Author: Jeremy Courtney
Title: Preemptive Love
Publisher: Howard

It all began with a broken heart. Literally. The heart in question belonged to a little girl who would surely die without surgery. Her family was desperate . . . desperate enough to beg a virtual stranger for help. That stranger was Jeremy Courtney, a young man who knew nothing about surgery but a fair amount about loving his neighbor. As it happened, both Jeremy and this particular “neighbor” lived in Iraq.

Jeremy, his pregnant wife, and their little girl had moved to Iraq to make a difference working with an organization that worked with war widows. Until, that is, the day Jeremy met an adorable little girl with a hole in her heart who needed surgery in a country that didn’t offer surgery as an option. Not to children who weren’t well-connected, at least, and considering the state of affairs in Iraq, not really to anyone. At the time there was no such thing as a pediatric cardiologist in that war-torn country, but there were an awful lot of children with heart problems.

Preemptive Love is the story of what happened when Jeremy, his wife, and a few friends decided to do something to help those children and their families. It seemed fairly simple on paper: the Courtneys’ group would raise money to send sick kids to a nearby hospital for life-saving surgery. But what happens when the kids are Muslim and the closest available hospital is in Israel? What happens when a prominent Muslim leader issues a fatwah calling for the Courtneys’ death? Caught between cultural confusion, political upheaval, raging prejudice, and widespread corruption, just trying to live a Christ-honoring life could get a person killed.

This is a fascinating peek behind the news headlines into what life in Iraq is really like for sometimes-clueless Americans and their native-born friends. Courtney does a nice job of filling in details of Iraq’s history that many U.S. readers won’t know, although the lessons occasionally run a little long. But it’s the people you’ll meet in Preemptive Love that will stay in the reader’s head and heart. In telling the story of how the Preemptive Love Coalition (PLC) got off the ground Courtney tells many stories of people he and his family met along the way. There are joyful tales of babies saved and heartbreaking accounts of little ones who didn’t make it. Real-life heroes wearing surgical scrubs stride through the pages of this gripping account that takes the reader from the highest centers of power to the poorest slums.

Through it all, Courtney and his team struggle to fulfill their calling to pursue peace “one heart at a time.” There’s enough intrigue, betrayal, death, bombings, and more to fill a blockbuster novel, but this is not fiction. It’s a “warts and all” look at Christianity in action in the trenches, an honest, unflinching look at the cost of living out what you believe. Complacent Christians be warned: this is not just a book, it’s a wakeup call. How many of us are bold enough to “Love first. Ask questions later.”? That is the challenge of Preemptive Love.

*This Article First Published 7/22/2013