I was quite struck by this blog entry by Samuel McWhirter about his recent trip to Iraq. The blog is well worth reading – but be prepared to have your heart ripped out and then put back again, but renewed…

“Whilst Fiona remained at home teaching the girls the song ‘My God is so Big’, we went with the two brothers and Mam Zirrar to the city centre and to the park I had previously visited. Even busier than before we weaved our way through all the crowds and came across a memorial marking the bombing and death of 98 people on 1st February 2004. This memorial was grand and as such seemed to convey a confident finality that this kind of atrocity will not happen again. Seeing all the names written on a towering marble book was sobering and depressing in light of the bombings that occurred in this city earlier in the year. Will another memorial have to be constructed for these recent deaths?

A stone marking the entrance to the memorial read ‘Freedom is not Free’; the implied cost being the lives of people who had lived here. The freedoms we experience in the West were also bought by the lives of others and yet we act so ungratefully in our generation. And then there is the Cross itself such a profound death and such a costly life. What kind of gratitude do we express, and what kind of memorial is there in our hearts?

Mam Zirrar and one of the brothers drove us all the way to our next destination point of Raniya. Dressed in his traditional clothes, gun under his belt and donned with his soldier’s hat Mam Zirrar was our companion and defender for the journey. There was great dignity about this man and as I sat in the back of the truck looking at him I began to long that his character and qualities might be used for in the service of Jesus. I find it easy to pray for this family as I have begun to love them in some small way. The thought of being more involved in my friend’s life back in the UK scares me a little. It is not that he is difficult or rude or unkind, but I am scared of being committed to him. But maybe we are already committed. The thought of his family listening to songs of Jesus causes me to wonder what work God is beginning to do for them… and indeed for us.”