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Fighting for the Lives of Veterans

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army / CC BY-NC 2.0

I hear the war drums beating. Each news story seems to reverberate their pounding, bringing us one step closer to inevitable violence. Our posture toward each other, toward other nations, and other religions seems to be falling into step as the language of potential war starts slipping into our dialogue. Violence starts with words... but it ends with fists, bombs, and death.

Can you hear them? Can you feel the tension stretched tight? Eyes are locked, fists are up. Each country waiting to see who will twitch first.

It’s Been 3 Years Since ISIS Took His Wife. He’s Never Stopped Searching For Her.

Dear Najla,  

Your husband hasn’t stopped searching since ISIS took you nearly three years ago. After all this time—you are still his world.

What Will It Take to Rebuild Mosul?

“That’s their home.”

Uday pointed at the pile of rubble across the street from the aid delivery site.

“The destroyed one?

“Yes, yes, that one…they lost their house.”

It was hard not to stare, slack-jawed, as we surveyed the gaping void on the street corner. The rest of the street remained lined with family homes, but this property—seized by ISIS and used as a command center—was bombed into oblivion.

The closer we drove toward the heart of Mosul that morning, the more evidence we saw of war lining the roads.

Homeless In An Instant—Two Brothers’ Story

Everything, gone in an instant.

It was loud. No, it redefined the word “loud.” It jolted their entire neighborhood into tears or shocked silence—all in an instant. Mohammad’s face sagged as he and his brother told us about the airstrike.

What We Know And What We Don’t Know About the President’s New Immigration Order

President Trump is expected to issue a new executive order on refugees and immigration this week—perhaps as early as today. Here’s what we know, what we don’t know, and how we’ll respond.

While Others "Stand By," You Load Up the Trucks for Mosul

Near the Grand Mosque in eastern Mosul, just across the river from ISIS-held western Mosul

On Sunday, the Iraqi military launched a new offensive to retake the western portion of Mosul from ISIS.

Iraqi forces have spent the last four months pushing toward Mosul. In recent weeks, they’ve managed to take back the eastern side of the city, which is roughly split in half by the Tigris River.

Officials expect this new offensive to be even more challenging because the west side of Mosul has narrower streets is more densely populated.

The UN estimates that approximately 750,000 civilians still live in Mosul's west, under "siege-like" conditions. Civilians who have fled the region report that food is running out. No one knows what people are going to do once the battle lands on their doorstep.

Love and Politics

Sometimes it feels like love and politics are like oil and water—they cannot and should not be mixed. But the fact of the matter is that politics are part of life. Especially at this moment in history. And it’s impossible to love if you’re absent altogether.

Love requires that we show up in the hard places. Even when things get dicey. Even when they get political. And when there is conflict of any kind (whether it’s political or physical), love demands that we show up with a completely different agenda than the parties on either side.

Love during conflict means showing up to wage peace where others wage war.

ISIS Tried to Destroy This Church... But What We Saw Inside Took Our Breath Away

“Matthew… come now, come here!”

Waleed’s usually stoic face was bent upward and clearly excited. A devout Muslim, Waleed worked for years as a soldier with special forces, and he has the sorrow and stories to prove it. He is more than qualified to work as a security specialist on our front-line deliveries. But now, standing there with that big grin on his scarred face, he looked more like a little kid.

Seeing his smile made me angry.

When the Violence Breaks You

Abdul Bassit after surviving an explosion in Syria that took both his legs (Twitter)

There is a video of an 8-year-old boy in Syria lying on the ground, moments after an alleged airstrike. His legs are gone, blown off at the knees.  

His mother is dead. His sister is dead.

I watched yesterday… and as shocking as it was, I could almost handle it. Until he started crying, “Pick me up, daddy. Pick me up.”

A Look Inside the Aleppo Kitchen Where You are Feeding Thousands

At this point, there are few people on earth who don’t know there’s a crisis in Syria.

Swipe your screen for a front row seat to years of Syrian families running, wailing, suffering. Then, when it surely couldn’t get worse, the crisis reached a horrible apex: hundreds of thousands fled a burning Aleppo, and the world seemed to wake up—if just for a few minutes—to the fact that “their” crisis “over there” is somehow ours, too.

