My students have been studying ancient Mesopotamia, and we started by exploring which modern countries occupy the area today. My plan was for us to learn a little about each country and pray for those countries throughout the unit. I have to be honest. My initial motive for praying for each country was more about adding some variety to our social studies lessons than it was about compassion for the people of these nations. Thankfully, God knows how to bring about His good results despite my bad motivations.
On Monday, we learned that most of ancient Mesopotamia was located in what is now Iraq. We also learned that out of a population of almost 29 million people, 97% of Iraqis are Muslim. That's 28 million people who do not understand, and may not have ever heard, the truth of the Gospel. And that’s just one country out of a world of 6.8 billion people.
It hit me that day that if I really believed what I say I believe, I would be doing something. At the very least, I would be praying (and not just as part of a lesson plan). In all honesty, those are still just numbers and statistics in my head. But they really aren't numbers and statistics; they're people. People who don't have a relationship with Christ, and who will spend an eternity apart from Him if they continue in unbelief. I know this in my head, but my actions testify that I do not believe it in my heart. Either I don't believe it, or I’m too wrapped up in my own little world to care. It’s probably the latter, and that's even worse.
So we prayed. In class, my students prayed for the Iraqi Muslims and for the believers in Iraq. By myself, I prayed that God would help me believe...really believe...and love the Iraqi people enough to at least genuinely pray for them. That was Monday.
Tuesday was back to business as usual. (How quickly I forget.)
On Wednesday, we had our weekly community meeting on the ship. Each week, we take up an offering for a different need—sometimes a need of someone in the local community, sometimes a need on the ship, and sometimes a need far away. Can you guess what our offering for this week supports? God put it on someone's heart that this week the Mercy Ships crew needs to donate to a church in Iraq! There has been a recent outbreak of attacks on churches around Baghdad and Mosul, and the donation will help one church restore its building from the devastation caused by two car bombs. (If you'd like to know more, the following news articles give details about the recent church bombings: http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/07/13/iraq.church.bombings/index.html, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8146922.stm, and http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&art=15827.)
God's timing is so amazing. What a testimony to my students (and to me) that God hears our prayers and responds. Now not only do we have the opportunity to pray for the believers in Iraq, we have the opportunity to give too. Please join my students and me as we pray for restoration of this church, protection from future attacks, wisdom for its leaders, and a spirit of grace and forgiveness for the believers so that others may come to know Christ through their actions.