That’s really the best one-word sum-up I can give for the past few weeks. We just arrived back in Iraq after our Heartmender Tour in America, and it was quite the blitz.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, we take time away from Iraq about once or twice a year to speak, share stories, and to get to know you better; not to mention we want to tell you about the difference you’re making in the lives of Iraqis here.
To us, these intense, exhausting trips are absolutely worth it because we believe in concept of preemptive love. Not just Preemptive Love, but preemptive love. The former is a 501(c)3 nonprofit created to provide countless Iraqi children with heart surgeries—something we love discussing with you!
But the latter is the lower-case concept by which we seek to live our lives, and we believe this love is essential, albeit extremely difficult. Preemptive love is about pain-absorbtion and enemy-love over against the all-too-involuntary eye for an eye reaction we’re all prone to. You know what I’m talking about; that involuntary jerk-of-a-knee that makes us want to kick back every time we’re kicked (maybe even twice).
Little did you know that we’re development workers and arm-chair philosophers. But, whether you think us naive or wise, we’ve planted our stake in the ground, or, as we like to put it: we’re blackmailing ourselves into this lifestyle. I.E., our thoughts on fists-down preemptive love are all over the internet, so we’d better live it out!
For a better look at what we mean by “preemptive love”, watch Jeremy’s TEDx talk here.
That alone would’ve been worth the trans-Atlantic trip, but then we got to meet with people at several universities and churches in Ohio and Texas. So, to everyone at The Loft, Ecclesia, Houston Baptist, and Cedarville: thank you!
After arriving back in Iraq (both bags lost!) and sleeping like a dead person for two days, I spent four hours today combing through new emails, Twitter handles, and info from all the excellent people we met on the trip. As the communication guy here, hundreds of new people to connect with is exciting enough, but the fact that I got to sit down with so many of you and to hear your story—I’m so humbled. The work you guys are doing inspired me!
You’ve been encouraging to us and, more importantly, you’re accomplishing extremely meaningful things in the lives of Iraqi doctors and families.
If you’ve been with us awhile, thank you. And if you’re new and only just joined us, stick around. Our 16th Remedy Mission starts in a few days—keep reading!
Video credit: Ashton Owen
Photo credit: Brandon Hook
March 8, 2012 by matt · Comments Off
A week ago today our friend Jeremiah Small was killed in his classroom. His own student pulled a gun on him. If you haven’t read about it, see more here.
It happened in the city of Sulaymaniyah, and the entire community is still recovering from the shock of it all. Of course, the shock is about the violent death of an American in the oft-touted “other Iraq” region, to be sure, but the shock is also about much more than that.
When the community heard that Small’s family was coming to bury their son, rumors started to fly. Some thought they were coming for financial compensation, others for revenge. And in an eye-for-an-eye culture like this one, rumors like that aren’t crazy. If someone hurts you, you hurt them back. And that’s more than cultural, it’s human nature.
But that isn’t preemptive love.
Until someone is willing to absorb the pain rather than pass it on, violence will only continue to beget violence. Pain has to go somewhere.
So when Jeremiah’s family arrived and began blessing everyone they met, people were amazed! They were grief-stricken, to be sure, but through their great love the Small family proved to be bigger than anything most people had ever seen—they blessed rather than cursed, they sang rather than screamed; their love was furious. They even wore traditional clothing in order to show solidarity with the culture.
This was their way of living out preemptive love. Just as Jeremiah worked to love his students first—no questions asked—his family came and loved preemptively. They were remaking a broken world by choosing to forgive rather than to yield to the endless downward spiral of hate and violence.
Perhaps the most compelling example of this love was at the funeral when both the family of Jeremiah and the family of the boy who killed him embraced (pictured above). They absorbed the pain—shared it even—rather than lashing out at each other.
This is preemptive love. This is the lifestyle we believe everyone can (and should) live by. This is the better way, and the Small family used Jeremiah’s death to show us that.