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Toddler’s prayers for Iraqi babies rekindle dad’s yearning to minister

AMMAN, Jordan (BP)-Two-year-old “Little-J” has been praying for Iraqi babies for about six months now. And for the past several weeks his prayer also has included a petition for his dad*.

“God bless the Iraqi babies and let Daddy help them,” Little-J prayed, akin to regular prayers of his father for the Iraqi people.

It was after hearing Little-J’s fervent prayer that the father, a Baptist layman from Florida, said he felt a renewed interest in joining a volunteer team slated to travel to Baghdad, Iraq, to distribute food boxes to hungry families — boxes collected by Southern Baptists this past spring.

With two previous attempts to participate in humanitarian work in Iraq having failed since 1996, the father said he had long given up on being physically able to go there. Instead, beginning when “Little-J” was an infant, the father faithfully modeled the urgent prayer for his son who only recently began praying on his own.

“God used even that little boy to put in my heart what I needed to do,” the father, a member of Wellborn Baptist Church, said in a Sept. 4 interview with the Florida Baptist Witness. Prepared to head to Iraq with a group of relief workers Sept. 2, he was disappointed — but undaunted — when he found the team’s destination had been changed to Jordan where half a million Iraqi refugees live.

“The geographical location has once again closed down,” the layman said. “But Iraq is not a nation, it’s a people group and that people group is still going to be ministered to and we are going to have an opportunity to do that.”

Anticipating a future trip, the father said his “ultimate goal” is to establish long-term relationships with Arab families. Food distribution is just a beginning.

“It’s simply a very first embrace or handshake that says: ‘Hey, there are people in America that love you and God loves you and He loves us and there it is — simply from us to you.’

“That’s their only hope,” he said. “If I don’t go, somebody else has to. So why not me?”

A two-time Vietnam-era combat veteran agreed. A former U.S. Marine who is active in Bible study and church leadership at Westside Baptist Church in Gainesville, Fla., said he had been praying about being involved in an overseas trip and immediately felt led to investigate the option after hearing his pastor, Gary Crawford, call for people willing to go.

“I felt led to volunteer immediately after he left the platform,” the veteran, now a 60-year-old grandfather of one, said. “I didn’t know whether it was God’s will or because of my past experience in a war zone, but all of the doors were open right away.”

The volunteer relief worker said he believed his Vietnam experience would help put him in the shoes of the Iraqis.

“I’ve seen war zones with families totally destroyed [and] children without parents wandering around hungry and unclothed … with no purpose, walking around like they were lost in a zoo — where things have been destroyed, totally destroyed, and people are really walking around in a gaze.” Although not a Christian at the time, he also noted an absence of Christians or Christian influence when he served in a combat zone.

Now, whether in Iraq or in Jordan, he said, “We can minister to a lot of displaced people and also give them food.”

“To me this is an opportunity to try and help those kind of people in the name of our Lord and Savior. And help them to regain some kind of dignity.”

The veteran said he’s thankful for Southern Baptists’ willingness to help the Iraqi families.

“I was just grateful to God the Father for instilling that sense of urgency inside such a community as the Southern Baptist churches and workers,” he said. “It’s overwhelming to know that sometimes there’s a group of people that care enough about these people to leave their families and jobs … to fly thousands of miles away from what they know as home and … who are willing to bring that kind of sacrifice and caring to these people, knowing that it might not be reciprocal.”

Southern Baptists’ agape love — the Bible’s word for God’s overarching love — brings with it “the flavor of Jesus Christ,” the veteran said.
*Names withheld for security reasons. Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of Florida Baptist Witness and is currently on assignment in Jordan.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: LINKED BY PRAYER.

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  • Joni B. Hannigan