their lives of family, faith, and freedom.
I will stop here for now with one final thought: getting to know personally any of the individuals or communities I met is as easy and close as the computer you now sit before.
A big, maybe the biggest part of this project, is connecting people in real time, in real relationship. As we move on with the film, the fund-raising, and awareness-building about life for Iraqi Christians, we can be connecting with folks there on Facebook, via Skype, email, messenger, Viber, etc.
Frs. Douglas and Daniel have already invited folks to speak with them through Facebook; if you would like to get personally connected with someone today, just let us know. I guarantee there is someone in Erbil right now who would love to talk to you! Just ask us and we’ll get you in touch.
And please continue to give what you can. As I said, this is just the beginning. Together we can all make a big and beautiful difference in the lives of our sisters and brothers in the body of Christ in Iraq. Thanks for paying attention, and please stay tuned and jump in—the journey has just begun, my friends!
Grace and peace,