“Six weeks ago, I would have cut your throat!” a hulking, middle eastern man said.
The man boldly entered a makeshift ops center for the Christian resistance in northern Iraq, his huge frame filling the door.
Jamie Walden, former U.S. Marine and follower of Jesus, stood his ground, mentally preparing for the man’s next move. The fact that he carried a box full of Bibles translated into Arabic gave Jamie hope they were on the same team.
“I was ISIS,” the man blurted out. “Do you know how many Christians I’ve murdered? But then the Gospel was shared with me, and now my every waking moment is spent finding Bibles to take back to the ISIS fighters, to share with them the true Gospel and the love of Jesus Christ.”
Relief washed over Jamie as he realized this former enemy was now his brother and fellow missionary — sharing in the calling to defend and equip Christians living in hostile territory.
Putting a Face to Christian Persecution
In 2003, while serving as a sergeant in the Marine Corps, Jamie deployed to Iraq. There, his platoon achieved great success as they took several major cities and led the march to Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“I wasn’t a believer when I was in the Marine Corps,” Jamie confessed. “I was a cussing, drinking, chewing, womanizing, door-kicking, trigger-pulling … you know. That’s the way we did it in the Marine Corps.”
Yet Jamie’s most memorable assignment included securing a Christian neighborhood inside Baghdad. Many of the Christians there spoke English and enjoyed interacting with Jamie and his platoon. Often, they wanted to borrow the soldiers’ satellite phones to contact family outside of Iraq in order to let them know they were still alive.
“You’d be out on patrol, and they’d come out from behind a corner, waving a white flag,” Jamie remembered. “You might kick a couple of doors and patrol a couple of houses, and some woman would come out with a jug of Kool-aid and say, ‘Hey, we are so glad you’re here. Thank you! We’ve been waiting 20-something years for this day.’ “
Even after returning home, Jamie maintained his affection for the Iraqi Christians who welcomed him with joy and appreciation.
Returning to the Danger Zone
After his service in the Marine Corps, Jamie pursued a career in law enforcement. He began studying the Bible, and Jamie met Jesus and decided to follow Him with the same tenacity with which he’d served his country.
For the next several years, Jamie bounced from police officer to tactical paramedic to firefighter, all of which prepared him for his next assignment.
One morning, while scouring the daily headlines at the fire station, Jamie read about the massacre of Christians en masse all over Iraq and Syria. Memories of his brothers and sisters in Baghdad flooded his mind and crushed his heart.
“I was so grieved in my spirit, I actually cried out,” Jamie said. “I was literally crying, lamenting to the Lord to please raise up somebody to war and fight against this great wickedness on behalf of my brothers and sisters. As I was in this prayer before the Lord, He said, ‘Well.’ That was the worst one-word response I’ve ever gotten.”
Soldiers who survive deployment in Iraq rarely want to return. But Jamie realized every bit of training and every job he’d ever had readied him for this mission.
Two weeks later, Jamie and another Marine showed up at the last open airport in Iraq and asked God to meet them there.
And He did.
Onward Christian Soldier
Linking up with a Chrisitan faction in northern Iraq, Jamie and his friend provided protection for Christian villages, helped them identify their vulnerabilities, and taught people basic first aid in order to keep non-life-threatening wounds from becoming more serious in remote places far from help.
Jamie worked with small, minority sects of Muslims as well.
“The minority sects don’t do what ISIS does,” Jamie explained. “They were friendly to us. I bought AK-47s from the trunk of a car from them. That allowed us to do what we needed to do.”
Knowing he couldn’t stay in Iraq forever, Jamie worked as long as he could then returned home to his family. But he is forever changed by his behind-the-curtain view of Christian persecution.
Now, Jamie spends his time writing and teaching about two topics that seem completely incompatible at first glance: the warrior mentality and love.
“A warrior is a person that is so indwelt by a spirit of selfless sacrifice, devotion and duty in an authentic love, that they fight,” Jamie said. “That they lay down their life. That they bleed. That they train. That’s a warrior code and a warrior axiom. A warrior and love are forever unified in why they do what they do.”
Authentic, Jesus-like love leads the Christian soldier to lay down his life for his friends. That kind of love is the banner under which Jamie chooses to march.
And he invites others to follow along.
Photo courtesy of Pexels.