The Middle East.
It’s hard to write in so few words about this trip.
I knew that going into it the Lord had something big for me. It was so evident due to the attacks from the enemy trying to keep me from going. Fortunately, I have a wife that will always push me forward and encourage me not just to follow my dreams, but to follow the Lord’s calling over my life. I got on the plane not knowing that the next twelve days would be the most amazing and productive, while also being the absolute hardest and most difficult days of my life. I have had only one other experience in my life when I was about fourteen years old, where I encountered this much spiritual warfare. Of all of the moments on the trip, there were two experiences during my time in the Middle East that had the biggest impact on me.
About halfway into the trip, there was a leader in the camp who gave me the opportunity to sit with him in his tent and talk about everything, from the Yazidi religion to what happened when ISIS came to his home. He began to tell me about the day ISIS came to his city, and how they tore two of his daughters out of his hands. As tears gently rolled down his weathered face, he went on to talk about how they shot his mother in front of him and killed hundreds of his people. After three years went by, he saw on Facebook that the government troops had found his two daughters. He went into the city, found them, and brought them back to his current home in the refugee camp. He said that he stayed up for weeks as they would sleep and just cried as he watched them.
I’m not a father yet, but the thought of my daughters being ripped away from my arms by another human, to be passed around for whatever pleasures they desire, breaks me.
This man let me pray over him as we both cried about the atrocities he has experienced. I could begin to feel the gravity of where I was and what I was doing settle over me. As I was leaving the camp, he embraced me like a brother and told me he loved me and could never express his gratitude for our presence there. He said we were the first NGO or organization that came to sit with them and love on them, instead of just taking pictures and leaving.
The second experience was a couple days later. Our local contact, Chim Chim, asked me and another team member to go into other villages. The first camp we stopped at had these tall buildings that another NGO had built to house refugees. We were introduced to a family with a son who had severe physical and mental disabilities. He was probably about six years old, and he couldn’t stand or talk. We were told that everyday, this little boy would wake up and lie on the ground, that’s it.
Now, a little backstory on me: When I was nine years old, I went on a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo. During our time at a feeding center in one of the villages about thirty children were getting ready to eat, while beyond a chainlink fence, another 100-200 other orphaned, starving children were gathered to watch the other children eat. To this day, it is one of the hardest things I have ever seen. Knowing there was not enough resources for all the kids to eat and some would die from lack of nutrition, and all they could do was watch everyone else eat. Since that day, I have tried to avoid any attachment to kids out in the mission field. Simply said, it’s just too hard. But as we were leaving this family’s house in the Middle East, I felt the Lord breaking that wall down inside of me. I asked the mother if I could hold her son and pray for him. A smile crept across her face and she handed him to me. As he wiggled and squirmed in my arms, I began to pray for the boy and his family. I left there without understanding all that had happened, but I know the Lord was in that moment.
Halfway into the trip, as all these things were happening, I began to encounter some extreme spiritual attacks from the enemy. It felt like my whole world was being stripped from me and that all hope had left my body. The hardest part about leading a team is that when all this is happening, you have to keep the morale up for your group. No matter how hard you are getting hit and attacked, you cannot let it roll over and tear apart a team. Finally, it felt like I couldn’t do it anymore. I was sitting on my bed and Chim Chim walked in and asked what was going on. I buried my head into his chest and began to weep. Everything that I had been struggling with began to pour out, all my fears, all the attacks waged against me, everything.
He began to remind me that when we do Kingdom work the enemy reacts.
The enemy will do anything and everything to tear that work apart, attack me, attack my family back home, plant lies in my head, anything and everything. And that’s exactly what was happening.
Even since being back, there are days in the quiet time with the Lord where it feels like it takes every ounce of effort and strength I have to simply stand up. I don’t know what the dichotomy of the two extremes are, but here it is simply said: this was the most amazing mission trip I have ever been a part of, but this is the hardest thing I have ever had to walk through.
I know my God is bigger and better and will ultimately deliver me out of this, but for now my cry is that everything that was done there in the name of Jesus be sealed in the name of Jesus. It’s like I told the Yazidi men when I left, I arrived with four other brothers, but I left with many others, who I cannot wait to reunite with.
Thank you to everyone who donated and prayed for this trip.
Jake never thought he would follow in his father's footsteps, but after stepping in to lead an emergency relief trip to the Nuba Mountains last fall, he knew God was leading him into missions. After graduating from Virginia Tech with a degree in Agricultural Science and a minor in Social Change and Leadership this past May, Jake accepted a full-time position as a Field Coordinator. When he's not leading trips or coordinating projects, you can find Jake working on the family farm or hanging out with his wife A.C.