In December 2014, singer/songwriter Kellie Haddock completed a mission of gratitude. In November 2015, she set out on another mission — to bring music to aid workers in Iraq.
In 2004, Haddock, her husband and 14-week-old son were in a terrible car accident that left her a widow and severely injured her child. Doctors at Arnold Palmer Hospital in Orlando, Florida, warned Haddock that the boy would be severely disabled.
But through the actions of first responders and medical personnel, Eli survived and has grown into a healthy child. Now remarried — her new husband adopted Eli — Haddock partnered with Orlando-based production company Strongfilms to produce “The Thank You Project.”
The final product recounts her trip to meet and then gather together all the people that helped her and Eli, and bring them together to meet each other and the boy.
Speaking to The Huffington Post, Haddock said:
“There is so much wrong in the world and it’s so easy to point out what people are doing wrong. We rarely take the time to notice when people are doing things right,” she wrote. “I want to be a person that points out when someone does something right. How much better would the world be if we all spent more time focusing on what’s right instead of what’s wrong?”
Have a look:
One thing that sustained Haddock through her ordeal was her Christian faith. In late 2007, she closed down a blog of her experiences with a post near the third anniversary of the accident.
Each time I reach out even if it is out of despair, He is right there turning His eyes upon me to heal me with His gaze and to comfort me with His words. He has continued to show me that He is honored by my continuing to come and reaching out with whatever little faith I have left that remains. And in the reaching out He always gives me enough to continue on. The miracle and the sustenance is not found in my weak offering but rather in His huge compassionate outpouring and response.
Christ has continued to pour out His power over me and to carry me throughout this journey just as much if not more so now as in the days when these wounds were fresh and oozing. I sit here today typing this and realizing that I have grown so much in the last 3 years. I am far from being the same woman I was 3 years ago. But I am also far from being the woman that I thought I would be and was becoming.
I see the severe mercy of God in how He has been more concerned with my character than my comfort.
Whatever God intended, Haddock’s character has remained strong. As recorded on her Facebook page, in November, Haddock headed to Iraq to play a concert for Americans living and working there to help refugees from ISIS violence, including persecuted Christians and Yazidis.
During her time there, Haddock stayed with friend Jeremy Courtney, who penned a Nov. 17 article about his experience, called “The world is scary as hell. Love anyway.”
I have a confession: I’m afraid.
I live in Iraq with my family working at the headwaters of the Syrian and Iraqi refugee crisis, moving among Sunni jihadist sniper fire, suicide bombers, sleeper cells and Iranian-backed militia. I’ve received death threats, had mobs incited against me, and had friends kidnapped and killed by Sunnis and Shia, Arabs and Kurds. And I’m afraid.
Even on the ground here in Iraq, I hear the zero-sum conversation in the U.S. right now: “Be wise, close the borders, protect our own” on the one hand, or “be loving, welcome refugees, stop being afraid” on the other. If you’re not afraid, you’re either braver than me or significantly less informed.
“Hell on Earth” is often how people displaced by the Islamic State, militia and dictatorial regimes describe their existence. Hell on Earth is what the carnage looked like after terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut, Baghdad, Ankara and on 9/11 as well.
It is not right or reasonable to tell anyone, “Do not be afraid.” Terrorism is terrifying. But we should aim to not be ruled by fear. In the face of ISIS, Iran and countless other nemesis neighbors, we commit to love anyway.
On Dec. 9, Haddock wrote on her Facebook page:
I had the honor of doing a concert in Iraq for Expats serving there from all over the world. It was one of the most meaningful concerts I’ve ever been able to do. These heroes serve others faithfully and courageously, choosing to love on the front lines every day. It was a great honor to get to serve them through sharing my music. Pursuing peace and bringing hope in unique and beautiful ways, each of their lights shine very bright.
On Instagram, she posted this:
We shared dinner in Iraq one evening with a Sheik and several leaders that had to flee their homes when ISIS came to their cities, making it no longer safe. These men are risking their lives to pursue peace while clinging to hope that peace is possible in a land that has been war-torn for over 20 years now. They are not giving up. This Sheik appeared to me to be a leader akin to Dr. Martin Luther King. His words were charismatic, deeply stirring and inspiring. He shared a dream he had several years ago where he saw Jesus with a sword in His heart. He saw himself, in his dream, walk up to Jesus and pull the sword out of His heart. The Sheik believed the dream to be a sign that he would help bring peace between Christians and Muslims. He believes this is attainable, a belief and longing I share with him. But he knows this hope is only possible if we each do our part: choosing the way of love, seeing the human-ness, value and beauty in the ‘other’. “We each have a choice and the answer starts with you, it starts we me, it starts with us,” he said. He also noted that parents have a particularly important role as well. We are bringing up the next generation, they will be the new leaders and we should do all we can to raise them to be people of peace, to show them a better way. We must lay down our arms and open our eyes and hearts. The Sheik concluded our dinner conversation with these poignant words, “We have to believe and pray to God to help us. We have to have big hopes.” Wherever you sit as you read this post, you have a choice right now to choose to love your neighbor, sister, brother, friend, stranger. “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
We all have choices every day, and some of the hardest come when our world collapses. In the face of tragedy — hers and that of other people — Kellie Haddock chose gratitude … and love.