Why I Spent Mothers’ Day in Mosul, Iraq #2

“Being imprisoned in our homes was so demoralizing. ISIS was in control for two and a half years, and we couldn’t leave the house.”

“The only thing that kept me going was to think about what I’d do after ISIS left. I dreamed of creating a day care center and preschool for kids whose parents worked at the local hospital.”

Eman lived in east Mosul, Iraq, a community often described as a beautiful mosaic of minorities: Sunni Muslims, Christians, Kurds, Arabs, Yazidis, Shabaks, and more. It was an energetic, resilient, highly educated community.

It was my third visit to Iraq, but my first to Mosul. I wished I had seen the city before much of its beauty had been turned to rubble by ISIS. But despite the devastation, I saw clear signs of the city’s resilience–in young people like Eman.

Ten years earlier Eman had graduated college with a degree in fine arts. The kids’ center she created in the months after ISIS left east Mosul showed the clear mark of an artist: walls painted brightly and a creative, high quality curriculum.

Financial empowerment from the Preemptive Love Coalition, combined with her own resilient spirit, helped bring Eman’s dream to reality. With the early growth of the center, she’s already been joined by additional staff, and she envisions a future where more and more kids and staff will be able to benefit from the beauty and hope of the center.

As we were leaving I told Eman that I liked her brightly-colored t-shirt. “Under ISIS everything was black,” she said. “I’m done with all black!”

For her, it seems, pink is the color of hope.

In the six months since east Mosul was freed from ISIS, what was a ghost town under ISIS has again become a thriving community. Sadly, the western side of Mosul suffered longer and even more severe deprivation under ISIS than the east side, and it is only now being freed, neighborhood by neighborhood.

My friends at Preemptive Love are pre-positioned with food, water and medical supplies, ready to enter each neighborhood in west Mosul as soon as ISIS is forced out. Without this life-saving emergency response, desperate families will be forced to flee to refugee camps, where they’ll be separated from their homes, their neighbors and the lives they’ve built in the city they love.

But if we—through our friends at Preemptive Love—provide for the people of west Mosul now, so they can stay home, they’ll be positioned to move into a hopeful future, as Eman has done.

Please give now.

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Why I Spent Mothers’ Day in Mosul, Iraq #1

“My dad, my brother, and my husband were all killed by ISIS.”

At fifteen she got married. At eighteen she was a widow, the mother of an infant, and caretaker for her widowed mother.

For two and a half years she’d lived under ISIS control in east Mosul, Iraq. When her community was freed from ISIS in November 2016, a new future opened up to her. But what kind of future awaited a traumatized and grieving teenage mother in a neighborhood wrecked by war?

Fortunately, my friends at Preemptive Love Coalition (PLC) saw beyond her external situation to the resilient spirit inside her. They provided funding for her to open a small cosmetics shop.

Bullet holes still marked the facades of nearby buildings. Crumbled concrete and twisted metal left by months of shelling was still being cleared away.

But on the May day on which I visited the cosmetics shop, the streets were filled with shoppers and business was booming.

After years of brutal oppression, the civilians of east Mosul were eager to return to the life they’d known before ISIS.

And a young shopkeeper—along with her mother and her child—were looking with hope toward the future.

Check here for information on how you can join the Preemptive Love Coalition in empowering other women impacted by war in Iraq and Syria.

Currently PLC and their local partners are helping men and women in Mosul establish bakeries and barber shops, pre-schools and medical clinics, grocery stores and vegetable stands, tea shops and falafel stands, pharmacies and office supply stores–and so much more.

And each person empowered brings light and life to their corner of the world.

The need is real, but so is the hope!

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Why I’ve Never Missed The JUSTICE Conference—and Won’t Miss It This Year!

June 9-10  Chicago
June 9-10 Chicago

In 2011 I asked myself this question: Has the American evangelical church actually awakened to the biblical call to justice as a part of our discipleship as Christians? Or, did we just get caught up in a temporary cool to care movement? Continue reading

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Why I Signed the World Relief Open Letter on Refugees

Today a reporter asked me why I signed the World Relief open letter asking President Trump to reconsider his recent executive order impacting refugees. She also asked my opinion on the apparent divide between the pulpit and the pew when it comes to refugees. In other words, over 500 evangelical leaders signed the letter, yet polls have revealed that a majority of white evangelicals do not feel a responsibility to Syrian refugees and would support a law barring Syrian refugees from entering the US. Why that divide?

Here’s my answer: Continue reading

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What Climbing Kilimanjaro Taught Me About Refugees

On March 8, 2016, International Women’s Day, I reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. At an altitude of nearly 20,000 feet, it’s the highest peak on the African continent, and the tallest free standing mountain in the world.

