Our world runs on fear. The loudest voices tell you to be afraid of anyone who’s different. But there’s another way. And it starts with each of us. Love Anyway is an immersive storytelling podcast pushing beyond the simple narrative of “us vs them.” Join us as we explore how ordinary people in places like Iraq, Syria, the US, and on the frontlines of conflict where you live are making the extraordinary choice to love in the face of fear. Love Anyway is produced by Preemptive Love.
Here's the Latest Episode from Love Anyway – Preemptive Love:
In the US, our Black brothers and sisters, whose forced physical, mental, and emotional labor built so many of our communities, are asking for presence from those of us who aren’t Black. And this isn’t new. They've been asking. They’ve been fighting for their lives for four hundred years—four hundred years too long.
As host Erin Wilson shares in this episode: Throughout the war with ISIS, Preemptive Love chose to stay in Iraq. We chose to travel to the frontlines and stand with the people being crushed by violence and oppression. We did it out of love...and for some, that mattered. It mattered that we chose to stay. It mattered that we put our bodies on the line with theirs.
And now we, all of us, need to show up on the frontlines in the US, too.
In the midst of a wave of protests sweeping all 50 states, and on at least four continents, declaring the truth that Black Lives Matter, we have a chance to make our presence matter.
In this breaking episode, we hear from:
- Faitth Brooks, director of programs for Be The Bridge and co-host of Melantated Faith podcast. Faitth shares what it looks like to be a co-conspirator by stepping behind the marginalized and supporting the work without co-opting or centering.
- Nick Mahlstadt, friend of Preemptive Love and father of seven, shares what he's learned about stepping out in front — not to co-opt or take over— but to literally stand between the oppressed and their oppressor.
Both Faitth and Nick also share the idea that being anti-racist means showing up to do the everyday, unglamorous work of justice.
Links from this episode:
Faitth's Book Recommendations:
- How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
- I'm Still Here by Austin Channing Brown
- Be The Bridge 101
- White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson
- White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
- Recommendations from Be The Bridge
Faith's Podcast Recommendations:
What does empathy have to do with emergency aid? In this final episode of Season 4, Erin Wilson, podcast host and senior field editor, sits down with Jessica Courtney, Preemptive Love's vice president of international programs, for an honest look at what they've learned about themselves as they've cared for others.
- Invites you into a behind-the-scenes look at emergency food distributions in Iraq and Syria. Ihsan Ibraheem, who does program documentation, gives an on-the-ground update.
- Takes you to Venezuela, where you'll hear — in their own words — from new friends who were able to make ends meet because of food deliveries.
- Welcomes you to peek behind the podcasting curtain, as Erin vulnerably shares about the photos that made her not only cry, but think about her global neighbors — and herself — in a new way, too.
We’ll be back next week with our last regularly scheduled episode of season four. But this conversation is too important to wait. Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man, was jogging in a southern Georgia neighborhood on February 23 when he was chased, gunned down, and killed by two white men. (Only after a graphic video of his killing was recently posted online, and a wave of public outcry followed did authorities move to press criminal charges, more than two months after he was shot.)
This story is all too familiar—and all too common. Men and boys losing their lives, for no other reason than that they are Black. Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Philando Castille are a few names you might recognize...though there are countless more. And now there’s another. Ahmaud Arbery.
So we’re asking: What do we do in this moment? How do we respond? Can we possibly hope to end violence somewhere else in the world if we do not confront the violence in our own communities… and in our own hearts?
In this episode, Vjolca Capri gives her first-hand experience of attending a Love Anyway Gathering in central Florida. As a hijab-wearing Muslim woman, she wasn't sure what to expect when Saadia Qureshi invited her to join a roomful of community members, most of whom didn't look or worship like her.
Could they really have meaningful conversations? Would others judge or stereotype her? Would it be... awkward?
In this episode, we find out.
Listening, doing conflict better, cultivating peace—these are all things we’ve been learning alongside our neighbors in Iraq for years.
And now, we’re excited to bring that to communities around the world. To heal all that’s tearing us apart through Love Anyway Gatherings.
