Through death threats and bombings to countless meals in Muslim homes across Iraq, Jeremy Courtney leads the Preemptive Love Coalition in an effort to eradicate the backlog of 30,000+ Iraqi children waiting in line for lifesaving heart surgery after decades of sanctions, malnutrition and war-wrought environmental disasters. Since its founding in 2007, the Coalition has accomplished what no other aide group has by living in Iraq, training local heart surgeons and nurses so that they have the skills necessary to eradicate the backlog of children born with lifethreatening heart defects. In addition to the Coalition’s success in the development of medical infrastructure across Iraq, the preemptive love creed has ignited countless human-scale stories of reconciliation between Iraqis and Americans, Muslims and Christians, Kurds and Arabs, Sunnis and Shias. Known across Iraq as a devout follower of Jesus Christ, Courtney and the Coalition work through postures of preemptive love toward a future in which “peace” is more than non-violence, but is instead forgiveness, reconciliation and a complete remaking of the world through healing.
Jeremy and his wife,Jessica, first visited Iraq in 2006 with hopes of loving and serving the poor. Almost three years before, they had moved to Turkey to begin a business in the eastern part of that country to contribute to the development of an area that had been left behind the growing global prosperity. But drawn to areas where needs are acute and opportunities are abundant, the Courtneys felt a compelling calling to move even farther east (and south) to Iraq.
The Courtneys had dozens of ideas for how they might spread an awareness of local culture and nurture opportunities for indigenously sustainable development, but they would have never imagined they would soon be selling shoes to save kids’ lives. Through Jeremy’s initial contract work with an NGO in Northern Iraq, they began to see firsthand the heartbreaking results of poverty and stymied economic and technological development. The Courtneys also connected with a co-worker, Cody Fisher, who would quickly become a collaborator in this enterprise of culture and compassion.
Dissatisfied with mere sympathy, Jeremy started looking for solutions. He found one in his growing fascination with Kurdish klash: hand-stitched, locally-made shoes traditionally worn by the Kurds. Cody had been working with a group of non-Muslim doctors who donated their surgical skills to Muslims as a way of working towards harmony and reconciliation. The initial business – Buy Shoes. Save Lives. (BSSL) – simply connected these two discoveries, opening up an international market to buy fashionable shoes in a way that saves lives by funding travel and exam costs for pediatric heart surgeries. After months of surprising success, Fisher and the Courtneys decided that a non-profit model was the only way to successfully mobilize the level of funding needed for these Iraqi children.
Soon the Preemptive Love Coalition’s vision for “local-solutions to local problems” began to shift away from focusing on economic development and toward medical systems development inside Iraq instead. After the success of the first-of-its-kind Remedy Mission I in August 2010 the organization has experienced tremendous success and receptivity across Iraq, with contracts to run sixteen surgical/training missions per year beginning in 2012 and invitations from other hospitals for an additional twelve.
Anyone who spends even a brief amount of time with Jeremy & Jessica knows that their lives are driven by a love for God. They strive in each moment to submit to Jesus’ example and to fulfill Jesus’ mission of healing and reconciliation in the world. The Courtneys see their work through PLC as a way of living out their own identity as followers of Jesus, seeking to love the most down and out of the world’s people as an expression of their love for God.
Jeremy and Jessica have a daughter, Emma (b. 2005), and a son, Micah (b. 2007). In his spare time after saving lives, Jeremy is a musician and songwriter. He is also passionate about discovering ways that people can build meaningful bridges of understanding and reconciliation across cultures through music and storytelling. In addition to her role as PLC’s Family Services Director, Jessica is a full-time mother and an avid quilter, seamstress, scrapbooker and gardener.