Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | October 20, 2008

A Terrible Place

A Page from My Journal
En Route to KurdistanOctober 19, 2008
Posted October 20 from Amman, Jordan

   I heard the same words twice today, and they have been steeping in my heart for hours. For some reason, I cannot stop thinking about them and their implications. The first time I heard them was from a ticket agent at Bush Intercontinental Airport. When the gentleman assisting us was having a little trouble getting his computer to print out our boarding passes from Amman to Erbil, one of his colleagues approached to help. “Where are they going, “she asked. “Erbil,” replied our agent. “It’s in Iraq.” The word Iraq instantly collided with her face and disfigured her expression. “Oh my,” she whispered in a low, somber tone. “That’s a terrible place. I would never go there.” I just stood there and discreetly brushed off her words like annoying flakes of verbal dandruff.

   I heard the same words a second time a few hours later. Stuffing our backpacks into overhead compartments for our flight from Chicago to Amman, one of the flight attendants asked a team member what we would be doing in Jordan. “Oh, that’s not our final destination. We’re en route to Erbil.” Hearing this, the flight attendant shook his head and said, “Iraq is a terrible place, and dangerous. I used to live there and will never return.” This time I could not ignore these same words. It’s as if each letter had been sprayed and scrawled across my mind like unwelcome graffiti.

   Hours from now we’ll meet Heather Mercer in a terrible place. She knows about terrible places. In the weeks prior to the terrorist attacks of September 11, Heather and her co-worker Dayna Curry were arrested and imprisoned by Taliban forces in Afghanistan. In their book, Prisoners of Hope, Heather and Dayna said, “We wanted to go to Afghanistan because we knew few others were willing to do so” (p. 41). These young women willingly went to a terrible place and ended up in a place more terrible than they could have imagined. But, God used them in that terrible place. “Even while we were in prison,” they write, “Taliban officials frequently asked us questions about our faith. We honestly talked more about Jesus in Afghanistan than we ever did in America” (p. 42).

   The Apostle Paul found himself in more than a few terrible places, including prison, as he worked to advance the work of the kingdom. But, God used him in those terrible places. He reminded the Philippians of that fact when he wrote, “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly” (Philippians 1:12-14).

   God does some of His best work in terrible places. But, in order to do so, He needs His people to go to terrible places, and even to dangerous places. And, if God can advance His purposes in terrible places, imagine what He might do through us in the places where most of us live, places not so terrible and not so dangerous. Let’s allow Him to use us wherever we find ourselves. It would be terrible to do anything less than that.


  1. To my brothers and sisters who dare go to “a terrible place.” I ask my Lord God, who sees you and leads you in terrible places to give you joy in your work for Him. I pray that you would be bold and find many who hunger for His words, that you would be able to feed that hunger. I pray that your hands and feet would do the work of Jesus and those who witness it would see Him. In the name of Jesus the Christ, Amen.

  2. What you have written is so true, some of the greatest things that have happened throughout the ages have occured through adversity, through persecution. There can never be victory without a battle.
    How will they know if we never go? Thank you for going, you are in our prayers. And by the way you have beautiful feet! How beautiful are the feet of those who announce peace of those who share the good news!

  3. You inspire and encourage me. I will be praying for y’all. You and your team ROCK!!

  4. You inspire and encourage me. You and your team rock!!! Thanks for serving, I will be praying for y’all.

  5. Omar, I hope you and our bros/sisters in Christ are finding beauty there. We are praying.

  6. Lord, keep our brothers and sisters safe. Let them be a vessel for you and may their words and actions speak volumes for your majesty. Keep them, guide them and watch over them, that they may spread your word without hinderance and make a mark for you in a place that’s lost.

    We thank you and love you, and give you all the glory.

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