Driving through the majestic mountains, lush with green grass and springs bursting forth with water, Northern Iraq is something to behold. This beautiful land affectionately known as “Kurdistan,” has been a refuge to those hunted by ISIS. One day, books will be written and movies filmed about this time in history. Our children will read about one of the greatest horrors of our time. Amid the tragic stories, I hope they will also read of both people who chose to flourish in the worst of circumstances, and people like you and me, those who found a way to walk alongside the suffering.
During those first months and years of caring for refugee families, an array of questions had to be answered. How do we house them, while still supporting their family unit and honoring their culture? How do we feed them, while empowering them to work and provide? How do we educate the children in a way that supports the entire community? After these pressing questions were answered, out of a desire to see these families thriving, we have to seek out the best possible way to provide emotional care for individuals who have walked through some of the greatest trauma known in our time.
We believe in partnership, and we are thankful for the ways that our friends have joined us in this work. In 2017, we were able to partner with Tutapona, an organization that brought intentional trauma counseling to Northern Iraq by working with every family in our program.
Desiring to see additional progress and continued care for these families, Billy and Dawn began to pray about what was next. In an incredible answer to prayer, members of Hillsong London reached out to Billy and Dawn and offered to come and train a few of the locals on how to teach Shine & Strength, “a unique personal development and group-mentoring tool that uses an inspirational, practical and experiential approach” (Hillsong). Dawn viewed this as a wonderful fit for their work in Iraq, as it would help men and women see their value. Dawn said, “it teaches them that they have this strength to decide and to be resilient. There are things that they are good at that they can use to help other people.”