“There are some things laser-guided missiles cannot solve.”

This is the first sentence of the first page of the Preemptive Love Coalition’s “Learn More” section. From there, you are plunged headlong into a heartbreaking, yet heartwarming reality: children in Iraq are dying. Heart disease is stealing their futures. Back in 2007, Jeremy Courtney and his wife Jessica, along with Cody Fisher, moved to Iraq and began a movement determined to rescue the children of Iraq who suffer with these life-threatening heart disorders by providing them with the surgeries they need to survive. Now, three years later, they are working harder than ever. Jeremy, Courtney, Cody and the whole network of support that has grown around them are making a difference. We had a chance to speak with Cody, the U.S. Director of PLC, about their movement.

Love In Stereo: Where did the name Preemptive Love Coalition come from?

Cody: The phrase, “Preemptive Love” was a play on another phrase we’re all too familiar with, “Preemptive Strike.” Preemptive strike says we don’t wait until our “enemies” earn retaliation…by then it’s too late. Preemptive LOVE says we don’t sit back and wait for people to earn our loving action on their behalf; love doesn’t need to be a response. Love should initiate. To us, that looks a lot like God. Jeremy Courtney first thought of it and it didn’t take long for all of us to get behind it.

LIS: How much opposition have you faced in the past, or do you face now? I mean – you’re based in Iraq. Have any biases, American or otherwise, ever threatened to shut down operations?

CF: There’s definitely been opposition but it’s a small price to pay compared to the lives that are being changed as a result of these heart surgeries. There are stereotypes and biases all over the world but it’s amazing what starts to happen when you sit down with those people and share a meal. Walls start crashing down and stereotypes are pushed aside as we start realizing that we all have much more in common than we realize. There is no “us” and “them”, just “us.”

LIS:Buy Shoes. Save Lives.” This was one of your earliest campaigns, right? You sell these really amazing shoes that are actually hand-made by Kurdish shoemakers there in Iraq. How successful has this campaign been? How many pairs of Klash have you sold?

CF: Yes, Buy Shoes. Save Lives. was where it all started. To this day, it’s still one of PLC’s most successful programs. These shoes are hand made by the Kurds in Northern Iraq and now they’re being worn by hundreds of people all over the world. It’s our way of celebrating their culture and telling their story as well as giving them a tangible way to be a part of the long term local solution to funding heart surgeries for their children. Whenever you buy a pair of Klash, you celebrate their culture and you give them a chance to use their gifts to bless the children of Iraq.

LIS: Your cause has saved many children’s’ lives. In the Core Values on your website, you stress that this isn’t just about doing surgery and being done with it. You commit to these kids and their families. Is there any one story or moment that really sticks with you?

CF: Jessica Courtney tells this story:

“Leah has Downs Syndrome. She is developmentally behind so her parents cater to her and keep her from doing things that might tire her. This is delaying development even more so we are going to her house weekly and teaching them how to help her development. Last week she couldn’t hold a toy in her hands or lift up her head off the ground. Today, after the parents have done what we said for the past week, she is holding toys and lifting her head!”

The surgery isn’t the end of the road for these relationships. It’s the very beginning. We follow up with each family and community – we want them to know that we’re in it for the long haul. For a lot of these children, like Leah, heart disease is just one of the things that needs to be dealt with. We don’t just care about their physical hearts, we care about THEM. This involves weekly visits, countless meals shared, tears, laughter, and a lifetime spent learning to love and be loved by one another.

LIS: Besides donations, spreading awareness is the best way to help any organization, wouldn’t you say? Tell me how else the Love in Stereo community can help you out.

CF: You’re doing it! You’re telling the story of these children and getting the word out. We want people to begin to see how they can use their talents and abilities to impact these children. Whether it’s a lemonade stand or skateboarding, there are people all over the world that are getting creative and joining the Coalition through their advocacy and fund raising. That’s why we’re so incredibly grateful for Love in Stereo and your advocacy…the only reason we’re coming up on our 60th life saving surgery is because of people like you!

LIS: Do you foresee a time when Preemptive Love won’t be needed anymore? When do you think your mission will be completed?

CF: We pray for this every day! Our mission is accomplished when every child with heart disease in Iraq is given a chance at life and God-willing, this will be brought about through the training and raising up of local Iraqi doctors and local Iraqi hospitals. We would absolutely love to work ourselves out of this job and we get closer to that reality every day. When will this happen? We’re not sure but we’re one day closer than yesterday.

LIS: Is there any type of entertainment particular to Iraq that you have come to enjoy?

CF: Besides pirated movies, one thing we’ve come to love has been their music and of course, the dancing! These people know how to party!

LIS: Favorite band at the moment?

CF: Cold War Kids

LIS: Thanks a lot for cooperating with us. I hope we can help spread your work! Love in Stereo loves Preemptive Love!

CF: Thanks again for all you’re doing. We’re seriously grateful for you guys.

Experience Preemptive Love:
www.preemptivelove.org
Twitter: @preemptivelove

One last thing: We posted yesterday about Baby Mohammed’s story. Find out what happened: here.

Special thanks to our friend Casey Weatherington for this piece and for first telling us about this great organization. Casey is a college student from Shertz, Texas and he’s out to make a difference. Interested in writing for Love In Stereo? Drop us a message: hello[at]loveinstereo.com.

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