Remember when we used to eat together? In this episode, we travel everywhere from Atlanta to Iraq for a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to gather around the table with strangers.
War begins in our heads and hearts long before it reaches our hands. But that also means the solution can begin with us. And sometimes, healing all that’s tearing us apart starts with a meal.
If polarization is fueled by our isolation from anyone different, then what if interacting with people who are different is key to reducing prejudice and polarization?
Even as you listen to this episode while self-isolating, you can still prepare for the time when we get to come back together, face-to-face.
What starts as a simple meal around a shared table with strangers can lead to life-changing conversations. And those conversations can lead to a thirst for more.
COVID-19 anywhere is a threat to everyone, everywhere. In this special bonus episode, Preemptive Love team members call in from around the world to share why they are staying home—and exactly who you are helping when you do the same.
Because the choices we make in this moment could mean life or death for someone else. And as you'll hear in this special bonus episode, for many of us, this threat is anything but hypothetical.
In this episode, Jeremy and senior field editor Erin Wilson share a candid conversation about the themes Jeremy explores in his latest book, Love Anyway. He answers never-before-asked questions, uncovers his writing process, and shares the why behind his vision of how we can heal all that’s tearing us apart.
Visit our show notes to enter to Win a signed copy or audiobook Version of Love Anyway by Jeremy Courtney.
In his book, Jeremy says that the way things are is not the way they have to be. There is a more beautiful world.
And as you'll hear in this episode, to find it, we have to we confront our fear—and end war where it starts: in our own heads and hearts.
Hear how late last year, before the coronavirus started it’s deadly spread across the world, Preemptive Love founder Jeremy Courtney was noticing striking parallels between the process for stopping the spread of infectious disease and stopping the spread of violence.
Travel back in time to 2016 with host Erin Wilson, when she met two Iraqi doctors in a displacement camp she'd never forget. In raw audio from her time there, hear how Dr. Qudama and Dr. Mustafa decided to create a health clinic from scratch in one of the toughest places you can imagine, learning along the way that trust is essential to healing.
In this episode, Jeremy shares a three-step effort as we work together to stop the spread of violence and work to end war:
- We listen and show up fast so we can address felt needs as quickly as possible.
- We create jobs to protect the vulnerable.
- We foster community where diverse people can truly hear each other, discover common joys and fears, and maybe even change our ideas that lead to war.
This first episode of season four takes you behind the scenes of the Love Anyway tour that took place last fall. Peek behind the curtain into the making of the Love Anyway film, a short documentary we created to explore the ideas around how we can heal what’s tearing us apart. We let you in on some of the conversations that happened before and during the making of the film.
We were planning to share this immersive episode with you later this year to go along with a new Love Anyway tour across the US. But because of COVID-19, our spring tour is going online. So we bumped up our production schedule to share this with you now!
(Starting April 9, we’re hosting five online, interactive events with Preemptive Love founders Jeremy and Jessica Courtney. Free tickets are available now, but space is limited.)
Who are the helpers in times of the COVID-19 pandemic? They might be closer than we think.
In today’s special episode, we talk with people across the U.S. to explore what it looks like for all of us to not only look for the helpers — but to be the helpers — even in a global pandemic hitting very close to home.
Many of us are familiar with Mr. Roger’s admonition to “look for the helpers” in times of chaos. As life continues to change in the face of COVID-19, podcast producer Kayla Craig looks for the helpers in her own community, recording conversations along the way.
- Kayla talks with Preemptive Love grants officer Lindsey Pruett-Hornbaker about her online storytime for “little revolutionaries.”
- Dane Barnett, Preemptive Love’s student and university engagement manager, spends some self-isolation time interviewing his mom Kris, a nurse in a local hospital's pediatric emergency department.
- We also hear from Kayla’s four young children who are now figuring out what their days look like without school. She also receives a message from her brother Nathan, who is helping keep grocery store shelves stocked during the pandemic.