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Help First-Responders Rescue 4,000 Syrian Women & Children–NOW

Questscope is one of my favorite organizations serving refugees and displaced people in the Middle East. I’ve traveled with them, I’ve seen their programs, I’ve met their top leaders as well as grassroots volunteers. I just received the following email update about an immediate and critical need. Would you join me this weekend in giving on behalf of 4,000 women and children. Just $50,000 can lift them from despair to dignity and hope.

From Questscope

4,000 women and children are currently being evacuated from two besieged towns in the Idlib governorate of western Syria to designated areas around the city of Homs – right now, this week. They have lived under siege for more than three years. Our team there will coordinate this move and provide support and shelter.

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December–The Quiet Month

I actually wrote this blog a year ago. Called “Confessions of a December Dropout,” I wrote it to give myself–and anyone else who needed it–permission to opt out of the crazy hustle and noise of the season. Turns out I need that message even more this year than I did a year ago. The weariness I felt in December ’15 I feel even more deeply now, and the quietness that beckoned me twelve months ago calls with even greater insistence today. So, here’s to a quiet month, a month of slowed down hours and simple pleasures, a month of deep healing and profound joy and the anticipation of new birth. Join me? Continue reading

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What I’m Thankful For

I actually wrote this blog the weekend before the election. I decided that for two days I would shut out the steady stream of negative and depressing political rhetoric and focus on a few things I’m thankful for. Unfortunately, before I could post the blog, my computer succumbed to a severe virus and crashed. But as the negative and depressing political rhetoric continues—and as Thanksgiving approaches—I offer these humble and meandering thoughts. Continue reading

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Hear the Mother’s Prayer: Bring Down the Peace!

The following is a guest post from my dear Israeli friend Lisa Loden. Lisa is a theologian, a leader of contemplative prayer retreats, an advocate for women in leadership…but mostly, she is a courageous and passionate peacemaker who longs to see God’s people living the reality of reconciliation. On October 19, Lisa joined thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women in a March of Hope sponsored by Women Wage Peace. I guarantee you will be inspired by Lisa’s description of the march.

Guest Post by Lisa Loden

As someone who longs for and actively pursues peace, to join a march with thousands of women who share this passion was not much of a question for me. Despite never having taken part in a public march, this one, from the first time I heard about it seemed right. It was more than right; it was a hope-inspiring journey for me. Continue reading

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I Am My Sister’s Keeper

News from war zones has been particularly tragic this week: A deadly airstrike in Aleppo, Syria. A brutal ISIS attack on a refugee camp in Iraq. A massacre by an extremist militia on innocent villagers in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Violence. Destruction. Death.

A century or so ago, an estimated 90 percent of war casualties were male soldiers. Today, an estimated 90 percent of casualties are civilians, and 75 percent of these are estimated to be women and children.

In the early 1990s I traveled with a humanitarian organization to Croatia and Bosnia as those countries were being ripped apart by war with Serbia.

In Bosnia we visited refugee centers filled with middle-class women just like me who had lost everything: jobs, husbands, homes, their planned-for futures. Many had also been victims of brutal rape, the increasingly prevalent and horrific weapon of war which shatters body and soul.

We visited schools where social workers tried to help grade school kids who had watched their parents killed. They suffered so severely from posttraumatic stress that they sat all day silently chewing their nails to the quick.

It was the first time I had seen war up close and I was stunned by what human beings do to one another.

Leaving Bosnia, I traveled to a little border town in Croatia where I could climb to the top of a hill and look out over the Bosnian countryside. I sat there for hours and wept and prayed for the women and children I’d seen.

While I prayed, an unbidden question repeated itself in my mind: Am I my sister’s keeper?

Am I my sister’s keeper?

And the repeated answer I sensed from God was: Yes. Yes. Yes. You are your sister’s keeper!

Then who is my sister? God, who is my sister?

They are all your sisters, I sensed God say. Croatian Catholics. Bosnian Muslims. Serbian Orthodox. They—and every other woman you will ever meet—are all your sisters. Because they are all part of the human family I have created.

View More: http://christineandersonphotography.pass.us/jordan-trip

That’s what happens when you open your mind and your heart to God and to the world. You end up with a huge family. And you realize that every single member of the family is as important to God as you are.



You can’t possibly meet the need of every family member, but you can never again dismiss their needs thoughtlessly. They’re family.

And they haunt you. A grim image dances across your vision at an inopportune time. A light-hearted moment is darkened by a disturbing subtext. A chill pierces your heart on a sunny day.


