It finally sank in as I buckled my seat belt and carefully reclined my airplane seat. I was completely on my own, and there was no turning back now. I was on my way to a country I had never been to; a country halfway around the world from my safe and secure home; a country ravaged by war and terrorism and death.
I was on my way to Kurdistan, North Iraq. And I was alone. A middle aged, sheltered, stay-at-home mother of four was on an airplane following the call of her heart. A heart that had been turned upside down three years earlier while listening to a mother-daughter duo share about the persecution of Christians and the genocide of the Yazidi people in the Middle East.
Yvette and Jacqueline Isaac, founders of the humanitarian organization ‘Roads of Success,’ had been invited by our church to enlighten us on the ground reality in that part of the world. As I watched videos of tortured Christians and the brutal fallout of the Yazidi massacre in Sinjar, I felt like a dagger was piercing my heart and my tears would not stop flowing.
Something deep and divine was churning my spirit as I watched wives wailing over their massacred husbands and heard horrifying stories of daughters being kidnapped and used as sex slaves by ISIS. The grief, the anger, the pathos and the courage of such broken helplessness overwhelmed me, and all I longed to do was embrace and mourn with those devastated women. I just wanted to hug them and tell them that they were not forgotten or invisible in their suffering; that a people way out there did care.
“Emotionalism.” That was my pastor’s analysis when I confided in him, and then he wisely cautioned me to wait and see if these feelings would diminish or even dissipate. In obedience to his practical counsel, I waited and prayed and moaned (a bit) about the unimpressive burden I had been given. I mean, who goes all the way to a refugee camp just to love and hug and pray for people? How wildly inspiring can that be?
But it was what it was, and as I waited for the feelings to fade away-they didn’t. Instead, they consumed me to the extent that I began to seek out those who could take me there. Twice the doors opened for me to go with different ministries, and twice the doors shut in my face at the last moment. God was teaching me to wait for Him to open the door, His way, in His time.
And His time arrived on the 7th of August 2019, when I met Willy Tan, founder of Habibi International, via an amazing and unexpected connection. I had never heard of the man in my life, and the girl who linked us was barely known to me either. But she just so happened to be eating dinner with us that night, and as we conversed about the Middle East and how much I wanted to go there, she suddenly remembered that Willy was currently visiting Singapore- and voilà, a couple of days later I was drinking coffee and chatting with the man himself.
Willy turned out to be a bearded Chinese-Singaporean/American humanitarian who regularly took medical and dental teams to serve the Yazidis in the refugee camps. He was extremely zealous and passionate about these disenfranchised people, and so I loved him immediately. He was also anointed with the ability to make quick God-led decisions. As soon as he heard my story, he invited me to join his team in Zakho so I could visit the ladies in the camps. It was encouraging to hear him affirm their dire need to be ministered holistically due to the trauma they had endured. Their needs were certainly immense, but how could I help and what could I do?
I had no idea. I only knew that I had to go.
So, on the midnight of the 1st of Oct 2019, I bid my husband farewell and then headed towards my flight bay. Suddenly, panic struck and I began to feel terribly nervous and vulnerable. I literally had to force myself to keep walking forward and not run back to Sanford. Thank God that did not last too long, just long enough to reinforce my dependence on my Protector. I was made keenly aware of the prayer shield my cell members and family had erected around me. Their daily prayers sustained me continuously for the two weeks that I was away.
I wish I could adequately describe the emotions I experienced on arriving in that dry and beautiful country. I really felt like I belonged there. Interestingly, most people automatically assumed that I was Iraqi, and they would sound comically offended when I told them I wasn’t, or that I couldn’t even speak Arabic.
The next few days swirled by as I visited and met with my beautiful Yazidi women and their lovely families. The hugs, the stories, the tears, the shared meals, the prayers and the words of encouragement released over them were more satisfying and fulfilling than I could have ever imagined. The prophetic bracelets and tee-shirts I had carried as gifts elicited grateful smiles as I explained the simple significance of God’s love for them. My cup was truly filled to overflowing and I soon began making plans for what needed to be done the next time I visited. And then Covid struck, leaving a bit of a question mark for the future.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned as I’ve grown older and greyer, it is that a sincerely surrendered life to the Lord is never wasted. God always works according to His own time and agenda. More than a decade ago, I remember singing a song about going to the ends of the earth for Jesus during a very anointed prayer meeting. But even as I was singing with all my heart, my mind was wondering how that could ever be possible. Still, through the haze of doubt in my mind, my spirit was crystal clear about one thing. If this was His will, then it would be mine too. The ball was in His court. My heart was willing. Period.
And then I forgot all about that prayer. But God never forgot, and in His sovereign time, He began to open up the nations for me. The dreams and desires of my younger years were getting fulfilled in my latter years. Truly, nothing is impossible with God.
I want to encourage all you ladies out there. Nothing can hold you back from your destiny or your assignments. Not Covid. Not perceived inadequacies. Not old age. Not nothing. You just need to say, “Aye, Lord!” And then wait on Him. He will make all things beautiful in His time.
“They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.” Ps 92:14
Ps Henson writes in Alignment Check, “Sometimes an assignment is given for a future time. It is thus unwise to proceed prematurely and presumptuously. Assignments may be for a season – a few weeks, months or years. If God reveals that in advance, then great. If not, then it is incumbent upon us to constantly check-in with Him.”
And that was what Anna did, to keep waiting on God and not go ahead of Him, with a heart that is always ready to say ‘Aye, Aye, Lord”.
Anna has been married to the love of her life for 34 years, and is the proud mother of 4 awesome offspring and one dog. She abhors lukewarmness and nonsensical spiritual jargon, but adores the genuine outpouring of God’s glory, manifested through authentic love. She also believes that not receiving and living in the abundant life Jesus gifted us,is surely reckoned unto us as foolishness.