Letter from Iraq


Dear Friends:

We just survived another rocket attack that was heading for our sector. We heard no explosions—only the sounds of (hopefully accurate) counter fire. It’s easy to forget we’re in a combat zone until we hear the “alarm red” siren and have to dive to the ground. While these attacks happen daily, there’s actually a greater chance of you getting hurt on the freeway today than of a rocket landing on us.

I volunteered to come here, leaving my wife, three children and church congregation in Rapid City to do my part as an Air Force Reserve chaplain. The hardest thing is missing my family. Today, my youngest son turns eight. I’ll call him this evening, when it will be morning in the States.

I learned that my congregation organized a work party to landscape our yard. My wife said it looks beautiful. I’m humbled by the love and support of the people at Realis Community Church and thank God for them.

A Terrible Toll

An airman’s husband in the States committed suicide last week. I was called to help this poor woman in her time of overwhelming grief. I had visited her squadron and she attended the Sunday morning service I lead, so I was the closest thing she had to a pastor over here. We got her on a flight home that night to be with her two now-fatherless boys. She will not be coming back. While this incident is a severe example, the toll that military deployments take on marriages and families is staggering.

Then there is our incredible hospital—a five-year-old Iraqi girl was brought in, the victim of a hit-and-run driver outside the gate. We tried our best to comfort her Muslim father in the emergency room. He was even willing to have us pray for her with him through an interpreter. It was an experience I’ll not soon forget: two U.S. Protestant chaplains, bowing in prayer with an Iraqi father, crying out for God to save his daughter.

An airman from my mission support squadron—a vehicle maintenance troop—was working on a fire truck when an áá airbrake exploded in his face. His jaw and top teeth were broken, and it could have killed him. He’s in Germany now and will eventually head back to the States. Our ER doctors, nurses and support staff at the trauma hospital are true heroes. Pray for them. They do amazing work, but the pace they keep and the trauma they see here are heavy burdens to bear.

Today’s worship services went very well. I preached on the parable of the man who found a treasure in a field and in joy sold all he had to attain it (Matt. 13:44). Some are finding that treasure in this field called Iraq. An army major told me in tears after the service that God has been using my messages to change his life.

Freedom Isn’t Free

Before I came here, I supported this war. Today, I still do; the only difference is that now my eyes tear up as I think of the heavy price that is being paid to wage it. There are no guarantees that we are going to be successful. But I still believe in what we are doing here. It’s been said that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. I do not want my sons to have to fight a war that their father’s generation was too afraid to fight. The lesson of history is that evil ideologies must be confronted with force or their tyrannical exploits will grow and flourish.

As you observe Veteran’s Day this year, remember that freedom isn’t free. Remember our troops out here who are fighting for your freedom and for the liberty of the Iraqi people. It took us many, many years to get democracy right; in fact, we’re still working at it. We cannot give up on the Iraqi people now; we cannot let the insurgents speak for them.

Many people want to help us by sending things—letters, literature, care packages, food and the like. But we are fairly well taken care of. If you really want to support the troops in Iraq and around the world, prayer is far and above the greatest thing you can do. What we need more than anything else is the peace, protection and hope that only God can give. And last time I checked, prayer for our troops in Iraq is postage free.

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