We rolled out from the airport my eyes fastened through the window taking in every ounce of this nation that had been burning in my heart long before my first step on the ground.A nation that has known much war and devastation. A nation that had been predominately misunderstood by the western world. A nation I am determined to see God move in.
That’s the funny thing about my travels, I’ve often thought that I was coming to start a move of God only to find that I’m right smack in the middle of one. Sure Christians are still being murdered brutally here, but anywhere there is persecution and injustice you are sure to find He’s already tangibly present. As we stepped out, I felt Him, and I knew I was once again in a place that He would beckon me back to. As we drove through the streets of abandoned buildings you can’t help but realize this was once a thriving city. Thought to be the next great business and entertainment hub before terrorism wreaked it’s havoc, the investors piled in to build their empires. Their hopes and dreams for this place diminished as war caused most to cut their losses and flee. Unfortunately leaving the many Iraqis here stuck without a job in this war zone that they call home. What happens to the people when without any notice or choice of their own their city becomes a place of war? Many try to continue to do life as normal, but of course many are forced into IDP camps to live in tents and handed out food. In the territory we’re working in there’s millions displaced for multiple different reasons from the Syrian crises, the Iraq war, or now ISIS invasions. We visited Yazidi families yesterday. The war on Yazidis was officially labeled a genoicde just a few weeks ago. We look at them in the face, we know their names. They’re people. A people group that has been targeted for years, but now specifically tortured by ISIS. This family once at the base of mount shengal has a story that would make your heart break in all the right ways. I look at them living in the abandoned building they have called home for the last year and half after barely surviving ISIS brutal attacks.
Who will be their voice? Who will stand up for them and say enough is enough? Who will look at them and tell them that their life matters?
I’ve never been one to sit idle at the news of injustice, but I often find my own internal war here. The place where my incurable optimism meets a reality that seems oh so harsh. A reality that seems all too big to change. A place where you have to wonder just how you could possibly make a difference.
In these moments when I come back to whatever temporary home after a day of staring real pain in the face the easiest thing to do is count down the days until you can go back and hide. I know we can all continue on in our western world hidden from the reality of millions being massacred half a world away. But how do you do that when you’ve seen them face to face? How do you turn away when you’ve held the children in your arms? How do you remain silent, go back to your pew, and sing songs about the God of justice when you’ve heard their stories?
I know this war well, I’ve been a participant now for almost 10 years. I remember walking into an underground grave in a village in Rwanda, hearing the stories of genocide, meeting the women with only one arm as they share their stories of war. I knew then my life was ruined for normal. I knew I was destined to tell these stories. I couldn’t live through another genocide and hide behind a pulpit preaching good sermons, while ignoring the one I was supposed to be living. The sermon of unhindered love. The sermon of bravery that runs to the darkest places. The sermon of compassion that refuses to turn away from the things that seem painful or hard to understand. The sermon of justice that refuses to remain silent when others are being tortured. The sermon of a powerful God that doesn’t give up hope in His ability to turn even the worst situations around.
That is what we must bring to the table in this world. Unquenchable hope. Whether I’m in DR-Congo a nation of over two decades of war, in the local homeless shelter in the US, or sitting at the table drinking coffee with a friend, we must have hope. I must have hope for my situation and I must have hope for yours, no matter how devastating it might be. I must believe that God is who He says He is and He can bring healing and change. We must be hope carriers when people don’t have the strength to believe for themselves.
So as I sit here I know that my story isn’t done with this. I cannot, I will not hide, even when it hurts, even when it’s hard, even when your stomach grows sick from the pain of injustice and your eyes burn from all the tears. When you’ve touched them, when you’ve held them, when you’ve cried with them, you can’t hide, you must look the reality in the face and you must become a voice for those who have no platform. You must make a choice to be the sermon you’ve preached and the Jesus you’ve pledged allegiance to.
In one of my favorite songs, Albertine, by Brook Frasier she says, “Now that I have seen, I am responsible.”
Now that you have heard, you are responsible. Will you sit idle as the genocide rages on or will you rise up to the challenge. Will you allow your heart to break for what breaks His?