Tim Buxton's family have moved to northern Iraq to work with refugees.
Tim Buxton's family have moved to northern Iraq to work with refugees.

Would you move your young family to Iraq?

NORTHERN Iraq is the last place in the world any ordinary people would think to take their young family.

And it's the last place you would want to land on the very day that Islamic State launched its brutal invasion.

But Tim Buxton and his wife Sarah are no ordinary people.

The couple, who now have three children under five, are motivated by an intense sense of purpose to help people from another faith, from another country, in an inhospitable terrain.

And despite the incredible odds, in just over 18 months they have helped house, feed and educate hundreds of families fleeing from terrorism of the blackest kind.

The former Brisbane youth pastor first visited Iraq in 2010.

It was not long after that he felt God was calling him to go there.

With his wife pregnant, it was the last news she would want to hear. So he waited months before telling her.

It took them three years in prayer and preparation to make it happen.

Like any parents, they had plenty of questions.

"Who takes a young family to a place like that unless you know, you know that is God,'' Tim told a Sunshine Coast church on Sunday night.

"We landed the day Islamic State invaded northern Iraq,'' he said.

The attack was about 30 miles from where the airport when they came in.

"Overnight, 1.5 million people became homeless."

The Buxton family themselves knew it wasn't safe. So they fled to Turkey - driving 12 hours - to stay there for a few weeks before things settled down.

News of terrible massacres, of journalists being beheaded, were hard to hear.

In the end, they 'unplugged everything' and "knew that God had brought us a place such as this ".

In September, 2014  they flew back in.

With virtually nothing themselves, they used a plot of land and a community centre to start addressing the immediate needs.

 

First it was a group of 20 Shabak families.

Within days, they had the foundations for their first refugee camp, using old Red Cross camps

The needs around them continued though.

Sixteen families were living in freezing conditions in three abandoned homes.

But it was his personal encounters with the refugees that cut deep.

Tim tells of meeting a man whose two daughters were kidnapped by Isis.

He imagined, as a young father himself, of all he would be desperate to do to save them.

Grabbing at his chest, the man told of his pain - and the phone call from Isis demanding $12,000 for the release of his girls.

"I can't tell you know how much it has affected me just hearing their stories,'' Tim said.

 

Since then, the Buxtons, working in with organisations like World Orphans, have helped to develop five micro camps to accommodate more than 600 refugees.

They have also set up classes for the children with five full-time teachers.

A local official, a devout Muslim, has been one of their greatest allies.

For the Buxtons it is not about Christianity v Islam but about showing Muslim people the love of Christ, in a practical way.

But they the first to admit, there have not been without their trials.

In October, a storm swept through their camps, destroying the tents.

They knew they needed to provide better accommodation so they launched a tent to homes campaign which attracted funding from church around the world.

A month after the storms, homes had been rebuilt - largely by the refugees themselves as part of a philosophy of giving them a hand up, not a handout.

But the needs remain.

According to the UN, there are more than 2 million refugees, only 8% of whom are in camps.

The average refugee can expect to spend 17 years in camps.

After spending a month with their own family in Queensland, the Buxtons are about to make the difficult trip back to northern Iraq to build another four micro camps.

As Tim takes churchgoers on a slideshow through the faces of smiling refugees, he says: "You have no idea what that photo represents with women with smiles on their face.''

They have seen such oppression, such sadness, such grief and despair.

Those who dare question the Muslim faith, or the brutality of Isis, face persecution, even from within their own families.

Tim admits that in the natural, he would be the last person to go to Iraq.

"I'm a very scared person

It is crazy that He has chosen us to live where we live.''

But he says he is far from a hero.

"I'm not doing anything. I'm just there.''

Tim Buxton will share at Goodlife church at 100 Buderim Pines Drive,  Buderim on Tuesday night, January 19  at 7pm.

More information: www.therefugeinitiative.org

More on the Buxtons: www.flickerflame.org
 



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