And Jeremy Courtney, founder and CEO of Preemptive Love, shares an important message about why he’s cutting his salary to $0 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As coronavirus cases grow worldwide—including in many of the places we serve—this breaking episode shares how the virus, also known as COVID-19, is impacting our displaced and refugee friends in Iraq, Syria, and Mexico.
We hear from Preemptive Love team members:
- Jessica Courtney, vice president of international programs
- Erin Wilson, senior field editor
- Ben Irwin, director of communications
The future is uncertain. No one knows how widely this disease will spread or how bad the effects will be. But we are committed to our friends.
We continue to listen to their most pressing needs. And we’re delivering the kinds of aid that reduce their vulnerability: food and warm clothes to help immunity, mobile health clinics in places where healthcare is absent, and jobs that bring stability.
We are committed to the work you’ve entrusted to us. We’re not going anywhere.
As we prepare new episodes (and spoiler alert: maybe even a second podcast!) we want to know what you think. What do you want to hear more of? Less of? Here’s your chance to chime in: We created a short five-minute survey with you in mind.
To say thanks, we’re offering the first 25 people to finish a survey a free pin from our Preemptive Love Shop, and you’ll also be entered to win a Love Anyway jute bag along with some beautiful refugee-made candles.
Just go to preemptivelove.org/podsurvey to fill out the survey now. Or text ‘surveyme’ to 72000. We can’t wait to hear from you. We’ll be back soon for Season 4 of the Love Anyway podcast.
This breaking episode of Love Anyway is a bit different than other time-sensitive episodes we’ve shared. While we want to give you the latest, clearest information on what’s happening between Iran, Iraq, and the US, we also want to take you behind the scenes of a conversation several of us had with our Preemptive Love colleague, and friend, Ihsan Ibraheem.
As we hear in this episode, Ihsan has lived his whole life in Iraq. And he’s lived through what seems like countless wars.
Details to Know:
- Early in the morning of January 8 local time, Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two Iraqi military bases housing US troops.
- At the time of this recording, there are no known casualties.
- The attack was in retaliation for the assassination of Iran’s top military commander Qasem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike on January 3, near the Baghdad airport.
- In an address on January 8, US President Trump threatened to impose new sanctions on Iran, but also suggested the current crisis is winding down.
This episode features audio from a conversation several members of our team had with Ihsan Ibrahim, minutes before President Trump’s address. Ihsan has been part of the Preemptive Love team in Iraq for almost four years.
Ihsan is an Iraqi, a father, a husband, a neighbor, a friend—and to many of us, an essential guide to making sense of the events of the last several days. In this epsiode, Ihsan shares what it was like to wake up to the news of Iranian missiles hitting his country.
On Friday, a US drone strike killed two top Iranian and Iraqi military commanders in Baghdad, dramatically escalating tensions across the region. Preemptive Love's Iraq-based staff members Erin Wilson and Ihsan Ibraheem discuss the assassinations and what might come next.
We're in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, responding to the refugee crisis on the US-Mexico border. Earlier this year, we began showing up just across the border in El Paso, Texas, listening, learning, and lending a hand where we could, thanks to many of you. We distributed emergency backpacks and listened to leaders on the ground.
US protocols have rapidly changed, forcing most asylum seekers to wait on the Mexico side of the border. So we’ve shifted our focus to the growing needs in Juarez, just across from El Paso, where many people are sheltering after they petition for asylum.
On Giving Tuesday, we’re excited to announce a new initiative we’re launching where you can help us provide jobs for the most marginalized asylum seekers on the US-Mexico border. And you can be a part of it.
Text “border update” to 72000 to sign up so you can be the first to know about what we're launching on Giving Tuesday. You can play an important role in choosing to love anyway at the US-Mexico border.
This breaking episode features firsthand accounts of what's happening on the ground in Syria. After our team heard updates from Erin Wilson and Jen Meyerson about what they saw displaced people facing weeks after the US troop withdrawal in northeastern Syria, we knew we had to pause our regularly-scheduled Love Anyway podcast episodes.
What they told us is too important not to share. Some of the stories you’ll hear are quite literally life-and-death scenarios.
