A New Year - Continuing Mission

The calendar turned a page. In some ways the transition from Dec 31st to Jan 1st is an arbitrary one. Today is much the same as yesterday. A beautiful sun rose over a crisp morning through the haze of oil burning off from local refineries as our folks went about getting started with their day. But the importance of days often lies not just in what they contain but in the meaning we invest in them. I preached on New Years Day about attitudes and meaning - that we can invest life with meaning. That New Years can be a time for serious reflection on where have we been, where are we going, and is that where I can and need to be?

Take the past months for instance. I could write about a typical day, but in truth each day was unique. I could write that the next folks that will come in someday to replace us will experience something similar, but yet it will be different as well. Progress is happening and change is taking place. I know the media doesn't talk about that much. I wish the media spent half as much time talking about all the good stuff going on rather than just focusing on the bad stuff. We interpret our experiences investing them with meaning, but we do not interpret in a vacuum. We interpret based on the information we are receiving, which is why it is so important for parties that want to influence society to have the media edge. Whey we have public consultants and media spokemen and so forth. The point is, while I've been here, I've had first hand experience of it all. I've been attacked and carried wounded and even the dead. But I can still say the good is far greater than the bad. I've shaken the hands of Iraqi comrads and worked side by side with them on a project or two. I've seen the smiling faces of local children as school supplies were placed in their hands. I've heard the huge celebrations as important milestones were passed. Every day a new day dawns in Iraq.

I was out taking some photos of the section of Kirkuk north of the base with my telephoto lense and noticed and entire apartment complex that was not there six weeks ago. This is an area bustling with growth and activity. The chapel provides school supplies to local schools. So many times I've had our contacts explain to us how much difference this is making and how much things are changing. There are now entire sections of the area where our folks feel comfortable enough and welcome enough to walk down the streets of settlements without body armor knowing they are safe there.

I am very proud of the people I serve with. For the most part they have been shining examples of integrety, excellence, and service before self. I was concerned that being away from family at the holidays might effect them a great deal, but as one airman told me that when you can't have Christmas with your family then make a family of the people you are with.

One of my Army counterparts, one of our docs, and myself made a clandestine run the other night to various areas where the army works dropping off hundreds of boxes of Little Debbie cakes from Dayton TN and other snack items, many of these coming from Lutheran churches in the Cincinnati area. It is very cool knowing you made a difference to folks out there.

No more snow here so far, but it has been fairly cold. Enough that I am glad I decided to bring long underware and other underlayers and that when they offered me an old style field jacket I said yes. That is the only one I've seen on the base so far. I wish I had a dollar for every time I've been asked where I secured it.

Ministry this week has focused on visitation and official functions with some counseling. So I'll wrap up just by saying "Happy New Year".