AMMAN, Jordan (BP)--Nineteen Southern Baptist relief volunteers entered Amman, Jordan, Sept. 3, where the radiant sun beats down on white buildings carved into seven hills rising out of fine bleached desert sand.
The team initially was scheduled to continue from Amman to Baghdad to deliver to Iraqi families some of the 46,000 70-pound boxes of food gathered by Southern Baptist churches across the country this past spring.
Instead, because relief workers in Jordan and Iraq have scrambled to coordinate efforts and American volunteers have remained ready to help, some boxes could, within days, be in the humble abodes of many of the 500,000 Iraqis who fled their country and are now living as refugees in Jordan.
Shipped in containers to various ports in the Middle East, the boxes were to have been housed in Baghdad until relief workers could deliver them to the most needy.
At the end of August, those plans came to a halt when non-government organizations, at the advice of security officials in Iraq, said there were new safety concerns after escalating threats that could make relief workers "soft targets."
As a result, most teams scheduled to travel to Iraq were forced to delay their itineraries until at least mid-September when the threat level is to be re-examined.
In an interview with the Florida Baptist Witness in Jordan, one of the relief workers* said she is convinced God's hand has been on the trip all along, despite the last-minute changes and the long plane ride to Jordan.
Because she affirms the sovereignty of God, "I don't have any trouble with this," she said. "My one thought is to realize God's in charge of all of this and as long as I let Him order my steps I am where He wants me to be. I am going to 'Plan B.'"
Though she admitted to struggling with the probability she wouldn't be able to be one of the first in Iraq if she went to Jordan, the volunteer said, "It was never a question of, 'Will I go?' or 'Should I go?'
"I don't only love the Iraqis living in Baghdad," she said. "If there is a way I can be God with skin on, then I'm not going to tell God, 'Only in this box.'"
The worker said her love for the Iraqi people began when she learned of the plight of the Kurds during the first Persian Gulf war.
"God just gave me a love for them and I have been praying for them all along," she said. "God wants worshipers in every place and if He has to start out with us worshiping God among those people, He'll get honor from that."
A Baptist worker* coordinating the event, told the Witness Sept. 3 in Jordan that the volunteers -- from Florida, Texas, Virginia and North Carolina -- might have an opportunity to begin delivering food and supplies to the Iraqi refugees as early as Sept. 6, but details and logistics about the part this initial team will play continue to unfold.
The worker also reported that the food boxes scheduled for delivery in Jordan, unlike those in Iraq, will include an Arabic translation of the Book of Proverbs. The worker said there are fewer restrictions in Jordan than in the rest of the Arab world, and Proverbs is a biblical text that is accepted by Muslims.
The team is scheduled for orientation Sept. 4 and was planning to hold a prayer vigil for the Iraqi people Sept. 5 in a location overlooking Iraq. Because Friday is considered a Holy Day in this mostly Muslim country, relief work will be delayed until Sept. 6.
Meanwhile, East of Jordan, in Baghdad, a Southern Baptist chaplain endorsed by the North American Mission Board, Captain Scott Riedel, told the Witness in a satellite phone interview Sept. 2 that he is appreciative of Southern Baptists' efforts to provide food to the needy Iraqis.
Assigned to the 2nd Armored Calvary Regiment out of Fort Polk, La., Riedel, who has been in war-torn Iraq since June, said the persistence of Southern Baptists in showing love to the Iraqi people has not gone unnoticed.
"It makes me so proud to tell people I'm Southern Baptist," Riedel said. "You don't hear of any other denomination doing that. We are really leading from the front."
Commenting on the Iraqis' need for more than just the barest supplies, Riedel said he knows the 70-pound boxes, which contain enough staples to feed a family of five for a month, will begin to make an immediate difference.
"The Iraqi people really do love America and they love us tremendously," Riedel said.
*Names of relief workers have been withheld for security reasons.
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