Our team reports that the Turkish ceasefire is not over. Violence is continuing. Families are hiding in gutters and sewers as Turkish bombs fall.
Preemptive Love has a presence throughout the vulnerable region of northeastern Syria. Despite the danger, we’re not going anywhere. Our on-the-ground teams are continuing to receive people, including young children, who have experienced serious injuries as a direct result of this violence.
Preemptive Love is on the ground in Northeastern Syria. This is the biggest crisis we’ve seen at one time...and it’s getting worse. In this breaking episode, hear from our colleagues in the Middle East, who share what they’re seeing unfold.
Some of our team members delivering emergency aid have been shot at. Upwards of 300,000 people are running for their lives, fleeing Turkish bombs. The situation is desperate. We need your help.
We breakdown terms like "safe zones" and "ceasefire." We examine President Trump's recent statement about the US troop withdrawal from Syria, Turkish bombings, and the massive wave of displacement it triggered.
It’s been a difficult week across the Middle East, from protests in Iraq to the recent news that the US administration is withdrawing its presence from northeastern Syria. On this breaking episode of the Love Anyway podcast, we hear from our Preemptive Love team about how the decision by the US to pull out of northeastern Syria could have reverberations that last generations.
We can’t follow the news right now without seeing headlines about US pullout from northeastern Syria. So, what’s happening? What are the implications? Why is this withdrawal so important...and so potentially devastating, not just for our friends in Syria, but for all of us?
We speak with Preemptive Love founder Jeremy Courtney, who has lived in the Middle East, including Turkey and Iraq, for more than a decade.
We also hear from Erin Wilson, Preemptive Love's senior field editor in the Middle East, who describes the sense she is getting from her friends and neighbors in Iraq, many of whom have Kurdish friends and family in the line of fire in northern Syria.
Iraq is facing its biggest emergency since the rise of ISIS. Protests have erupted in Baghdad and other parts of the country, as young people, fed up with political corruption and a lack of opportunity, take to the streets.
At the time of recording, the numbers have grown to more than one hundred protesters killed in Baghdad and cities across Iraq. More than six thousand people are reported injured. Prominent religious leaders are calling for the government to step aside. And there’s a real fear that ISIS could exploit the situation to cause even more chaos.
But this crisis doesn’t just affect Iraq. It affects all of us.
In this breaking episode, Ben Irwin speaks with two members of our team in Iraq, Erin Wilson and Ihsan Ibraheem, to get the latest on the situation, why we should care, and what we can do about it.
September 11, 2001 changed everything.
And each year as this day arrives, we pause to remember. We remember when we heard the news, where we were, how we felt. We remember the fear that rose in our throats, the fear the began to change the way we walked in the world, the way we saw each other.
On this episode, we ask some of our colleagues from Iraq, the United States, and other parts of the world to reflect on their memories of 9/11. Some were just starting their adult life when 9/11 happened; others had to process it as children. Some watched from a distance as the Twin Towers fell; others were intimately connected to the loss felt on that day.
American or Iraqi, Muslim or Christian, adult or child, September 11 has shaped who we are and the world around us.
September 11 also set in motion a chain of events that led to the formation of Preemptive Love. As the United States launched into Iraq, to wage war against an enemy that had nothing to do with 9/11, we launched into Iraq to wage peace.
What are mirrors and windows? And why are they important in our lives and the lives of our families? In our season two finale, we talk with Saira Siddiqui of Confessions of a Muslim Mom, along with Shawn Smucker, author of When We Were Strangers.
Saira and Shawn share personal stories exploring how, despite our differences, hope for our children and creating a different way to live in community is a thread that can unite us all.
We believe that getting people together helps us heal. That intentional time with people who are different than ourselves fosters empathy, pushes us through fear, and brings us to a better understanding of ourselves and others.
This episode explores friendships that cross cultures, healing stories of community in unexpected places, and the importance of slowing down and paying attention.
Babies begin to notice race at six months old. Children are paying attention. And as we’ve learned this season, what they hear the adults in their lives say and do—or not say and do—deeply influences the people they are—and who they’ll become.
