Walking in a Minefield

It was our third day in Kurdistan, in northern Iraq. As we scrambled up a snow-covered mountain side, we saw a line of rusted metal signs with a skull and crossbones symbol, and wondered what this meant.

Our Kurdish guide announced: “It means ‘private property’.” But then he whispered to me, “It’s a minefield, but don’t worry – it’s probably all been cleared.” When I told our team members, one of them said, “Look, that sign over there is clearer – let’s go and get a photo.” So we just walked across the minefield: at the time it seemed a very natural thing to do.

Serena: “A lot of our students craved the joy that many Christians take for granted, and thanked us for returning some laughter and happiness into their lives.”

Thinking about it later, I realised this did not seem to be a wise decision. However it became a metaphor tome of our whole trip. Going to Iraq in the first place did not seem a wise thing – try getting insurance to visit a country on your Department of Foreign Affairs’ “Do not travel” list. Nor did taking a team of mostly non-teachers to teach classes full of university and college lecturers. Nor did showing the movie, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, to a 100% Muslim audience, with group discussions afterwards.

Matt: “One of the most rewarding things was seeing our students make connections with each other.”

How did this all come about? I was leading the team of seven Aussie and three Kiwi Christians (Matt, Jeremy and Serena) who wanted to make a difference by doing something completely different.

The three-week trip can only be described as a testimony to God’s goodness. From our arrival, our Kurdish hosts took great care of us – paying for all our accommodation, meals and transport. The English conversation course that we gave was well-received, and included a range of methodologies including debates, role-plays, casestudies and puzzles. Our students were well-engagedfrom the beginning and had fun. Out-of-class activities included field trips, fun days and the C.S. Lewis movie nights. Relationships with our students developed and blossomed during these times, and some serious sharing of the good news took place. Even in the classroom, our students gave us opportunities to share abut our faith. A couple accompanied us to the Christian church services, and were put in touch with other believers. The students weren’t the only ones happy with our visit: we have officially been invited back by the university.

Sometimes the signs indicating danger, like those in the minefield, may not tell the whole truth.

Jeremy: “How to describe my experience? Challenging, oppressing, beautiful, sad, exciting, hopeful, eye opening and rewarding.”

We survived that walk, the way we survived the whole trip – by walking by faith. Throughout the trip, I was reminded of the thought: “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.” When we move outside our comfort and ability zone, the Lord takes over. As Nahum testified: “The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him” (Nahum1:7).