Dr. John and Dee ministered in Iraq last month. This is part one of two articles about John’s visit into two cities very recently liberated from ISIS; Qarqosh and Karamles.
Walking through the village city of Qaraqosh wasn’t easy. The streets are littered with rubble from explosions and looted possessions that were dragged out into the streets. Random vehicles dot the roads, stripped of parts and burned. I saw a lorry truck that had been hit by an air strike of some kind, reducing it to pieces of shredded metal.
My purpose in visiting Qaraqosh and Karamles was to join the pastor and show support to several refugee families as they visited what is left of their homes in areas very recently liberated from ISIS. It was somewhat odd to see workers already back at work cleaning up the city. They were sweeping and bulldozing the streets of obstacles so residents could enter their neighborhoods for the first time since ISIS drove them out of Qaraqosh, Iraq’s largest Christian city, in August, 2014.
We walked into our friends’ houses, quietly stepping through what was left of their possessions mixed with mattresses and clothing left by ISIS in their hurry to exit.
We also walked through four churches that had been greatly damaged by fire and explosions…the furniture was thrown into piles, pews that at one time held Christian worshippers. These were some of the most beautiful churches I have seen in my life, with marble floors supporting pillars that rise 100 feet above. Canopied altars and domes tower 200 feet above. I could only imagine what they once looked like 28 months ago.
A somber feeling came over me as I walked over thousands of bullet casings and shattered stained glass window shards. I was struck with the sense of violent desecration of what I consider sacred and spiritually meaningful. The cross had been struck with hundreds of bullets as ISIS fighters came in to destroy any symbol of the Christian faith. Bibles written in Aramaic had been cut, shredded and burned, yet a few pages remained that had been taken from the floor and lovingly placed on the broken pulpit for a congregation in exile.
As we stood in the sanctuary, my ears echoed with explosions from mortars and other artillery mixed with the chatter of machine gun fire from the exchange between the Iraqi Army and ISIS in Mosul just six kilometers away. The steeple was toppled and lay at an upside-down 45-degree angle. Look for Part Two in January’s edition.
More disturbing news and pictures flooded our screens from the Middle East on July 4th that you may have chosen to turn away from. Very understandable. In an unending string of violence and pain not only “out there” but also in our own back yard, many of us are asking, what can we do? Perhaps we can help bring some hope and useful perspective to you from our Iraqi pastors.
Our eye witnesses in Baghdad report that over 500 have died from the massive car bomb ISIS detonated in a popular shopping mall in the Karrada district where many young teens and 20’s go to have coffee, visit and shop. What’s more disturbing is that Iraqis fear ISIS has a new weapon. The explosion was followed by a massive fireball that traveled through the entire mall and then into the basement where people had tried to escape and incinerated both the mall and many of the victims.
With ISIS claiming responsibility for this horrific act, it’s important to connect a few dots. First, ISIS is losing ground in Iraq (this bombing was in retaliation for the fall of Fallujah) and Syria. A Sunni sect of Islam, ISIS is clearly at odds with Shiites, demonstrated by 13 Ramadan attacks worldwide (CNN 7/7/16 online report) including explosions in Medina, Jeddah and Qatif in Saudi Arabia. Concerns are heightened that ISIS is forcing civil uprising between the two sects, especially in Iraq.
As our focus in ministry is to help the Church be an effective change agent in a very hurting world, we’re concerned at how the Church in Baghdad is reacting and asked how can we help? Five Iraqi pastors spoke with IM CEO John Cook that week, each one working to help victims’ families. One senior pastor summed up by saying, “John, our people (Muslims) in Baghdad are very discouraged, troubled and desperate. God is breaking the hearts of our stubborn people and they see more and more that their help is not in their religion…we share the hope of Jesus with them each day when they come to us…they know that we Christians care and will not leave…every day I see more Muslims transformed and changed. Ask the Believers in the US to please continue to pray.”
What can we do? First, focus on truth. While ISIS seems to be ultimate evil, Scripture states there is nothing new under the sun. This is not an equal struggle of good and evil…God reminds us that He is sovereign and in control, “Greater is He that is within you than he that is in the world.” I John 4:4. ISIS has revealed intentions and shined light on Islam’s darkness to Christians and Muslims alike. People are responding to the truth.
Secondly, our prayers matter (James 5:16) – Pray Scriptures over the Church, use our blogs as prayer prompts. Thirdly, pray for and engage with us as we church plant in the ME; help us support national pastors. With the Iraqi economy in crisis, each pastor’s salary we help provide keeps one more pastor in Iraq helping those who so desperately need them. Hundreds of Iraqi pastors have immigrated to the US and other countries even as the Church is in desperate need of solid, stable shepherds. We have three pastors right now we can help at $500/month; thank you for encouraging the Church, her pastors and the Body by praying for them and supporting the Global Church Planting Initiative.
School will begin soon, and since last year’s backpacks were a big hit with refugee children in Iraq, we are once again raising funds for backpacks for children whose families left everything behind when they fled ISIS. This year we’re also including our Egyptian kids in this project. The backpacks we provide through our national teams are brand new and filled with pencils, pens, paper, glue, and other supplies the kids need. Suggested donation is $18 per backpack, but any amount will be a help, and the backpacks are guaranteed to bring great smiles!
Please click the blue donate button on the right and select the Middle East Backpack project in the dropdown.
At the very core of Indigenous Ministries, our heart beats to establish the Church in limited-access countries through our Global Church Planting Initiative (GCPI). Jesus Christ is our only hope and stability in this world, against the backdrop of the difficulties and challenges people are facing world-wide.
