I stepped from the taxi at 4:00 in the morning, took a deep breath, and walked toward the airport doors. I presented my passport to the security guard who asked for my destination. “Baghdad,” I replied in a surprisingly confident voice, and he directed me to the right side of the terminal. I showed the lady at the check-in counter my passport and visa papers; a few moments later, she handed me my boarding pass.
I went through security and emigration and sat down in the boarding area, my heart beating fast. I felt like one of the spies Moses sent into the Promised Land: God says this is good land. He says He will give us the victory. But there in the airport, I felt as small as a grasshopper—and I hadn’t even crossed the border yet. Working to process my feelings, I scribbled a quick note: “What do I have to be afraid of? Lost life? Questions from officials? Insecurity of the unknown? Nothing can separate me from His love.” I silently began talking with the Father and acknowledging His ever-present love.
Two weeks later, I held hands with my Iraqi hosts as they prayed for my safe travels home. I bit my lip to hold back tears as I embraced them, thanking them for hosting me, teaching me, and letting me be part of their lives and ministry.
Leaving Baghdad was the most difficult part of the trip.
In two weeks, I saw the best fruit of the land. Yes, I saw the challenges—the giants of radicalism, hatred, instability, and tragic stories are ever-present. But I also saw the fruit of open doors, compassion ministry, a unique love for Christians, and vulnerable hearts. As we drove around Baghdad one night, I observed the normalcy of life and a call for help struck me:
America, you have sent many to fight for political freedom in this nation, but how many have you sent to fight for spiritual freedom?
Americans have died on Iraqi soil, but not as martyrs for the sake of the Great Commission and the glory of Jesus. Why haven’t we sent workers? The question rang in my head for days. Baghdad is strangely secure these days. With ISIS controlling the North, many have sought refuge in the capital. The long-term curfew has been lifted, and people are back to enjoying the city’s nightlife, even though insecurity still exists and car bombs still happen. Is that why we haven’t sent any workers here? Are we looking at the giants in the land and missing the fruit?
One morning in the quiet of my room, I read Jesus’ words: “Whoever tries to make his life secure will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Luke 17:33). We exhaust ourselves trying to make our lives secure, so how could we risk sending our sons and daughters to places like Baghdad? It seems counter-intuitive to security, the opposite of preservation.
Jesus’ instructions are counter-cultural and counter-intuitive. Really, Lord? If I try to secure my life, I will end up losing it? The answer might be found a few chapters earlier in Luke 12, when Jesus tells us not to fear people who can destroy the body, but to fear the Lord who determines eternities. What if securing my life means disobedience to His call? Do I have the fear of the Lord that drives me to trust Him, losing my life for His sake?
Baghdad is not an easy place, but it is a place with ripe fruit. There is opportunity for a dynamic partnership in the local church that gives us the challenge of Caleb: “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it” (Num. 13:30). An entire generation of Israelites missed out on good fruit because of fear. May that not be our legacy.
Let not insecurity and fear keep us from obedience.
Join Live Dead in intercessory prayer, asking “the Lord of the Harvest to send workers into His harvest” (Luke 10:2). Is He calling you to cross the world? Or to cross your city? Is He calling you to give radically? To mobilize the next generation? Consider how you can be a part of His command in verse 3: “Now go. I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.”