Recently, we took a team to Iraq for a Vision Casting Trip. One of the people we were blessed to have with us, who chose to join us on the trip, was Heidi from the US. Here is her experience…
How do you expect most people to react when you tell them “I’m going to Iraq to serve”? Well, I can tell you. Most react with shock and horror. The first questions are “why would you do that, it’s so dangerous!” Or maybe, “if you want to serve, there’s plenty of need right here.” Or my personal favorite, “you are crazy!”
But as I explored deeper into the stories of those who had gone before me with BTJ and prayed about what my contribution to the team might be, the desire to go only grew stronger by the day. I won’t say that there was no anxiety in the beginning… there was some apprehension about this area of the world. But the more I asked God to close doors as I walked through them, the more His peace began to seep into me and break up any lingering fear.
When I think of the experiences that we were able to have, my heart is filled with gratitude. Arriving at the refugee camp was heavy, as I acknowledged the suffering that we were walking into. Broken and displaced people looked at us with desperate eyes at first, but as they began to come and received aid from our team, the smiles and gratitude on their faces was overwhelming.
Despite the language barrier, these beautiful people, who have suffered so much heartache and have so little, shocked me by inviting us warmly into their homes with hugs and blessings and offers of tea and snacks. What little they had, they wanted to share with us, and that humbled me.
My heart is always particularly drawn to the children. I shared small friendship bracelets with them, and their bright smiles lifted my heart. Before long, I just sat down right on the side of the street, and the children gathered around me in a circle of excitement and laughter. I was blessed by how many children ran to find their siblings to bring them back to be a part of our bracelet making group. Whatever joy I may have given to them, they returned to me one hundred-fold.
Our team also had the honor of being invited to have lunch at the home of a Peshmerga commander who is highly honored in Iraqi Kurdistan for his brave efforts in fighting ISIS. I was moved by his courage and the courage of those who fought evil beside him without regard for their own safety. He even provided our team with a part of his own security detail of strong Peshmerga soldiers to accompany us during our trip. His generosity towards our team was something I will never forget.
Another experience was the honor of meeting some of the BTJ Chinese missionaries serving in Iraqi Kurdistan. I realized that my choice to join this team and serve for this one week was such a small gift by comparison to what these brave men and women do. They have given up their homes, countries of origin, pursuit of personal wealth, and in many cases even risked their lives to follow God’s call on their hearts. It’s safe to say that there are no words to properly describe the level of respect I have for their love and sacrifice.
We also had the unique privilege of walking in the footsteps of Biblical giants and seeing the impacts they have made. Biblical history comes to life when you are standing at the literal gate or looking out over the land promised to Abraham and his descendants. I was able to see with my own eyes what he may have seen as he stared out at the land God would give him.
We were able to immerse ourselves in the culture of these beautiful people, establish friendships, and see a side of God’s beautiful planet that most may not get the opportunity to see. And it’s certain that my love of Iraqi food has carried over into my US cuisine as I look for places to eat and shop that will bring back the flavors of this land.
I am so grateful that I chose to go. I would encourage anyone with this opportunity presented to them, to not hesitate. Prayerfully consider what God is putting on your heart and respond by opening it fully to His leading.
In thinking that you could possibly be a small blessing to others, you will find that the blessing was really for you.