On the eve of their departure to Kuwait, the wife and two sons of Southern Baptist missionary Maurice Graham were flush with excitement, eager to join Graham and imagining life in a desert country dominated by Moslems.

Adding to the excitement was the fact that the Grahams would be the first Southern Baptist missionaries to serve in Kuwait. And, compared with Graham's previous mission assignment in war-torn Liberia, Kuwait certainly had the appearance of a safe haven.

But now, three months after Graham arrived in Kuwait and two months after his family joined him, the family is among an estimated 2,500 Americans trapped in Kuwait as a result of the Iraqi invasion of its Arab neighbor.

The contrast between what the family expected in Kuwait, and what they found, is dramatically underscored by the contents of a letter Graham's wife, Laurie, had written to friends days before she left Nashville for Kuwait.

In that letter she wrote about her husband "dashing around Kuwait on a very hot, dusty day trying to find housing and gain residence permits," about how she looked forward to being involved in the music program at the 8,000-member church where Graham was assigned as a co-pastor, and about her children's love of international living.

A spokesman for the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board in Richmond said this week that a State Department report placed the Graham family on the grounds of the U.S. Embassy compound, where they had taken refuge with an embassy family.

Graham's mother, Margaret Nuzum of Hutchinson, Kan., told Religious News Service that she last spoke to her daughter Aug. 2. Nuzum recalled, "She called to say that they had the suitcases packed and they hoped to get to Bahrain . . . . But of course they never made it." Now, Nuzum said, she is just waiting and hoping.

The Rev. Ken Ferguson, a United Church of Christ minister from Cranston, R.I., who is a friend of the Graham family, said that he had tried to reach the Grahams by telephone immediately after the invasion but had not been successful.

There was some irony there, Ferguson noted. "One of the things we were excited about was that we would be able to talk on the phone," said Ferguson, who became friendly with Graham when they were doctoral candidates at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

Southern Baptist Press quoted Graham as telling the mission board Aug. 2 that Iraqi soldiers entered the home the Grahams were staying in "four different times, and one time they got a little rough . . . but no one is hurt or anything like that."

The church Graham is assigned to in Kuwait City is the National Evangelical Church, which serves 8,000 worshipers in 28 congregations, all with different languages. He serves as co-pastor of the English-language congregation.

Because services are conducted in so many languages, they are scheduled, back-to-back, from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m.

In her letter to friends, Laurie Graham said, "Many times services must be held outside, but the 120-degree heat in the summer and 40-degree winter weather does not stop the people from attending, for they are so hungry for Christian fellowship, worship and Bible study.

"It is astounding to see how all denominations and nationalities work together in harmony in this church. Their motivation to concentrate on their similarities rather than feud over their differences is great, for it is the only {Christian} church in the country other than one Anglican and two Catholic churches."

The English-language congregation, Graham said, includes about 1,500 people, half from the Philippines, a third from India and Pakistan, and the rest from other nations.