Last fall I attended the Allume conference and was privileged to hear many amazing authors and speakers. I returned home from my trip with piles of books and pages of notes. But out of all of the amazing talent and famous names that graced the stage, there was an Iraqi High School teacher who has challenged the way I think about the world every day.
The Middle East feels so far removed from my every day life. It’s hard to identify with the struggles of a far off place I’ve only seen on the nightly news. But Nassir’s father changed my heart in 2 minutes and 46 seconds. It took 2 minutes and 46 seconds to move from apathy to concern. My heart broke at the 34-second mark of this video. I hope you will take a moment to watch.
I wept, missing my own daughter after having been on the road for weeks, and I wept for Nassir, his father, and the many children of Iraq who are struggling with very little hope of healing. I cried when I thought of the countless parents who feel powerless to help their children. Because of the use of chemical warfare in Iraq over the past three decades, heart defects affect roughly one in ten children. Although expensive in the U.S., children here at least have access to life-saving surgery.
Picture the landscape of Iraq: cities devastated by war upon war, large populations now running from ISIS. Many of the most skilled professionals left the country years ago for more opportunity. Hospitals are understaffed and under qualified to meet the surmounting needs of the people.
And that’s where Preemptive Love comes in. For less than $1,000, a child can receive a life-saving heart surgery. A tagline printed on Preemptive Love t-shirts explains their heart perfectly: Love first, ask questions later. It’s a beautiful motto for me to remember all day, every day. Love first, Ginger. Love first.
Needless to say, I was touched and moved by the stories shared by the Preemptive Love Coalition. I couldn’t stop telling the stories of Nassir and other children like him. What would I do if my daughter had a life-threatening condition and no possible hope? Our small group from church determined that we wanted to take part in giving hope to Iraqi families.
So we gathered our excess, picked a Saturday, and had a garage sale to benefit Preemptive Love. All proceeds benefited that one organization. We planned, advertised and THE PEOPLE CAME. (Hallelujah!) We had so much stuff, so much traffic, and so much craziness in one morning. It took time and effort, but the result, both in memories and monetarily, was completely worth it. I have a deeper connection, and a truer love for the people God has placed in our community. Serving alongside our small group served to connect our lives and unite our hearts in a new way.
It was so encouraging to see friends, strangers, and neighbors all together in one space. In all, thanks to donations and sales, we raised roughly $1,900 and will help to fully fund two heart surgeries. Two lives. Two stories changed for good.
Damaged hearts in Iraq broke my heart, but something else may tug at yours. I am deeply touched as I watch the world being remade, rather than undone, by acts of love. My friend Tanuja donates her time and energy to tutor and teach reading every Saturday in New York City. My friend Mary works tirelessly with the refugee population of Phoenix. My mother-in-law has volunteered every Monday for over two-decades at a homeless shelter. Countless friends have opened their homes and hearts through fostering and adoption. In such a dark world, your light is desperately needed.
Not every problem in this world has your name on it, but I guarantee you, something does. Someone needs your hands, your presence, and your generosity. How can you help mend the broken places? Sometimes writing a check is the answer, but sometimes, God is asking you to stand with your people and do the work. I cannot perform a heart surgery, but I can educate, promote, and stand in the gap.
So, what breaks your heart?
P.S. THANK YOU to so many of you who have reached out with kind and generous encouragement over the past month. 2015 has been full of unexpected moments, but God continues to give grace each day. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!
P.P. S. With Joy BE retreat is ONE month away and we do have a spot left for you! There’s even a little scholarship waiting. If your heart just perked up, head here for more info and to message me. We want you here!