Do you ever get frustrated with world events and wish you could do something about it? Well, this homeschool family is doing just that! In January 2016, the Eubank family traveled to Iraq. The Eubanks have a guiding principle – if other families are forced to live in war-torn places, then someone should be there to support them.
“And so as Iraqi forces pushed into the last pockets of western Mosul still under Islamic State control,” The Washington Post reported on June 8, 2017, “an American mom was home-schooling her three children in a room above a medic station deep inside the city. Sahale, 16, and Suuzanne, 14, sat in a corner near their mother, Karen, working on their laptops and occasionally bursting into song. Peter, 11, lay on a camping mat on the floor doing math.”
David and Karen Eubank and their three children spent eight months on the front lines in the battle for Mosul, one of the most dangerous places in the world. They stayed there even as thousands of Iraqi civilians were fleeing ISIS’s reign of terror. Risking their lives to save others, they believe their work is a calling from God. Sahale told CBS News, “There’s kids on the front line with their parents who are getting shot at, so why shouldn’t we be out there helping them as well.”
For years, the family has been doing aid work in dangerous places together. They first went to Iraq three years ago and began working with Kurdish forces in their battle against ISIS. In addition to Mosul and Kurdistan, they’ve been in Burma, Sudan, and Syria. It’s scary to think about, especially considering what happened to American humanitarian aid worker Kayla Mueller in Aleppo. “Sometimes you get afraid,” said Mr. Eubank, “but we feel that’s where God wants us.”
David Eubank was born in Texas but grew up in Thailand, the son of Christian missionaries. A former U.S. Army Special Forces officer, he spent nearly a decade in the military before attending Fuller Theological Seminary. The Enterprise-Journal describes him as “a missionary in the sense that he’s an ordained minister eager to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, but he’s a man of action more than a preacher.”
In 1997, Eubank founded the Free Burma Rangers, a humanitarian service organization working to bring help, hope and love to people living in conflict zones. Besides providing food, clothing, and emergency medical care, FBR’s mission is to share the love of Jesus Christ and to help people be free from oppression. In conjunction with local pro-democracy groups, FBR trains, supplies, and coordinates highly mobile multipurpose relief teams. As reported in World Magazine, their training camp is “a combination of Ranger School, Special Forces training, and Bible school.” Although the leaders are Christian, team members come from various religions. What they have in common is a love for people that crosses religious and ethnic lines.
The Eubanks’ aid work has always been a family affair. David and his wife Karen, a teacher, spent their honeymoon in the jungles of Burma, hauling medical supplies and Bible teaching materials to persecuted Christians and families displaced by conflict. This is where the children grew up – along with their two pet monkeys! – so they consider Burma as their home. And it was just as dangerous there: Sahale almost died of typhus, Suuzanne of malaria, Pete of pneumonia, and Mr. Eubank of mortar and gunfire.
When questioned about the safety of his children, Mr. Eubank told NBC News, “We don’t want them to die. We take every precaution we can, but it’s pretty much the same ones the locals are taking. We don’t live any different than them.” In an interview with the LA Times, Mrs. Eubank said, “It’s not like we thought 25 years ago, ‘Let’s take our kids to a war zone with ISIS.’” But she told the Cody Enterprise that she felt “God say early on this is something significant you can give your kids.”
Asked about how she copes with the danger of raising her children in a place like Mosul, Mrs. Eubank told NBC News that the invaluable lessons her children learned from the experience far outweighed the danger. “I realized there were four main things my kids were learning on a much deeper level than I knew: generosity, hospitality, living simply, and compassion,” she said. “Crisis brings out the heart of people,” said Mr. Eubank. “When there’s struggle you gain things you might not in luxury.”
Lt. Col. Saad Al-Abadi, press officer for the Iraqi Army’s 9th Armored Division, said that Dave Eubank and his team accompanied the Iraqi forces as they tried to liberate eastern Mosul, and that Eubank was a “big help” to Iraqi forces. “No word can describe a person who puts himself and his family in a situation of facing death every day,” Al-Abadi told NBC News. “They came here expressing how they care for human beings. They took care of civilians, as well as soldiers. They are professional and real humans.”
The Eubank family also started the Good Life Club family outreach program, which focuses on the physical and spiritual needs of children in conflict zones. The Eubank kids distributed donated goods such as food, water, and clothes to families fleeing the ISIS controlled parts of Mosul. They would also lead the local children in activities like singing, putting on skits and playing games — trying to give them a semblance of normal life even with the din of mortars and gunfire in the background.
Asked by NBC News what the best and worst thing is about raising their kids in this unconventional way, Mrs. Eubank replied that the best thing was “giving them a global sense of family, compassion (laying down your life for others), understanding God and self better.” She said that the worst thing is that “by not doing the ‘normal thing’ I second guess myself often, fighting fear.”
The Eubank children are stunningly tough, mature, and smart. Mrs. Eubank admitted that homeschooling can be “challenging” in a place like Mosul. “We take our books and computers everywhere and given three to six hours we’ll make use of whatever space is available to accomplish lessons,” Karen told NBC News via an email.
For the Eubank kids, their unconventional life is an adventure. 16-year-old Sahale, who recently got her driver’s permit during a visit to Alaska, drives an armored Humvee ambulance. She told NBC News : “I would drive from the front line back to the CCP, or casualty collection point. It was really different for me — because I just got my permit… What a place to drive!”
Sahale told The Washington Post that her unconventional upbringing is “a blessing,” but the downsides include missing out on “normal high school life” and a lack of routine. “Here, anything can happen any day,” she said. “We get to drive, we get to travel all over the world with our parents, just learn more things about the world.” In a few years, Sahale hopes to attend a college in the Pacific Northwest to study music and dance. She likes to play music, sing, dance, make videos and tell stories. Visit her YouTube Channel to see some of her work, including an original song, “Butterfly Fly Away.”
Whether it’s going into war zones to help people in need, or going on vacation, the Eubanks seem to thrive on adrenalin. Back in the United States for the summer to visit family, they have a jam-packed schedule that includes rodeo camp for the kids in Washington state [they raced horses with the Shammar tribe in Syria last year], hiking Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs and the Tetons in Jackson, Wyoming, and surfing in California, as well as East Coast stops in Washington, D.C. and Boston. Along the way, they are speaking at churches about their experiences in Iraq, Syria, and Burma.
They family plans to go back to Iraq in the fall. As reported on CBN News, Republican Congressman Frank R. Wolf of Virginia held a press conference regarding the Eubanks’ time spent on the front lines in the battle against ISIS in Iraqi, Kurdistan, and Syria. Mr. Eubank urged the Trump administration to continue to help in the war torn regions. He said that the U.S. presence allows them to help Christians, Jews, Yazidis and other minority populations who remain in Iraq.
In July 2017, The Enterprise-Journal of McComb, Mississippi, published an eloquent article* written by Mrs. Eubank, in which she explains her reasoning on the importance of taking the gospel to kids into war zones. [*Note: In Karen’s article, the first sentence should say “in a community liberated from ISIS” instead of “by ISIS.”] In January 2017, Mr. Eubank wrote an article about his experience in Mosul for Breitbart.com. Here is the iconic photo of him dodging gunfire to save a little girl (it’s the same girl who Sahale is holding in one of the photos above):