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Wetumpka church helps provide gifts for Iraqi childrencomment (0)

January 8, 2009

By Brittany N. Howerton

Thanks to some U.S. soldiers and a little help from Mountain View Baptist Church, Wetumpka, some Iraqi children’s smiles got a little bit bigger recently.

The Elmore Baptist Association church collected 33 boxes of clothes, soccer balls, dolls and other toys for Operation Peace for Iraqi Children, a humanitarian mission of the Army Reserve’s Montgomery-based 926th Engineer Brigade to promote peace and religious tolerance in Iraq.

“The mission originated when our soldiers were mobilized at Fort Shelby (in late February and March 2008),” said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Carlton Fisher, a member of Mountain View Baptist. “Our commander, Brig. Gen. Talley, encouraged all soldiers to solicit soccer equipment from folks at home for Iraqi kids.”

This was the brigade’s first humanitarian assistance project to utilize donations from home, noted Fisher, who, along with Staff Sgt. Gregory Huff, of Dothan, led the donation efforts.

As more people became aware of their efforts, the project grew from the initial goal of collecting soccer equipment to collecting school supplies, clothes and toys, too. The items were donated by churches, groups and individuals in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina and New York as well as the brigade’s Family Readiness Group, which exists to support soldiers’ families during deployment.

And Nov. 18, Al Kifah Girls School in Rusafa, one of the poorest areas of Iraq’s capital city of Baghdad, received 450 packages of school supplies, clothing and toys.

“Just think how many children can say, ‘The Americans are not so bad after all,’ and ‘The Americans really care,’” said Doris Nepute, project leader for Mountain View, which is led by Pastor Anthony Counts.

“And we hope that’s what it does. We want to spread the gospel any way we can,” Nepute said.

Fisher said his favorite part about distributing the packages to the children was seeing their smiles.

“The children were ecstatic over the gifts, and they were excited about soldiers in their schoolyard,” he said.

But the children weren’t the only ones smiling. “Our soldiers loved the mission. They were smiling, too. Several of them told me it was the best mission they had been on since being in the country,” Fisher said.

The mission had several goals:

• To bring smiles and hope to the children.

• To help the children in their education.

• To foster good relationships between coalition forces and Iraqi citizens.

• To engender freedom of religion.

• To save the lives of soldiers and citizens.

“The last two in the list are byproducts of the first three motivations,” Fisher said, adding that because Iraqi Christians are fleeing the area, Muslims there do not come face to face with Christ’s love.

“But we wanted Iraqi Muslims to know that American Christians cared about them. We want to do everything we can to change the perception some Iraqi Muslims have of Christians and/or Americans,” he said. “In effect, we were trying to take one brick out of the ideological wall on our side. We figured maybe if we take a brick out on our side, they will take out one on their side as well, setting the stage for religious dialogue and more religious freedom down the road.”

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