Two men from two different countries are making a measurable difference.
Sometimes you meet people and listen to stories that change the way you think. This is one of those times.
Last weekend, I had an opportunity to attend a gathering at the home of Dr. Rick and Barb Wilkerson, where I met Dr. Mohammed Rhadi.
Dr. Rhadi is from Iraq and will return home to his pregnant wife, three daughters and community early next week. He has spent the last month at the home of the Wilkersons as their guest as he furthered his personal education in the field of orthopedic surgery.
He has been working side-by-side with the surgical specialists at Northwest Iowa Bone and Joint, located within the Spencer Hospital campus, learning about specific procedures I can't even pronounce, so he can return home and share his new knowledge with his colleagues serving the population of Iraq.
It was Dr. Rhadi's first visit to America, and in addition to what he learned in the medical field, he's also gotten a firsthand look at middle America. And he liked what he saw.
He loves the safety. He loves the freedom. He loves the giving. He loves the family. And what surprise people the most, he loves the worship.
As I sat down with Dr. Rhadi on Friday morning, he shared the similarities between the Muslim faith and the Christian faith. Mercy. Love for your fellow man. Treating others with respect. The fundamental principles in both religions were the same. He was able to attend church with the Wilkersons while in Spencer, and shared with those he met. He attended a high school football game, and before he flies home on Tuesday, he will get the full NFL experience with a stop at the Metrodome Sunday for the Vikings game.
Like many of us, his vision of America was shaped by the news, movies and TV. Sex, drugs and violence are prominent in all three resources, but what he found was quite different and he liked what he saw.
Rhadi's visit is part of an ongoing effort by Wilkerson to bring Iraqi doctors to the region each year, a practice he began five years ago to expand educational opportunities to the medical professionals in that country.
But Wilkerson is not limiting his time to training in Spencer. He also travels to Iraq, where he walks the streets, visits with the people, and provides special medical care to patients who are in need of his caring gifts.
Rhadi shared that Dr. Wilkerson's visits to Iraq are much anticipated and the people there see America in his face while he's there serving.
If we allowed the media to shape our vision that Iraqis hate Americans, we would be dramatically mistaken, according to both men. They love America for liberating them from a reign of terror that lasted nearly four decades under the rule of Saddam Hussein. There are a limited amount of loyalists continuing to cause trouble, but the majority of Iraqis are very grateful to America for removing the regime from power. They are equally grateful for Dr. Wilkerson and his fellow medical volunteers' efforts to assist the country as it continues to take steps forward in medicine.
Aside from all the aforementioned benefits, the cultural exchange and international goodwill are every bit as important. Rhadi will return home and share what America really is. Wilkerson will offer the same firsthand observations as Iraq.
Personally, I'm very appreciative of the Wilkerson family's willingness to open their doors to our guest from the Middle East. Now I have a new friend in Iraq -- one I hope to remain in contact with for a very long time.