Kurdistan, Northern Iraq, 2003. A few years before Dad began working in Kurdistan, Kathy and I blazed the trail for his ministry in that area. We had sensed that we needed to branch out from humanitarian work in the greater Baghdad area, so we jumped in a car with our dear friend Nabil and a driver, Ahmad*(not his real name), and drove north.
We drove throughout the Iraqi Kurdish region distributing food, bibles, and school supplies. From disputed areas of Kirkuk and Mosul, to Erbil, and so many villages in between – places like Aramash, Basheqh & Bahzani, Hazarjot, and Malabarwan to name a few. We were usually greeted with smiles, hugs, and kisses on the cheeks, as people in need were being “remembered”. It was truly one of the great trips of our marriage.
On our last morning, in Shaqlawa, as we loaded up our suitcases in the back of the suburban, Ahmad came around the back to close the hatch. He waited until I was alone and he spoke. “Why do you do this? I am from Ramadi. I am Iraqi. Not even my own people do this for my fellow Iraqi’s.” And here it was – the opening. As Dad always told me, never push your faith. Just wait. There will be an opening to share.
I told Ahmad that we came to show love to the Iraqi people because of the love that Jesus had showed us 2,000 years ago on the cross. Ahmad instantly understood. “I am a Muslim, but we don’t do these things. I want what you have.” And so I asked him if I could say a prayer with him, and we bowed our heads.
It sounds quaint and easy now, but what transpired there was dangerous, for Ahmad as well as for Kathy and I. At the time, I hadn’t a second thought of it, because I had been mentored by the boldest man of faith I had ever known – my father.