In March of 2017, I took a trip to Iraq with Back to Jerusalem. I did not have months to plan for this trip, either. What happened was a friend from church was going and invited me along. At the time, I thought it was an exciting opportunity to take a short-term mission trip and see some of the work BTJ was doing in the Middle East. I did NOT imagine that the trip would result in my wife and I selling most of our stuff to move halfway across the world with our young son.
The trip to Iraq was life-changing. I met a young, married couple working as BTJ missionaries. They live alongside Yazidi refugees and minister daily to hundreds of kids, teaching them about the love of Christ. Walking the streets of the village I visited, this young couple was surrounded by countless children, reaching for hugs and making conversation in broken English. I was also able to hear the heartbreaking stories of women who had been enslaved by ISIS. The torture they endured was unimaginable. Their tragedy did not end with their escape, however. Upon returning home, these women were completely rejected by their families and friends. The abuse they suffered at the hands of ISIS had marked them as worthless in the eyes of everyone they loved. BUT, hope is not lost for these women. BTJ is partnering with people and organizations on the ground to minister to the spiritual needs of these women while also developing business opportunities to help them in pursuit of their livelihoods. This process empowers these women to provide for themselves rather than become reliant on humanitarian help, which while positive, is not always sustainable.
As I returned home, I remember thinking to myself, “I would love to return to Iraq with my wife one day.” God must have heard this thought because He spoke to my wife and I within a few days of my return home that we were to move to Iraq to serve and love the people there. This type of move had not been discussed up to this point in our marriage, but we knew it was God. We both felt that if we did not pursue this call, we would be in sin. Our desire was to partner and serve with Back to Jerusalem, and God opened a door for us to move to Iraq in the fall to do just that!
As we have made the decision to walk in obedience to God’s call on our life, I have spent a lot of time reading and reflecting on the story of Jonah. The Scripture says the Word of the Lord came to Jonah to go to Nineveh (which is modern day Mosul, a city in Iraq). Jonah clearly heard God’s word for his life and proceeded to literally run away from it. Jonah ultimately found himself in the belly of a fish before he decided to obey God’s call on his life.
Moving to Iraq is not easy. On top of selling our house and cars, transitioning out of our jobs, and raising support, many people, including close family and friends, do not understand why my wife and I would choose to move to Iraq, with a child under one, no less. But even when times are the toughest, my wife and I reflect on Jonah’s story. Like Jonah, we believe we have clearly heard God’s call for our life. We can choose to obey His call, or possibly face the belly of some sort of sea creature. We have decided to follow Jesus…no turning back.
If you would like to hear more of our story, please visit our website: www.calebandpaigecrawford.com