July 1, 2003
JEFFERSON CITY – David Clippard says the time may be short for Missouri Baptists in Iraq.
Back in Missouri after a 10-day trip to the war-ravaged nation, the Missouri Baptist Convention’s executive director says there are many needs in Iraq, but the window of opportunity to meet those needs may not remain open long.
"There are things we can do and needs we can meet," Clippard said. "This will immediately open the door for future ministry. What we do now we will never be able to do two years from now. Early entry is essential. Time could be very short."
One of the greatest immediate needs, Clippard said, is medicine.
For example, Clippard said he and the three others from Missouri who traveled to Iraq learned that there is no rabies vaccine in Iraq. "And 20 people a day in Mosul are being bitten by dogs," Clippard said.
Making the trip with Clippard were Roy Spannagel, assistant director for evangelism, Jay Scribner, pastor of First Baptist Church, Branson, and Ralph Sawyer, pastor, First Baptist Church, Wentzville.
"We were told that there is a man in Tennessee who will donate $20 million worth of medicine (retail value) if someone will pay the shipping. The shipping cost is $32,500. It would be a great thing if a church group wanted to take that one. We really need to get inside the door in that country."
Clippard said the group found great cooperation from the U.S. military.
"They said whatever you want, we’ll provide," Clippard explained. "They said they would give us a squad or a platoon of soldiers. We located a Southern Baptist leader in the military, and he said ‘please come.’
"We want the Iraqi people to know we love them, and we can do that by helping them," Clippard said.
The director said he detected a strong anti-Saddam Hussein attitude among the people of Iraq.
"The week before Saddam was overthrown; he opened the prisons and released all prisoners. These were the people who did the looting of all the schools," Clippard explained. "They stripped the schools of fans, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, blackboards – everything.
"What I would like to see is Missouri Baptist churches adopt these schools. One church, for example, could buy blackboards. Another church could replace windows. Another church could replace desks and chairs. And other churches could install bath fixtures. Our approach will be to meet human needs."
Clippard and the two pastors flew into Amman, Jordan, on June 4, where they met Spannagel. They drove 12 hours across desert to Baghdad and then north to Mosul where they met with U.S. military officials. The team also visited some locations in Iraq near the Syrian border.
While in Jordan, the team met with representatives from the Jordanian Baptist Society. Jordanian Baptists are operating a school with 1,200 students. Clippard said elite government officials in Jordan send their children to the Baptist school, where 65 students were saved and baptized last year.
"They want to start a similar school in Baghdad," Clippard said. "And we met two Iraqis in Jordan who are ready to go back to their homeland to establish new works. But they need support."
Clippard said there is urgency about the things the team saw.
"There are things we can do today that we won’t be able to do in 24 months. We may never have the opportunity again," said Clippard who is confident Muslim influence in the new Iraqi government will close the country to any Christian influence.
"Quickly meeting their humanitarian needs will develop credibility," Clippard said and he is confident that God has opened a window of opportunity for Missouri Baptists.
"There will be some who are scared to go," he added, "but God didn’t give us a spirit of fear. Everyone can pray for Iraq. Others can give, and some will go. The folks who go will need to come up with their own financing, but we can provide ways to help."
Clippard said the team went to Iraq with no agenda.
"But every day God brought strategic people into our path," he added.