Contend Earnestly: Letter from Iraq

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Letter from Iraq


This is a letter from a dear friend from my church who is over in Iraq fighting in the war. I hope that this will encourage us who are here to pray for our soldiers and realize the luxuries we have here in our homeland. I pray that as you read this you would feel as I, our providence is sovereign and divine, Soli Deo Gloria!

Well, as I told you in the brief email, the official word has finally come down and we are extended. It?s kind of strange that so many of us volunteered but only for specified amount of time. For myself that date was May 1st but since the Brigade was coming back early in March, my choice was to remain in Iraq with a third Brigade here (which I was not going to do) for at least another six months or return home (which was my intent).
Now, it looks like I will be here until at least the end of July unless I hear otherwise.

So, now the question on everyone's mind is how do I really feel about it? Since some of you know me and others are learning about me, you can understand that I analyze almost everything. With that in mind here is what I think.

On the negative side, I am away from my family, friends and church. I am in a war zone in which occasionally we have rockets or mortars exploding someplace near. I live in a desert where sometimes in the winter it is so cold I can see my breath in the summer so hot I can hardly breathe. I eat food that after a month here looks and smells the same. There are times when I am lonely, sometimes fearful and sometimes depressed. I work seven days a week and holidays march by as any other day even those that I revere. I wear the same clothes everyday. Everyone around me wears the same. I sleep surrounded by stonewalls. I am imprisoned behind concertina wire and only occasionally can I venture out at the risk of injury or death. At times I must wear 70 pounds of armor and at all times I carry my M16. I eat with it, drink with it, bathe with it, sleep with it and even pray with it. When it is turned in I will feel like the amputee who can still feel the lost limb even though it is gone. I have known death and it is burned into my memory. Never will I be the same man again. I work with many who do not worship the same God I do nor speak the same language I speak. I do not know who the enemy is as they wear no uniforms. The dust burns my eyes; the heat burns my skin and sucks the energy from my bones. Drinking water is no longer just a relief from the heat but a requirement to keep moving during the day. I am weary and tired and the pain in my back sometimes forces me to stop and find something to lean on or sit down on. I am a prisoner in a strange land with no possibility of parole until the sentence is finished. My family is thousands of miles away and my mother is slowly losing her memory and I fear that she may not know me the next time I see her.


In all of this, yes all of it, I give praise to God for being here. I have walked in Abraham's home, walked on stones that filtered the waters of the Garden of Eden, flown over and walked where many in the old testament walked. I have lived in hell but felt closer to heaven. I have prayed with soldiers, become friends with Chaplains and cried at memorials. I have met the people of this land and moved from being fearful and suspicious to respectful and in awe. I have turned from looking at them as the enemy to looking at them with compassion and love. I eat the food and give thanks for it. I bear the weight of the armor and am thankful that even though I am sometimes in pain, He gives me the strength to continue on, to not give up as I could easily do. With His guidance I humbly write these words so that you can feel some of what I am feeling. It is a gift He has given me to give to you.

Yes I miss my family but He comforts me. He answered my prayer to see my mother before she got any worse and I did before I was deployed to Iraq. When I am depressed, He picks me up and shows me that my life is rich compared to others. When I am fearful He reminds that He is with me and I have nothing to fear. When I work, He gives me rest.

He has blessed me with a wife and family who show nothing but support for what I am doing here.

And now He has extended my time here in Iraq to participate in what might be the beginning of the end for the enemy. But is that the reason I am here? I do not know for Gods plan is sovereign. Am I here to bring some to the Lord or to encourage someone reading this? Am I here to write a book or to learn for my own growth? Or maybe I am here to learn that all are Gods children and to not judge those that have been led astray and believe in a god that is not the true God. I do not know for Gods plan is sovereign.

I used to believe that I volunteered to be here but I don?t believe that anymore. I believe, no that is not correct, I know, God urged me to volunteer. I feared failing the physical but I passed. I feared that I would not be able to handle the armor but I did. I feared, at my age, to wear the 70 pounds of armor and carry over 100 pounds of equipment and though I struggled, I did it. I feared the unknown but embraced it. I feared not being up for the task and at times I excelled. I hated leaving my family, felt the pain of the loss of my brothers wife, the loss of an Aunt, my mother moving to a home and the pain my father must feel over it. But I handled it. I was not there when Tyler had a major operation, was not there for my anniversary, nor my wife?s birthday. I will miss my sons 18th birthday, the anniversary of the day my wife and I met, and I will be alone for my 52nd birthday (another birthday). But I handled it. Do not think that I handled it due to any strength I have because it just is not true. It has only been through Him who has given me the strength when I have felt I have none left. There are days when I ache over missing so much for not being there for my family. No dear friends it is not my strength that keeps me moving. It is not me who walks the base not fearing the rockets that may or may not fall. It is only through Him.