Rapper and Preemptive Love's artist-in-residence Propaganda (Jason Petty), and his wife, university professor Dr. Alma Zaragoza-Petty, both of the Red Couch Podcast, join us for a candid conversation about parenting and talking to kids about race.
In this episode, Propaganda and Alma share their experiences growing up as people of color, share ways they've talked about race and peacemaking with their children, and speak into what they want white parents to know about humility and allyship.
How much should kids be involved in shaping our communities? Should we shield children from news about violence and war? In this episode, we attend a vigil with the Oestreich family, who believes community involvement is a core family value.
Diana Oestreich has been the key relationships officer with Preemptive Love for nearly four years. Before that, Diana was a combat medic in the Iraq War. Her experience as a veteran shapes her views on everything, including how she and her husband Jake raise their kids Zelalem and Bridger.
What does their commitment to showing up for their community look like? Recently, Diana and her sons joined their community at a local Lights for Liberty event, a vigil for children seeking asylum at the US-Mexico border, and they let us come along with them for this episode.
Immigration is a complicated topic, even for adults. Some of us are afraid to say the wrong thing. Others of us fear those who are different. How do we talk about immigration with family members? With kids? On this episode, we start by listening.
On our second episode of the season, we hear from José Chiquito, a college student who came to the US with his family as an undocumented child. We also talk with Luisa, whom our colleague Billy Price met at the US-Mexico border after she traveled with her grandchildren from Honduras to legally seek asylum. And Laura Pontius, an immigration attorney, shares why the language we use about immigration matters.
We also provide a field update about the aid and assistance you've made possible to families seeking asylum on the US-Mexico border.
Can kids be peacemakers? Preemptive Love founders Jeremy and Jessica Courtney share how living in Iraq has influenced how they raise their children. With host Erin Wilson, they explore how culture, technology, and war changed their perception of parenting—and invite us all to enter into difficult conversations with the young people in our lives.
Their kids, Emma (14) and Micah (11), dive into their perspectives on growing up in Iraq, sharing thoughts on violence, media, and what makes home to them. Kids are often shielded from bad things, but what happens when that’s not possible? This episode also includes a call with Molly Goen, a teacher who confides what students taught her after they survived a traumatic act of violence in an Iraqi classroom.
Young people absorb more than we might imagine, and they understand more than we may assume. When we examine what it looks like to love anyway, we often come up with complicated answers. But ask a kid in your life what it means to love anyway, and you might be surprised at the depth even simple responses bring to the conversation.
In the trailer for season two of the Love Anyway podcast, host Erin Wilson and Preemptive Love founder Jeremy Courtney share why it’s important to enter into hard conversations with all kinds of people—including kids.
In season two, we’ll explore the fears and questions kids—and the adults in their lives—have about violence, racism, media, cultural differences, and war. Children are often left out of hard conversations. But what if we welcome future generations to the table, now?
Join us as peacemakers of all ages share true stories of hope, exploring how to broaden the picture of what it looks like to love anyway.
We're inviting you to a behind-the-scenes look at the people and stories behind the Love Anyway podcast. Host Erin Wilson joins Ben Irwin, director of communications, for a casual conversation recapping season one with producer Kayla Craig.
Hear Erin share her favorite episode and what she finds most challenging about hosting a podcast. (And experience her infectious laughter that those of us at Preemptive Love get a front row seat to every day.) Discover the episode Ben was most skeptical of—and how it turned out to be his favorite.
You'll also catch an exclusive sneak peek into Season Two of Love Anyway, which launches in July.
They fled some of the world’s worst violence. Their future is uncertain. How can you stand in the gap for asylum seekers at the border?
This special bonus episode of Love Anyway features behind-the-scenes staff calls with Preemptive Love’s programs manager Jennifer Meyerson and donor relations coordinator Matt Malcom, discussing Preemptive Love’s time-sensitive response to what’s happening at the border between Mexico and the US.
While others wage partisan wars, we can be the people who love anyway.
