September 11, 2003, the second anniversary of 9/11 was a day I won’t ever forget. Delivering food boxes in Wadi Hadada, Jordan, I awoke that morning to the sound of the Muslim prayer call—and prayed for wisdom as I worked with a team of Southern Baptists to share a message of hope and reconciliation.
I was in Amman as part of a humanitarian effort to deliver food and other supplies to refugees living there—many who had fled Iraq after the first gulf war when they faced increased oppression under Saddam Hussein, others who left after the 2003 Iraq war began in March.
The team of workers initially was headed for Baghdad, but interrupted when security concerns arose over the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Iraq. Still our team aimed to deliver some of the 46,000 food boxes packed by Southern Baptists around the country for the families who desperately needed supplies.
Working with local charities in Amman, our efforts were well received by refugees there instead. The trip for me was evidence of America’s love for peoples of all tribes, nations, tongues—and yes, even religions. Our war in the Middle East in my mind was with terrorists who attacked us, and our way of life, not with the people. Our care and concern for the people was and is an extension of Christ’s love for us.
Later that day I glanced at a newspaper rack and was shocked to see a paper in Arabic with a clear picture of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York engulfed in flames. The paper is dated September 11, 2003.
I didn’t know whether to be insulted or afraid. I wasn’t sure if the placement of the photo on the front page was meant to mock or intimidate—to inform or to inspire. In the end, however, I kept it, knowing it would stand to me as a reminder that we are to fear God, and God alone. We are not to be intimidated by what might seem to be an impossible task of reconciliation. We are not to be overcome by hatred or to sell ourselves short on understanding.
Still, I wondered at boarding an airplane for New York the next day—and it was tough to not envision a hijacker in every other seat.
Reaching past the great hurt—America has shown itself to be capable of great love. This love should not mean that we put on blinders when we are in danger—but it does mean that we reconcile everything with what we know to be true: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 KJV).
When I am uncomfortable and let the images of planes flying into buildings; leering men with Jihadist smiles; and broken bodies overwhelm me—I close my eyes and listen for the haunting chant of the Muslim prayer call—to transport me to the land of where Christianity began—to where Jesus was born. To where Moses handed down the 10 Commandments and divided the Red Sea before that time—and to where America’s presence has been forced but is there nonetheless. There remains a remnant there, and God can and will use a broken vessel to deliver His promise. That, I believe.