Local Pastor’s Son Filming Documentary about Syrian Refugees

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Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News
MADISONVILLE, Ky. (10/8/15) — A local pastor’s son is filming a documentary in Kurdistan this month about an ordained minister’s passion for helping thousands of Syrian refugees.
Jett Wilson, son of Pastor Pat Wilson at Life Christian Center in Madisonville, will focus on the plight of the refugees and U.S. missionary Grady Pickett’s relief efforts in “The Refugee Film.”

Wilson, producer of Exile Alley Films, and Pickett were in Madisonville recently to speak about the refugee relief ministry in Kurdistan. Madisonville Police Chief Wade Williams, who served in the U.S. Army during Operation Iraqi Freedom, will also be featured in the documentary.

The filmmaker believes the missionaries and volunteers are an under-told story that needs to be documented.

“Hundreds are working in camps and keeping refugees alive,” Wilson said, noting he wants to bring awareness through his filmmaking talents.

“They don’t have small aspirations,” he said, noting the refugees want to work and make a good life for their families. “We are raising money ($30,000 plus) for the film and the bread ministry. A large portion will go to relief efforts, while much of the work is volunteer.”

Pickett’s ministry near the Kurdistan capital of Erbil in northern Iraq includes providing 700 loaves of bread per day in a refugee camp of 4,000 people.


“There’s 700 families there, so each family gets a loaf every day,” Pickett said. “It’s one of their staple foods over there.”

Pickett and his wife, Becky, and six children have made Kurdistan their home for nearly six years. His journey began 11 years ago after backpacking around the world, learning Arabic and finding his calling in northern Iraq.

He said some 35 million Kurds live in the region and are essentially “without a country.”

Pickett’s bread ministry’s cost of $2,000 per month is met through churches, friends and donations from around the world, he said. The former Special Forces Marine also helps provides blankets, builds cradles for babies, and most recently, provides military training for a new Christian Army.

After ISIS attacked Mosul, Pickett said his refugee camp took in several displaced Christians from that region.

Last year, Pickett said his camp experienced a frightening close call, when ISIS drew near.

“ISIS tried to attack, but they were pushed back,” he said. “We were the only (volunteers) who stayed. “ISIS was coming down the highway, before someone got on the phone with Obama, and he let loose with airplanes and started bombing.”

Wilson said he understands the scope of the worldwide refugee problem of 65 million people that began in Egypt four years ago involving the Arabic Spring. He explained the crisis stems from the Syrian civil war and several rebel army factions that also include Islamic extremists fighting for a pure Islamic country under ancient principles.

Wilson also noted the Kurds want their independence and that would take away most of Turkey’s southern region. Kurds also inhabit regions in Iran, Iraq and Syria.


“No one wants to see an independent Kurdistan,” he said. “It’s all about oil revenue and no one wants that oil revenue going to the Kurds.”

The filmmaker said ISIS wants to take over the world.

“In the meantime, these people are on the ground running,” Wilson said.

Wilson hopes the film will be picked up by networks to help bring greater awareness to the refugee crisis.

Life Christian Center, a non-denominational church in Madisonville, has been supporting Pickett’s efforts in northern Iraq by raising funds through food fundraisers.

Williams, a church leader and former Army lieutenant who served in Mosul during Iraqi Freedom, said Pickett shows great courage for the work he does in Iraq.

“It’s one thing to go to war, but to go take your family is whole other level,” Williams said of Pickett. “They’re holding their own; and, until he feels otherwise, they’re going to stay and continue their work.”

Williams said the church is making monthly pledges to Pickett’s bread ministry and the documentary. Williams will be featured in the film talking about his experience in Mosul and the importance of the region’s stability.


Wilson hopes “The Refugee Film” will be released early next year.

The ministry is accepting donations at gofundme.com, Picketts in Iraq. Donations may also be made at Life Christian Center, 721 Princeton Road, Madisonville.

Doreen Dennis
SurfKY News Reporter

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