Locals consider themselves to be the center of Christianity in the country of Iraq. Most identify as either Chaldeans or Assyrians, speaking a form of Aramaic. Before the rise of ISIS, some 60,000 Christians called this city home…today that number is just 30,000. Virtually every street contains a building that has partially or completely collapsed. The largest church was devastated when ISIS arrived. Every cross was destroyed or chipped off the walls, the bell tower was literally toppled with rocket fire, and the inside was set ablaze. In the midst of this ruin, the congregation still meets today. The entire city is rebuilding and refuses to give themselves over to hopelessness. They find refuge in the ashes and rubble…they find refuge in one another…they find refuge in God’s massive mercy and grace. His hand protected them in ways that still brings tears to their eyes when they recount the terror of the last several years. With summer temperatures in the 110ºs, the city is a ghost town throughout the day, so hardly a child could be found as the playground was being built. On our second day of assembly, one of the women that lives across the street informed us that more than 100 kids had been there the night before at sunset “test driving” the playground (sans cement footings). We figured we’d better hurry and get done…and start living a night watchman. When the time came and the cement was dry enough to add the swing seats, we took a quick drive by the park around sunset and before rounding the corner the laughter was audible. As we turned, we saw children and families everywhere. Kids were everywhere and not a slide, climber or monkey bar was unused. Our presence drew little attention until the swing seats came out…and then you’d have thought we were rock stars. Needless to say, once they were hung, we lost our fame and the spotlight was back where it belonged.