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Threat level down; Iraq food distribution to resume Oct. 7

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Southern Baptist ministry projects in Iraq will resume Oct. 7 after a five-week delay caused by concerns for the safety of humanitarian workers in the country.

Small-scale delivery of food boxes packed by Southern Baptist churches has been going on, however, and a Southern Baptist worker in the region reports God is using the effort in remarkable ways to help Iraqis understand how much He loves them.

The arrival of Southern Baptist volunteer teams was delayed after information was received that a remnant of Saddam Hussein loyalists in the country were intentionally targeting humanitarian workers for attacks. The Aug. 19 truck-bomb attack on the United Nations offices in Baghdad marked the first time a non-military humanitarian operation had been targeted since Hussein’s regime was overthrown last spring.

But during the past month the vast majority of attacks have occurred after dark and have been directed at military targets, the worker said. Ministry leaders believe risks can be minimized by exercising the right kind of precautions.

“We judge the situation to be sensitive, but we can continue to work,” he said. “The threat level has decreased. We are hearing very positive things about foreigners from local people.

“We are resuming volunteer projects focused on the distribution of food boxes. Teams will be smaller, with fewer than 10 people.”

The boxes of food packed by Southern Baptist churches in late spring began arriving in the country Aug. 21. Volunteers who had planned to begin distributing the 46,000 boxes in late August were rerouted to Jordan to deliver food and supplies to Iraqi and other refugees living there. Small teams of Southern Baptist workers and Arab Baptist partners have been distributing food in Iraq itself.

One worker reported that Iraqis who received the food boxes in two towns in central Iraq asked for New Testaments, which Arabs know as the “Injil.” When the worker returned on subsequent days with Bibles, people who were standing in line for food actually left the queue to get a Bible.

“We are grateful Southern Baptists were sensitive to God’s leading in packing the food boxes,” one worker said. “This tangible expression of God’s love has broken through barriers of misunderstanding and created an opportunity for people to experience God’s love and forgiveness for themselves.

“We’re asking Christians everywhere to pray that God will reveal Himself to Iraqis and help them see that Jesus is, as the Quran says, the long-promised Messiah.”

More on Iraq outreach ministries

The International Mission Board (http://www.imb.org) is a Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program (http://www.cpmissions.net) and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (http://ime.imb.org). (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: HELP FOR THE HUNGRY.

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  • Mark Kelly