Obama's Rock Star Tour / State Dept. now concerned about persecution of Iraqi Christians / Dems want funds for abortion and forced sterilization / Our mission to Jordan / The mission to Israel / Hope School in the West Bank / Sderot, a city under seige
STATE DEPT. NOW CONCERNED ABOUT IRAQI CHRISTIANS - For years the Religious Freedom Coalition and others have been beating on the doors of the State Department and the White House to draw their attention to the persecution of Christians in Iraq. Most of the Iraqi Christians population has now fled their country. In October of last year the fact finding mission led by myself and Gov. David Beasley signaled a turn around in our government's attitude toward the crisis. At first State fought against the findings of our fact finding mission, but slowly the media began to investigate. Stories appeared in unlikely publications such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Then 60 Minutes did a segment on the persecution of Christians and even the Doonsbury comic strip ran a series about this topic. Suddenly the State Department stopped fighting us and admitted there was a problem. The change became clear when State actually sent a representative to the monthly meeting held by various NGO's, including the Religious Freedom Coalition, who assist Iraq's Christians and other non-Muslim minorities. The Bush Administration now admits that there could be a problem.
MISSION TO ISRAEL - Upon my arrival in Israel, I drove directly to Ariel, Samaria where David and Leah Ortiz have a ministry to both Arabs and Jews. On March 20th their 16-year-old son Ami was severely wounded in a bombing of their apartment. My wife Nancy, my daughter Katie and I have all stayed at the Ortiz apartment at one time or another. On this trip I once again stayed with the Ortiz family. The dining room table where the bomb went off had been replaced. Also, all windows on both floors of their two story apartment were blown out by the blast and had been replaced. It is a miracle of God that Ami was not killed as he stood just inches from the bomb when it went off.
My second day in Israel I went with David and Leah to visit Ami who has been moved to the Children's Hospital for rehabilitation. He had been in intensive care for six weeks after the bombing. He looks much better than the pictures sent to me right after the bombing and is recovering well. The doctors had said he may never see again, but he can see. They said he might never walk again, yet he can walk. The Lord is restoring Ami day by day, although he still faces more operations and treatment.
HOPE SCHOOL IN THE "WEST BANK" - I really despise the name "West Bank" used for the area principally made up of Samaria and parts of Judea. It was called the "West Bank" when Jordan occupied it because it was situated on the west bank of the Jordan River. Bethlehem, the birth place of Jesus, is considered a part of the "West Bank." On my third day in Israel I drove to Beit Jala which is adjacent to Bethlehem. This is the location of Hope School which the Religious Freedom Coalition has supported for many years. The Headmaster, Solomon Nour, showed me some improvements that had been made with the $5,000 grant given to the school in 2007. I presented him with additional funds for 2008.
FINAL DAY - While in Israel I drove to Sderot, which has been bombarded with over 3,000 missiles fired from the Gaza Strip in the last seven years. When Israel abandoned the Gaza strip two years ago, the number of rockets increased. SEE VIDEO. I talked to several residents in the city which has a population of 20,000. There has been a genuine economic downturn as those with the financial ability have moved to safer areas.