Last month, the Christian group Free Burma Rangers conducted a successful rescue mission in West Mosul, Iraq. As the collective of American and Iraqi soldiers sprinted 150 yards to save civilians while under ISIS fire, FBR cameraman, “Monkey,” captured every moment.
In an email Monday, FBR shared a letter from Monkey, in which he provides an incredibly honest account of the June 2 rescue.
“I want to write and share what happened with God and me during our last mission in Iraq,” Monkey, who also serves as one of FBR’s deputy directors and chief chaplain, writes.
With every mission, after I get the call from FBR headquarters, especially for an international mission, I pray to God to make sure it is His time for me or not. It’s a very simple prayer: “God, is it your call or not? If so, I will go. If not, please give me some action to stop me.” I have had confidence every time I went – except during this last time in Iraq.
FBR Director David Eubank made national headlines for his heroic efforts in the June 2 mission. In a series of social media posts following the event, the former special forces soldier and American missionary describes how he and his team managed to save two people from the carnage. One little girl in particular left a strong impression on Eubank.
“I prayed and felt now or never and that if I died my family would understand that it was to save a little girl,” he recalled.
But in his letter, Monkey admits that he struggled to be as decisive:
I remember the time when we rescued the little girl: we saw many, many dead bodies in the main road and by the road. We also saw that some were still alive among the dead bodies. Some wounded men waved their hand for help and some children were walking, and some were playing among the dead bodies. It made me very sad, but it also made me afraid to help them. I tried to drive away the fear, thinking, ‘what if it is my kids or family.’ I thought of John 15:13 from the Bible, which says, “No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.” But I said in my heart, “Lord, I am not ready for this word.”
At that time, he recalled the FBR motto: Do not be led by fear or comfort. But his own fear felt crippling.
When our leader, Dave, asked me, “Who will go with me?” I said, “Zau Seng,” (another FBR cameraman) instead of myself. I knew many people all around the world were praying for us but still I was weak to make the decision of to go on the rescue.
While he and the other rangers waited to hear if U.S. troops would be able to drop aerial smoke bombs to shield them from ISIS militants, Monkey remembers feeling doubtful and hopeless.
When we talked about possible ways to do this rescue, we needed two things: One is the Americans to drop a smoke bomb; the other is a tank to in front of us for our cover and to shell ISIS as well. I thought, if we got smoke and a tank, I might dare take part in the rescue. But I did not want to pray for the smoke and tank because I was not 100% sure I would go even then, and I had ignored answers from God many other times in my life. I could not imagine how we could get the smoke from the US Army, and the local authorities had already refused our request for a tank. But Dave did not give up. He prayed and talked to friends, and our team talked and prayed together.
Then, something amazing happened:
“While we were talking about how we could do the rescue, standing in a building by the main road, a smoke bomb from the air was dropped,” Monkey writes. “We stopped talking and ran down to the corner of the road. A big tank came and turned toward the main road. Dave started running and shouting, ‘Whoever wants to go, let’s go!’ and led in front.”
“I did not have time to think and make a decision,” he recalls. “Only one thing I shouted in my heart, was, ‘This is God! He is in it.’”
Monkey followed the group, still amazed that they were able to get the supplies needed for their mission.
The rest of his letter reads like a confession:
That night, I reviewed what had happened and what I had done:
1) We did the rescue.
2) I refused God’s word: John 15:13.
3) I refused the Ranger motto.
4) I refused my leader’s call.
5) We got what we wanted and needed, even though I personally did not even want to pray for it.
“Just think. I was a part of it because of God’s mercy and faithfulness,” Monkey writes. “I realized the honor is His, not mine. I do not deserve it because I refused every thing to do the rescue. Only because of His mercy and faithfulness to all His creation, did I dare go. This is why I want to write and share with you, and give all the glory to Him.”
He ends his letter by thanking all who have prayed for the FBR team as they work to save individuals who have been persecuted by radical Islamists in the Middle East. He also gives special thanks to Eubank, FBR’s fearless leader.
“I want to thank God for His mercy and faithfulness to all of us. I want to thank people all around the world for being in prayer for us. I want to thank our team for working together as a family. I want to thank our leader for leading us boldly and in love.”