Operation Knight Flight: The Beginning of a Successful Program, Rewarding Relationships, and Divine Providence
Chev. David G. Peters, KCTJ
Secretary, Priory of the Light

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

By now you have all heard about Operation Knight Flight. To date, much information has already been shared about the mission, procedures and logistics of the program. In this short report, I provide an inside look at the day-to-day implementation of the Operation Knight Flight program from a personal perspective.

My experience with Operation Knight Flight started in May 2017 when, as a member of the Priory of the Light, I went to the Priory of the Christian Shield’s first Convent & Investiture. It was at this time and place that LTC Chev. Dwane Boucher, GOTJ, shared his vision of Operation Knight Flight. His intent was to utilize the Denton Amendment Program to aid Christians in need worldwide with the goal of implementing his vision through priories nationwide. To me, it seemed like a natural fit for our Order and right in line with our overall mission. I returned to Phoenix with plans to start an Operation Knight Flight program in our Priory.

Being the “bright-eyed, bushy-tailed” neophyte that I was, I thought that it would be very easy to find churches and charitable organizations that would be interested in participating in the Operation Knight Flight program. Fortuitously, things would not go the way that I had envisioned: the Lord had other plans. I initially contacted the church that my wife and I attend; a non-denominational “mega-church” that partners with other very large churches for their international missions. To me, it was a “no brainer” that they would want to utilize the program. However, the wheels of bureaucracy turn very slowly in some of our institutions, and their missionary efforts (including their logistical support) is planned out at least a year in advance.

Not one to be deterred, I approached my parent’s Lutheran church. My parents are (my mom passed away late last year) very active members of the church and I have known the pastoral staff there for over 18 years. Again, I thought that this would be a “slam dunk” because the Lutheran Church does have an international presence in the Levant. However, I was informed at our initial meeting that our local church was not involved in any relief efforts in the Middle East. I was getting a little discouraged… (A quick “update:” that Lutheran church has since commenced shipping aid to overseas Christians. Hurrah!)

It was still early summer of 2017, and I had already “swung twice” and missed. I wasn’t sure what my next step was going to be, or if there would even be a “next step”. But this is when the Lord began His work. About a mile from my house there is a beautiful church with a very ornate golden dome. I happened to be passing by and had never noticed that it was a Byzantine Catholic Church (aka Chaldean Church). I remembered that Chev. Dwane had started his work with the Chaldeans and they were already working together. I immediately thought, “This is great (and how convenient!)” I thought I will just contact them and start working with them as well. Again, I figured that it would be easy to work with this church. I called the number on the church door and explained the purpose of my call. I was told to call their main office here in the Phoenix area in Scottsdale. I called the church in Scottsdale and was informed that I would have to contact the diocese in San Diego… (this is the part where one has that “dog looking sideways” reaction). I had no idea what was about to happen…

I called the church in San Diego. I was expecting to be told that the Chaldean Church is already working with the Templars in San Diego. To my surprise, the gracious gentleman I talked to informed me that all missionary and relief work overseas is coordinated through and with their respective church headquarters in Detroit, Michigan. He provided me with the contact information for Rafed Youdul. Mr. Youdul was, and is, the “point man” for the church’s overseas relief aid shipments. Specifically, the Chaldean Church was (and continues) providing aid shipments to their fellow Christian brothers and sisters that remain in Iraq and its surrounding environs.

A brief comment about the Chaldean Christians: many of them in Iraq and surrounding areas have lost everything because of the war with ISIS. And many hundreds of thousands are homeless, destitute and living in camps; stranded on the Nineveh Plain. The Chaldean Church in the Detroit area has a membership of over 100,000 and is comprised of ex-pat Iraqi Christians, most of whom are now US citizens. I came to find out that the Chaldean Christian community is an extremely tight knit community which cares greatly for its members. Almost all in the Chaldean Christian community have immediate and/or extended family members caught up in the violence in Iraq. The Chaldeans are completely dedicated to assisting their brothers and sisters remaining in Iraq.

When I contacted Rafed (I now call him “Ray”), he was surprised and completely taken aback by my call. He informed me that they were having extreme difficulty getting their aid shipments to their brothers and sisters in Iraq. Collecting and storing the necessary donations was not a problem. That was the easy part. However, the shipping costs were prohibitive and the goods were being sent via container ships to Turkey and then being trucked to Irbil. Unfortunately, elements in the countries of transit would alternately pilfer the shipments and/or hold the shipments for ransom. Needless to say, he was shocked that he would receive a call out of the “blue” from a complete stranger, with a solution to their problem … and at just the right time: the Church had temporarily suspended sending aid and they were pondering what they could do next. I had called at just this most critical time for the Chaldean Christians. I must interject here that this is truly the work of Jesus Christ. There was no way in a million years that I could have foreseen this… Divine Providence at work!

Now, two years later, the Chaldeans in Iraq have received two shipments through Operation Knight Flight and there are at least two more pending in the immediate future. I personally have a whole new community of Christian brothers and sisters and am in awe and humbled by their hard work and perseverance, especially under the most trying circumstances. I have also learned a lot about a Christian community that not many Americans are familiar with.

In closing, I would like to provide you with a brief synopsis of some “real life” procedures necessary to implement Operation Knight Flight in your local priory. First, the Denton Amendment Program website is extremely easy to navigate. It consists of a menu with a “tab” system of dropdown categories which one can complete in order. There are comprehensive explanations for each category. Second, there are two categories which will provide the greatest challenge for the newcomer: the Packing List and the Customs Document. The Packing List requires that the shipment be palletized to certain specifications; dimension measurements and weight must be provided. The Customs Document is the most difficult to obtain because it requires “in country” signatures and approval. For me personally, that is the one thing that delayed shipment more than anything else: ultimately one is at the mercy of local bureaucracies. Since the Denton Amendment Program utilizes military aircraft to transport shipments, security of all shipments is assured. Support personnel in South Carolina who administer and coordinate the program are extremely helpful and knowledgeable.

Finally, a personal observation: it has truly been a blessing for me and rewarding to be involved with Operation Knight Flight. I am looking forward to helping implement the program wherever there is a need. Please feel free to contact David Peters with any questions!

God’s Blessings to you all!

 

December 2019
Regular publication of SMOTJ GPUSA

In This Issue

  Words from the Grand Prior

  Required Minimum Distribution

  SMOTJ Scholarship Drive

  SMOTJ Jerusalem Mite

  ICRD Templar Update

  Operation Knight Flight Update

  Bridge Building Partnership

  Order of Merit

  Priory News

  Priory News (cont'd)

  Priory News (cont'd)

  Priory News (cont'd)

  GPUSA Calendar

Images were taken in the Church of St. Joseph in Irbil. Recipients are from the local camps and were brought to the church to receive a distribution of goods.







Non Nobis, Domine, Non Nobis, Sed Nomini Tuo Da Gloriam ®

   
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