Yes, you’ll end up haunted. Even more, you’ll end up in despair. There’s no way around it. I can’t remember who wrote that God’s heart is an open wound of love, but I believe it. And I believe our hearts become open wounds, too, when we dare to love this damaged world God loves.

There are two antidotes to despair.

One is denial. Pretending you didn’t see that picture. Didn’t read that story. Didn’t hear those screams.

Or maybe you acknowledge the horror of what you saw or read or heard, but you pretend it’s not your responsibility. There’s nothing you can do. What difference can one person make? And where would you start anyway?

Denial works. But it shrinks your heart. It makes you a little less human. It puts distance between you and God.

The other antidote to despair is action—doing something, however small, to address the need.

Seems like every few years I have an experience that pushes me so far into despair that I toy with denial. I start listening to the cynic inside me who asks why I even bother to hope in the face of such a broken world. But I have learned that if I consciously choose action I will find hope.

When I met with women in Bosnia and Croatia in the 90s I did not imagine that twenty years later my personal ministry would be focused primarily on women in warzones.

I hate war. I can’t even watch war movies. And yet in the last year I’ve met with Syrian refugee mothers in Jordan, with Yezidi women rescued from ISIS in Iraq, with women recovering from brutal rape by rebel militiamen in the DR Congo, and with women bravely denouncing violence and working for reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.

Though I have clearly sensed Jesus call to follow him into places of conflict, it’s not been easy. Part of the challenge, of course, is the physical threat. While I travel into regions of conflict as wisely as possible and take seriously the counsel of friends on the ground, I accept that safety is never guaranteed.

But I’ve often thought how willing Americans are to send their sons and daughter into harm’s way for the sake of war. Should we not be at least equally willing to send ourselves into the possibility of harm’s way for the sake of peace? I think that sometimes following Jesus requires it.

For me, a far more difficult challenge is the inevitable confusion and complexity that surrounds conflict. Following Jesus into conflict zones requires constant listening and learning. It demands that I humbly place myself at the feet of people with whom I may or may not agree, but who have much to teach me.

I’ve not always done that well. Often I’ve had to face and confess my own quick tendency to judge harshly rather than try to understand a perspective I consider misguided. At other times I’ve been misunderstood and criticized by those who think I am wrong to listen to voices with which I (or they) disagree.

Finally, there is the ever-present challenge of finding the peacemakers. For that is the primary call that I sense: to find the women of peace. To find the women actively working for reconciliation, caring for refugees, and seeking their own deep healing as well as the healing of other wounded and grieving women. While those are massive challenges, I’ve discovered so many amazing women faithfully meeting those challenges.

Morning after morning they get up to face another heartbreaking day.

Despite their own trauma and grief, they work to create a better life for their kids.

When they’d rather nurse their pain in silence, they tell their stories to give other women hope.

When they’ve paid the highest price a mother can pay—the death of her child to a violent enemy—they reach across those very enemy lines to comfort another grieving mother.

Time and again I have been broken, humbled and inspired by these women.

By these sisters.

It isn’t easy to engage in regions of conflict. But I can’t deny my deep-down conviction that I am my sister’s keeper. And that the opportunity I have to engage with women in regions of conflict is a unique and precious opportunity that I must steward well.

I offer the following information for those who’d like to join me in financially supporting great organizations doing significant on-the-ground work to serve those who are suffering so severely today:

In Syria: Questscope is an organization I partner with in Jordan and Syria. They’ve served vulnerable people in the Middle East for over three decades, so they’re uniquely experienced and positioned to offer help that organizations just entering the region can’t do. I’ve met the Questscope leadership and have seen their work with refugees. They have 1800 staff and volunteers in Syria, and they’re currently one of the largest distributors of emergency food relief in Aleppo. We can support their work in Syria here. (On this link you can make a single donation or become a fundraiser yourself!)

In Iraq: The Preemptive Love Coalition has worked in Iraq for a decade. I’ve visited them twice in Iraq because I love their work with Iraqis displaced and terrorized by ISIS. They’re front-line heroes. Because of their history and network of relationships in Iraq–and because of their commitment to love anyway and everywhere–they go into regions where most organizations don’t dare go. We can support their work in Iraq here.

In the DR Congo: In March I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with One Million Thumbprints, to raise awareness and funds for women in war zones. Our current funding focus is a fistula hospital for Congolese women who have been brutally raped by rebels who consider rape a legitimate and useful weapon of war. Created for the most brutally violated women, the hospital offers trauma counseling, legal help and extensive after-care in addition to multiple surgeries. You can support this project here.

If you have your own favorite organizations serving refugees and other victims of war, by all means support their work. This is a critical time for all victims of violence. We must recognize our common humanity and do whatever we can to offer help and hope.

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