Friday, June 24, 2005

It's my brother's birthday...

David turns 38 today. That is SO hard to believe. I can remember the day of his birth like it was yesterday. You see, David was probably my first major answer to prayer.

When I was a little girl, my parents were missionaries to Beirut, Lebanon. Of course, in those long-ago days, there were no video games, no cable television (actually, we didn't have a TV at all in Lebanon), no personal computers. So we made our own fun, and read a lot, and wrote a lot, and played board games, and listened to music endlessly, and made our own little plays and performed them for people... and that was probably great for us in the long run.

However, there came a point where my older sister Bev went back to the States to finish high school. My younger sister Lisa and I missed her terribly. So we covenanted that we would begin praying for another sibling. And we were specific about had to be a boy. We wanted a baby brother.

Despite our parents trying to gently discourage us in this prayer campaign--they hadn't really had any plans to expand the family--we persisted.

Whether God did a miracle, or my parents capitulated, or a combination of both, I've never been quite sure. But on June 24th, 1967, our baby brother came into the world, and I've loved him with a proprietary zeal ever since. Correctly or not, I've always felt like I helped pray him into existence.

Training Iraqi cops

Right now, my brother is in Iraq. This certainly helps keep my current prayer life active. David is there to help train Iraqi cops. Although I wish he wasn't there, I need to be supportive of him in this endeavor--he truly feels a commitment to the Iraqi people.

Being a private person and very sensitive to security concerns, David wouldn't want me to post his picture on this blog. I wish you could see how handsome he is. However, some time back, I did post something my brother wrote when he first arrived in the Middle East and was stationed in Amman, Jordan. In honor of his birthday, I'm going to re-post it. I do hope you'll read on...I think it's rather remarkable.

(originally posted September 22, 2004)

I'm proud of my younger brother David for many reasons. He's a former Marine, Desert Storm veteran, police officer, SWAT team leader...he seems to relish a kind of danger in his life that I would recoil from. Thankfully, though, there are people that are drawn to it,maybe even called to it...and I think he is one of those.

Still, I thought he had lost his mind recently when he signed up to go to Iraq for one year to train Iraqi police officers. Yes, the pay is more than good. But every time another news story about a beheaded American flashes on the TV screen, I physically flinch. I don't want my baby brother to become one of those news stories.

Here is where my belief in the sovereignty of God gets put to the test. Do I really believe that David's times are in God's hands? If so, he's just as safe in a war zone, with bullets flying, as he would be patrolling the streets of the small town in which he is a policeman.

So far, David hasn't made it to Iraq yet. An initial stopover in Jordan has dragged out, with the Iraqi police candidates being sent to him instead of him having to go to them in dangerous Iraq. I would like it just fine if he ended up spending the entire stint in Jordan, although that isn't likely.

Anyway...I said all that to say this. David sent me an e-mail today that I found extraordinary, even moving. He's always been a good writer, and this e-mail illustrates that, as well as giving a first-person report on the unique circumstances in which he finds himself.

David titled the e-mail "Shala," but I'm certain he means "InshaAllah," which is Arabic for "God willing." Please read on.

"Finished training another class of Iraqi cadets on the range today. The majority of them come to me with no shooting skills, no concept of the fundamentals of marksmanship and no experience with a pistol. Most of them understand the controls of the AK-47 assault rifle but not how to hit anyone that isnt standing right in front of them.

"They look at me with suspicion in thier eyes on the first day we meet. I have them for a week. Paul and Jeff, two Canadian Mounties, Ricky Don, a big Louisiana boy, that goes by the nickname 'Redneck' and I, begin to teach them the skills that will hopefully save their lives.

" They come to us with courage. All of them have risked death to come here and by taking this job having taken the most dangerous policing job in the world.

"Some of them were military and were on the other end of the gun in Desert Storm where I served as a Marine. These are the ones I seem to enjoy the most. Perhaps we have more in common. Military men the world over are not so different. Most of them take up this career out of a combination of desire for the safety of their families and communities and financial desparation. The same reasons I took this job.

"As I teach them and they realize that I am genuinely concerned about their success and their survival you begin to see their prejudice against Americans weaken and fade away. As their skills grow they begin to show respect and even appreciation for thier instructors.

"On the first day of shooting they are awful. I coach and train, break bad habits, yell, order pushups, and give correction. On the second day of shooting the marksmanship begins to improve and they begin to take pride in their abilities which are still sub par. I then stop pushing them to pass and teach them the subtle techniques that take them from being capable of qualifying to excellent marksmanship.

"On qualification day my students come to me to make sure I will be with them on the line. They all tell me that God willing they are going to shoot a perfect score for me.

"They are a tribal people and respect strength and a formidable teacher. They respect someone they can justifiably fear. This is why they so easily flock after Warlords and tribal leaders like children follow football players and Superheros.

"On qualification day I am no longer harsh or hard, I encourage and praise and advise and none of my students have ever shot the minimum qualification score, and most are either perfect or just shy. It is on this day that I experience job satisfaction, and the same students who once eyed me suspiciously express their heartfelt gratitude and their joy over having surpassed another obstacle. One which may save their lives.

"As they shake my hand and put their hands on their heart with huge smiles on their faces, I feel a sort of kinship with them as police officers. My prejudices also are difficult to hang on to as they become for a short time my children, my students in whom I am well pleased.

"And again the reality strikes me that within a year most of these smiling faces will have shed their blood in the sand in the most dangerous place in the world. 'Are you going to shoot a 50 for me today?' 'InshaAllah'( God Willing).

"May God help them, their families, their courageous hearts, their childlike attitudes, and may they live to see some kind of peace in thier homeland."--David

And my God keep bless you and keep you, my precious brother, and make His face to shine upon you.

And the happiest of birthdays to you, Davo! I love you!

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