THANK YOU for your gracious support of relief efforts for persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Your contributions are vital to our brothers and sisters in Christ that have fled the war-torn areas of Iraq and Syria. Many are now displaced and refugees living in northern Iraq or in Turkey. We would like to share with you parts of a report we received from the field on relief activities so you can get a sense of how your contributions are making a difference for Christians in those areas.
The scene is the same in almost every city. A house filled to the brim with Christian families from Iraq and Syria. They have fled Islamic jihadists belonging to ISIS and other Islamic groups committed to the establishment of the Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
The Christian families wait for our arrival. We drive up to 8 hours a day to reach them along mountain passes and coastal routes. Some have as many as 50 families while others have three or four.
This trip we have deliberately chosen the families that have been placed in conservative cities and have only a few Christian families in each city, as their lives are most difficult. The woman cannot walk alone without a man from the family. The Christian children cannot go to school. The husbands are not given work because of their faith, or they are given work for far less than what their fellow employees are given. In some cases, they worked for the wage period with longer hours than the other workers, and then were not paid at all. They are refugees and Christian, and so they have no legal recourse.
We bring them food cards that will allow them to buy groceries at the local supermarket. And we bring a priest so we can pray together in Aramaic and celebrate the Lord’s death and resurrection this Easter.
We meet the families in secret and lock the door in the private homes before we pray and have communion together. The authorities have warned us that we need permission to pray and that any aid must be given to the government. We know that none of the implementing partners of the government or under the UNHCR ever reaches these Christians.
The pressure to convert is immense on the Christian refugees. They talk about how on the street to the school, they are told to convert. A husband tells us that when he took his wife to hospital and they saw she was wearing a cross, they told her to put it away out of sight. One of the refugees went to try and rent a house in the local town. The landlord told him, laughing, that his grandparents had chopped the heads off Christians like him and tossed the heads into the sea. The symbolism was not lost on him, especially as his family fled ISIS because they are decapitating the heads of Christians.
As we meet in each home with sometimes over twenty people in a small living room, I often notice one or two persons standing at the back of the room. Afterwards, they come up to me and ask me to help them. They were Muslim who have had dreams or visions of Jesus and now believe in Jesus. They want to become officially Christian and be baptized. They can believe in their heart but cannot officially change the status of their identity cards. For this, they must wait until they hopefully reach a democratic, free country. Many are in mortal danger as leaving Islam is apostasy and punishable by death. I help them as much as I can and include them in the distribution of aid.
High up in the mountains, eight Christian families live in isolation. They have not had help nor have they seen anyone since they were forced to live here by the government. The house is broken down and freezing cold. The children are excited and stand at the front of the small house group service. We close the door and lock it, and stand shoulder to shoulder together praying in Aramaic and taking communion. One of the fathers stands in front of us weeping. He tells us how they fled and lost everything. And he thanks us for coming, bringing Jesus to them today. “Though He is always with us,” he tells us, “we have seen Him again through your being here with us today.”
Please do not forget these brave brothers and sisters in your prayers. In this trip, they helped over 1,500 people in 14 cities with food vouchers. Pray for the persecuted Church and the new believers. Pray for the safety of the team as they work in a very dangerous endeavor to minister to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
When this report was originally written, the team had completed half their trip, visited six cities, and given assistance to over 600 people. Your contributions allowed that to happen. We thank you!