The support of a local, national pastor is most needed as the church plant begins in order that he can be unencumbered as he brings the message of Christ, which in turn brings stability and the hope and love of Christ to very troubled and needy communities.
Earlier in June several exciting developments took place in the Middle East; two in Egypt and two in Iraq:
Our Egypt Child Sponsorship Program for half and full orphans continues to be an overwhelming blessing to families in very needy situations. What an incredible team the Lord has given to us in Egypt who care for these children and their families through the church. These 22 children in our program are truly receiving the care they need and are thriving. All of the children are from a single parent home where the mother is a widow – in most cases the father died from Hepatitis C or other illness.
Weekly the children and families are checked on by the pastoral staff and ministry team and the children are taught Bible lessons and helped to memorize passages of Scripture. They are also given the ability to go to school and receive healthy food that the entire family enjoys. This is made possible by our generous child sponsors. Our goal is to have 50 children sponsored by the end of August.
Scenes from Egypt – These are the faces of some of the children in our sponsorship program and ministry team members who weekly work with the kids. School supplies purchased for the kids. The bags and boxes are dry goods for the family of the sponsored children. Above and right, one of the weekly meetings with the sponsored kids which they LOVE. Some siblings tagged along. . . looking forward to the stories, songs, snacks and some attention.
School will begin soon, and since last year’s backpacks were a big hit with the refugee children in Iraq, we are once again raising funds for backpacks for children whose families had to leave all behind when they fled ISIS. This year we’re also including our Egyptian kids in our new program. The backpacks we provide through our national teams are brand new and filled with pencils, pens, paper, glue, and other supplies the kids need.
To donate to this project click the blue donate button and you won’t miss it in the dropdown…it’s the first one! Any amount will help – it’s a great project for US kids!!!
In James 3:18 the words, “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness” have stuck with me. This follows verse 17 where wisdom from heaven is described as first, “…pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy…”
You and I live in a peaceful country with many opportunities most women in the world can only try to imagine. What do you lack? When was the last meal you missed? I’m challenging you to sow seeds of peace with me by helping women and changing lives for a harvest of righteousness. What does that look like? First, love as Christ loved, forgive and be kind.
Become a Beautiful Partner – I’m so grateful to our faithful and generous Beautiful Partners whose faithfulness to the Lord and generous financial gifts make a huge difference in women’s lives world-wide.
I’m asking the Lord for 100 new Beautiful Partners who will pray for Beautiful Int’l, for me, and give generously each month to help women; God multiplies it all and the women we minister to are deeply grateful for the comfort, kindness, help and mentoring.
Crafts – If you would like to help prepare crafts for our next International Women’s Conference events, please mail me: dee@BeautifulInternational.org.
Palm Sunday was cold and windy in northern Iraq. Our team drove up to an enclosed construction site where we stopped and honked. A little girl, about 10, slid open the gate, and let us in. Our ministry team had just discovered this small Yazidi refugee camp with 18 families and around 40 children. The families were huddled in makeshift houses made from scraps of a hotel construction site that halted when ISIS tore through the country in 2014. These Yazidis are from Sinjar area having fled for their lives barely escaping slaughter and kidnapping.
We came back a few days later to meet one of their immediate needs of which the greatest is food. Each family received 100 lbs of flour for which they were extremely grateful. The children received a Christmas Child Shoebox…wish you could have seen these kids opening their first Christmas presents. The story of the Good Samaritan and the Gospel was shared. We will continue to help this and other refugee camps we have worked with. There isn’t room in this issue to share about the other visits; look on our website and in next month’s newsletter for these blogs. Thank you for your continued financial gifts to the Iraqi Relief Fund; we’ll keep on passing it on to the refugees! You’re making a big difference!
To donate to the Iraqi Relief Fund please click the blue donate button on the right and select Iraqi Relief Fund in the drop down menu. Thank you.
John and I met with these two women who were kidnapped by ISIS in 2014. They chose to share their painful stories with us so (in their words) “that people will know what ISIS is doing and help free more women.” The woman next to me was kidnapped with her husband and three children. They took her 7 month old and husband in 2014 and she hasn’t seen them since. The little girls and many other small children were forced to watch beheadings and torture on laptops. Her husband is still presumably in the ISIS army and she has no job.
Miriam, 24, in red, was sold again and again, tortured and abused repeatedly. Thousands of women are still in captivity and deserve to be remembered and helped. Her village doesn’t exist and she is illiterate; we’re helping these women so they can have a future.
Please visit Beautiful International’s Facebook page to watch the video of Nadia Murad Basee Taha, one of the women we as a ministry helped rescue from ISIS. She testified before the United Nations in December 2015 about what ISIS has done to thousands of Yazidi, Iraqi and Syrian women.
I encourage you to visit www.BeautifulInternational.org to read their personal stories.
Thank you for those who have given and prayed; I ask that you please continue.
Thank you! Because of your prayers and donations to Indigenous Ministries’ Beautiful International Women’s Ministry, we have been expanding our reach and are now helping women and children in Jordan who are in extreme need. These are Syrian and Iraqi refugees fleeing to Jordan for safety from ISIS. Almost 10 years ago we as a ministry donated an ultrasound machine to this clinic; and now we have the privilege of working together once again. We are partnering with our team there to give women and their families medical aid, counseling, food, clothing and training in nutrition and health. They hear of the love of Christ from our teams as they come for help. You are making a difference!