“We Must Teach Our Children to Hate Weapons” - One Mosul Father’s Plea

“Most of the children, when ISIS ruled, they loved weapons. They saw weapons. We saw too many kids carrying weapons. It’s heartbreaking, believe me.”

As I listened to this man, sipping tea in his home deep inside Mosul, gunfire and falling bombs in the background, I remember the sounds around me more than anything. The sofa creaked, tiny spoons clinked against teacups, and the unsettling thunder of war a few blocks away.

Bringing Peace and Healing to Families' Hearts

Every mama’s heart aches when her child is sick. It’s so hard to see them suffer and not know what’s going on, or how to help.

For some mamas, it’s extra hard. When Yossef came down with the flu at two months old, he was taken to see a doctor in Iraq. The doctor diagnosed not only the flu but something much more concerning—there was a serious problem with his heart.

They Can't Escape Mosul, So Your Love Is Reaching Them

If you’ve been with us awhile, chances are you’ve read those words before: you just provided food for thousands of families on the front lines!

And it’s true, you did.

Families in Aleppo, Fallujah, and Mosul are dining today because you helped cover the bill. You heard them, came alongside them in their suffering, you gave—and our teams used that money to buy aid in bulk, load trucks, slog through checkpoints, and then deliver that food to thousands of families.

It’s exciting, right?

But what about when it isn’t?

The Girl Who Escaped Death Twice

Jobs disappeared.

That’s what drove Yaqin’s family from Mosul, Iraq. It was 2014 and the early days of ISIS in the city. Life was beginning to get difficult—the rules for living changed, tightened, but it was still manageable, except for the fact that paid work became scarce. Yaqin’s father couldn’t support his family, so they made the decision to leave.

It was a decision that saved Yaqin’s life.

4 Things You Should Know About Refugees and Terrorism

The debate over refugees is showing no signs of letting up.

This week, the courts temporarily suspended President Trump’s executive order, while the White House mulled a range of options, from a Supreme Court challenge to writing a new order. In these situations, it can be so easy to talk past one another. But the reality is that the issues are often more nuanced—and far more complex—than sound bites and 140-character limits allow for.

ISIS Attacks Kill 9 in Mosul Neighborhoods Where You're Providing Food and Medical Care

Iraqi soldier in eastern Mosul, near a medical clinic you're helping refurbish. Today, ISIS launched suicide attacks in this part of the city.

From Rudaw Media Network: 

Two suicide bombings have struck the left bank [eastern side] of Mosul, killing at least nine, including an Iraqi army officer, and injuring others, an intelligence source with the Iraqi army told Rudaw.

The Uncomfortable, Controversial Reality of Loving Across Enemy Lines

It's no secret that the U.S. is extraordinarily divided at this moment in history and that many of us wish for greater unity. But lately, there seems to be a rash of people calling for unity while using inflammatory language about those who disagree with them.

And it made me wonder: Do we really want unity? Or do we just want everyone to agree with us?

Because unity doesn’t require agreement.

From Heart Surgery Patient to Future Pilot: Falah's Story

This week is Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week. In addition to serving refugees on the front lines of conflict, you've helped provide lifesaving cardiac care for hundreds kids in Iraq, Libya, and other countries—kids who have no other way of getting the care they need. Recently, your love showed up in southern Iraq for kids like Falah. 

When Falah closes his eyes, he sees himself high above the clouds, in the cockpit of a fighter jet. When he imagines his future self, he is a pilot who helps to defend his country from the forces which seek to destroy.

But the last time we met Falah, he was lying in a hospital bed, recovering from the surgery that saved his life.

Opening a Conversation With President Trump About the Refugee Crisis

Today, I joined other social entrepreneurs like Aria Finger (DoSomething), Scott Harrison (charity: water), Jay Herrati (TEDx), Jeff Skoll (eBay, The Jeff Skoll Group), Premal Shah (Kiva), and dozens more to open a dialogue with President Trump about refugees, immigrants, and his recent executive order, now being challenged in the courts.

Leaning In

Leaning in—this is the common posture we see in every hospital where we work. There are always parents leaning in toward their children, either out of concern or the desire to comfort. But just as often we see doctors and nurses leaning in toward patients, giving lifesaving care. We see our international medical team and local teams leaning in toward each other, sharing crucial techniques and skills.

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