In this memoir, Chaplain Emilio Marrero recounts his experiences with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at the onset of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Following the invasion his unit set up operations at Sadaam’s former palace at Babylon. Marrero soon found himself leading efforts to keep the Babylon Museum and the ruins of the ancient city from getting completely looted in the post-invasion chaos. Eventually he was dubbed the unofficial “Mayor of Babylon” by the locals because of his influence, compassionate advocacy for the locals, and wise negotiating between the mission of the U.S. Military, the needs and desires of the local Iraqis, the demands of politicians, and the needs of a frail but immensely important archaeological site.
As a fairly new Chaplain myself, this account was both encouraging and instructive. Marrero’s ministry in Iraq is a great example of immense potential for influence – politically and spiritually – that a creative, motivated, and Christ-led chaplain has. At many times I found myself stoping and jotting down ideas for my own ministry that were inspired by Marrero’s initiatives. Other times I felt my heart convicted by the determination and passion with which he pursued people and initiated ministries from the ground up. Too often have I let the discouragements and obstacles of military ministry drown out the many unique and powerful opportunities for Gospel influence. It was also a great encouragement to look at the Chaplain Corps through the eyes of a Chaplain who genuinely loves Jesus and people and kept the Main thing the Main thing.
I only had a few criticisms of the book: (1) ironically it seemed at times that Marrero’s quasi-Arminian theology was at odds with the major theme of the book – God’s quiet, behind-the-scenes sovereignty and (2) the book could have used another round of proof-reading as there were a small amount of minor typos scattered about.
Throughout the book Marrero uses the phrase “quiet reality” to describe the intangible experiences and forces behind the types of things that make the headlines of newspapers, military reports, and facebook statuses (statusi?). The Ultimate “Quiet Reality” of Emilio Marrero’s story is that God is and will continue to be working through the events of the Iraqi Freedom both in the lives of the invaders/liberators and conquered/liberated.
This is an excellent book for anyone who is interested in Military Ministry, Biblical Archaeology, or just likes a good story about the Grace and power of God shown in and through a willing servant.