No, I do not know why I am here and it may sound strange but I don?t care. I don?t care if I ever know until I have the opportunity to ask the Lord face to face. I just know that for whatever reason; it is His will and I am humbled that He has chosen me for some task that my small, finite mind cannot fathom. Whether it is for me personally or for others or for both, He is my God and I gladly will follow Him wherever He leads me.

One thing I have learned is that we who are believers never need to question our worth or judge others by how many people they have or have not led to the Lord. We need only to understand that once saved, we are His and once open to His will, we are His vessel that He will use sometimes, I believe, without our even realizing it. Is it really important to know what He has done through us or is it more important that we are open to His will and accepting of our place on this Earth? No dear brothers and sister I do not know Gods plan for me here in Iraq, all I know is that He is here with me and He is sovereign. As much as I desire to know, I accept that I do not and may never. I just know that I have learned and grown, my wife and son have learned and grown. If there is no other reason for my being here, I praise Him for it. But I must admit that in the back of mind there is more that He has planned. He has shown me so much here. He has turned the desert from an ugly
sandy nomads land where no life existed into something totally unexpected by me; a land that has so much beauty if you just open your eyes. He opened mine. He showed me the beauty of the stars in the sky in Tikrit, the animals and plants and even the dust devils that cut across the land. He has let me mingle with the people here. I still am amazed. I am still in awe and I am still thankful.
So be at peace with my being here longer. God is not through with me here yet and has something else He needs me to do. I don't know what it is but my God is sovereign.

May the Lord who created the heavens, the Earth, Adam and Eve, became man and was crucified, buried and rose on the third day, bless you and your family. May you never doubt your worth, accept your failures, repent and move forward. May the pain you have suffered in your lives be replaced with the knowledge that our God is a good God and there is a plan for ALL of us. May you always understand that God loves you no matter what. And when you sin as we all do it is not God who turns his back on you but we who turn our backs in shame. And when we ask for forgiveness and turn back to face our Father, remember that He is not frowning at you as if you are a bad child returning to the fold. No, He is smiling, possibly with tears of happiness in His eyes and His hand extended saying, ?I told you that I would never forsake you?. Believe it!

God Bless you all. Pray hard for the protection of those soldiers who will march into Baghdad. Remain strong in the faith He is our sovereign God and pray that all of those who face death daily come to believe as we do; that God does love them and will be with them. Most importantly pray that many will come to know the Lord; both the soldier and the people of Iraq.

Be Blessed,
Mitch

2 comments:

kymanika said...

Amen

David Dansker said...

Dear Mitch,

I want you to know that you have my utmost thanks and appreciation for your service to our country in its time of need. My father served in WWII, and my older brother served in Viet Nam. I was always so very prod of my father, am proud of my brother, who also made it back alive from the war. My prayer is for you to come home too when your tour is up to be rejoined with your family and friends. Your description of life in uniform and in the theatre of operations is very good reading. I am so glad that you have come to know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I know His strengthening of you has made this experience more than bearable; you have gone on to encourage and comfort others with his grace.

I know that it is difficult sometimes to bring to bare decisive and deliberate tactics due to their harsh nature that will divide the dead from among the living. I have not borne that responsibility in the flesh, and I do not presume to fully understand its weight. I do know, however, of that responsibility in the spirit; that we can, are, and must be decisive in dividing the saved from the unsaved, and deliberate in our trust in the one who can save, so that we may win those who are who are perishing. As Jude put it: "And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh." (Jud 1:22-23).

On this note, I respectfully comment on what you said here: "Or maybe I am here to learn that all are Gods children and to not judge those that have been led astray and believe in a god that is not the true God." Mitch, only the blood bought sinners who have repented and trusted in the work of Jesus Christ, who died in our place, are now "God's children." We must always be conscious of this, and assess the situation (use judgment) if we are to witness to the lost so that they might be saved too.

Until they repent from serving false gods, they are the children of the past tense spoken of here: "Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father"
(Gal 4:3-6).

I respectfully communicate my to you, Sir, my deep appreciations and thanks for all that you are doing, and this small comment I have added on one of your observations out of a desire to edify you in the faith. The Lord bless and keep you,

-David Dansker

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