Reconnecting with Friends in Basra
13 December 2018
Thank you for your prayers and helping us get into Basra, Iraq. As many of you know, Basra now has over 100,000 people sick from bad water, there are riots with many factions involved, and the Iraqi Army does not have complete control. In September, the Iranian consulate was burned down and the US consulate shut down. Different groups want control of the nearby oil fields and in the midst of this our Iraqi Army friends asked for help. This was the same unit we worked with in the battle of Mosul where together we fed over 75,000 people and treated over 4,000 people. We have continued our partnership with them and planned to go to Basra with funds to help with needed food and medicine for the local population.
We came out of a mission to Syria and were on our way to Basra when we found our way blocked by competing forces. We prayed for a open way and some of us felt a spirit of dread and heaviness. In the face of that we prayed and gave our plans up to God. Immediately we felt peace and a conviction to keep going and find a way to go. As the overland route was closed, we decided to go by air and bring cash to buy supplies in Basra instead. As we prepared to fly we were told we did not have permission but we prayed again, kept going and were allowed to fly.
Once we landed in Basra many people at the airport knew us from the rescues last year. “Mr. David, we saw you on TV and how you rescued Iraqi children last year in Mosul. Can we have a picture with you?” they asked. We made many friends among the airport staff as we waited for our Iraqi Army friends. When General Mustafa arrived he was glad to see us but said, “It is very dangerous here, we love you and know you love us but there are many different militias and you can be killed easily. We, the Iraqi Army, are also under threat. Please just stay at the airport and we will distribute what you brought ourselves. I have been in many wars, was wounded four times and was with you in the battle against ISIS. You know I am not afraid, but here it is different and it is impossible to control the situation.”
We called other Iraqi Army friends and were told that while they were glad we came, they could not escort us to do any relief work as the situation was too volatile. We told them we understood and would take full responsibility for ourselves and find our own way. They said, “Ok, but please be careful and thank you for coming to help.”
Just then one of the airport workers came up and said, “I will take you where you need to go.” I asked him his name and he replied, “Saif” (pronounced ‘safe’).
“Good name,” I said, and we prayed and got into Saif’s car.
He drove us into town and through the militia-controlled areas with no problems. We planned to stay next to the Shat Al Arab River and once we arrived Saif asked if we wanted to take a boat ride. The kids thought that would be awesome so we climbed into an old wooden boat and motored down the river.
The Shat Al Arab River is formed by the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and as we motored downstream we looked east to the Iranian frontier and south towards the Kuwait border. The river is badly polluted and we could see how many people had become sick because of this pollution. This confluence is close to the ocean and high tide brings salt water back upstream. The desalination plants are not working well nor are the normal water purification plants. Adding to this problem is seven years of drought, the fact that Iranian and Turkish dams control waters that come into the Tigris and Euphrates and four years of war against ISIS, which destroyed much of the infrastructure.
After the boat ride we went to our place to stay and met up with Saif the next day. He took us to where our Iraqi Army friends were based and we were all overjoyed to see each other. We gave the soldiers medals for being wounded and for bravery, and we handed out photographs of our time together in Mosul. We had a wonderful time catching up as well as enjoying a big lunch with them. Afterwards we gave them the funds to buy food and medicine for the nearby people in need. They went out immediately and purchased the supplies and began delivery.
It was a wonderful time to reconnect with old friends, to help them meet real needs around them, and make friends with some who might be their enemies. After that we went to visit General Mustafa and were able to help him distribute clothing for children and food for families in need.
We spent three days in Basra reconnecting with our friends and helping them to help their people. One man we met on the street shared with us a sentiment we heard many times in Basra.
“Americans, many people here love you. Please stay with us and help us rebuild this country. We are grateful for all the opportunities you gave us and we know most [of] the problems we have are our own doing. We want to change that and we want to work together with you. Thank you for visiting us and being our friends.”
One night as we walked the streets of Basra close to the river, a shopkeeper came out and said in English, “Welcome and don’t be afraid, we love you. If anyone threatens you, we will all gather around and protect you. This is our home and you are our guest. Please come back.” These words gave us joy and a peace we did not expect.
Dear friends, thank you for helping us and praying for us as we serve in Iraq, Kurdistan, Syria and Burma. We are back in Burma now with relief teams and thank you all for your prayers and support.
God bless you,
Dave, family and FBR