Iraq #2: We Are Here

by Mark Mueller

What does the church in the Middle East have to teach Christians in the United States, in any land for that matter? It is a question that I have wrestled with as I have stepped into a complex land with many layers of joy, struggle, despair and hope. Even as this consultation begins today, the Turkish army bombs northeast Syria and moves its troops into some of the towns and villages of people attending the conference. I was wondering today how one attends a conference with war in your neighborhood and news texted from loved ones and friends of an occupying force driving its tanks down Main Street. But we are HERE. We are HERE to look at the many layers of life in the Middle East and learn from the faithful remnant of Christians who have not migrated to safer lands but have endured Saddam, ISIS, invasion and sanction all the while remaining the faithful church to spread the Gospel in these parts.

The church in the Middle East has much to teach the rest of the world. Resiliency comes to mind. Faithfulness and courage do as well. Mostly though this group of Christians from Iraq, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon give me hope. In the midst of overwhelming odds HERE I find the church in all its glory shining for the world to see. These people HERE embrace love and acceptance as Christ demonstrated and taught. I am especially aware as an American that I brought havoc upon this sacred land with the most recent quick exit of U.S. troops from northern Syria with little or no conversation about the implications of such a deed. Yet I have been warmly received HERE.

Frankly, I am a bit unnerved by all of it. I deserve less and have been given so much more. I am being taught by these people and by Christ in simply showing up. I am getting a glimpse of the Kingdom as people gather from the east and west, north and south. The people of the Middle East have every reason to show some animosity HERE, at least a bewildered look toward me. This is not found. Rather, I receive hug after hug from people who invite me to sit down and drink from the deep well of faithfulness, love and forgiveness. It is good to be HERE.