What makes home feel like home? As our work has shown us, restoring homes ruined by war is a first step to bringing whole communities back to life.
Preemptive Love co-founder Jessica Courtney shares stories of her Iraqi and Syrian friends who have been displaced and are now remaking their homes. We also hear never-before-heard stories from the field, as Jessica shares her experiences of visiting homes that are being built after being destroyed by war.
Most of us have a very Western idea of what it means to be a millennial. But we’re all more than stereotypes.
We categorize each other into neat and tidy labels because, well, it’s easy. It’s a way to organize cultural ideas. Our social constructs act a way to help us try to understand the world.
In this episode, we set those stereotypes aside for a minute and ask: What does life look like for the roughly 7 million millennials—women and men between the ages of 23 and 38—in Iraq?
On Episode 5: The Millenials of Iraq, we find out. And if your primary picture of Iraq is what you've seen on TV, you might be in for a surprise.
When we’re afraid, we build walls around ourselves. We yearn for protection. To feel safe. We hem ourselves in. And keep others away.
But what happens when our felt safety comes at a cost? What happens when our fear of “the other” contributes to others not being protected...or safe? Who is “the other," anyway?
How do we start deconstructing the walls around our hearts?
How do we move past fear? Travel with producer Kayla Craig and her pastor husband Jonny as they visit a mosque in the middle of Iowa. Saadia Qureshi, Frontline Coordinator with Preemptive Love, shares her experience as a Muslim woman, chatting with Kayla about what to expect when visiting a mosque.
Kayla talks with Shahed, a leader from their local Islamic Center, about why the mosque decided to host an open house for their community. And Preemptive Love editor Kim Mireau visits a Friday prayer service in Indiana with other non-Muslim friends Shannan Martin and Laura Pontius. We also hear from artist Propaganda, who confides his past hesitations about visiting a mosque.
It’s easy to say love anyway. It’s a lot more challenging to live it.
We might not all come face-to-face with a literal enemy who wants to kill us, but we all have chances to risk something on behalf of another, by stepping out in love, every single day.In this episode, we ask the questions: Is love worth the risk? And what does it really look like to love your enemy?
In episode 1, we told you about the night our friends Sadiq and Ihsan nearly died delivering aid in the Iraq desert—one at the hands of ISIS, and the other when he was targeted by coalition air strikes, mistaken for ISIS.
In this episode, "The Enemy," we share the story-behind-the-story: What happened just days before that longest night in the desert? It’s a true story almost too hard to imagine.
Because when Sadiq stayed with the delivery trucks, it wasn’t the first time his life was affected by a close encounter with ISIS.
What happens when ISIS attacks your team’s aid delivery truck in the middle of the Iraq desert? And what do you do when, that same night, another aid vehicle bringing basic necessities to desperate people, gets shot at in the middle of a US airstrike—mistaken for the very ISIS fighters attacking your team?
Travel with us back to 2016 to experience a pivotal turning point in our organization’s history. Experience a night in Iraq that made us press into pain. A night we’ll never forget. A night that changed...well, everything.
Hear from members of our team who nearly lost their lives. Hear about us frantically tweeting coordinates to the US military, trying to get them to stop the bombing. But most of all, hear about how, even in the face of death, and in one case, even coming face-to-face with ISIS, we chose to love anyway.
Learn more here.
Jeremy Courtney, co-founder of Preemptive Love, and host Erin Wilson look ahead to episode one and share the vision behind the first season of Love Anyway.
What can you expect when listening? Creating peace between communities at odds. Remaking what was broken. Ending war. Healing hearts across enemy lines, beginning with our own. And discovering that we really do belong to each other.
Love Anyway is a brand new podcast by Preemptive Love, premiering April 17.
Learn more here.
This season, Love Anyway will push beyond a simple story. It’d be easy to paint a one-dimensional picture of people and places in the Middle East. But that’s not why we’re here.
We’re here to share where we find hope. Where we find possibility and beauty. Because we believe that all of us could use a better story right about now.
Join us for the journey. Don’t miss an episode—subscribe now.
Learn more at preemptivelove.org/podcast.