By BosNewsLife Middle East Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
IRBIL, IRAQ (BosNewsLife)– Native missionaries in Iraq say God is using them to spread hope and faith in Jesus Christ among thousands fleeing Islamic State militants, and many become Christians.
“In a crisis like this, we are experiencing a time of revival and awakening everywhere,” a mission leader said, speaking on condition of anonymity amid security concerns.
“God is not just moving people geographically, He is moving in their hearts, as well.”
Among them Norya, a Syrian refugee “who got saved in a [refugee] camp in Iraq,” another mission leader said.
“She lost five children and her husband when a rocket fired by Syrian government forces toward the terrorists landed on her house causing their death,” the missionary added in a statement obtained by BosNewsLife.
“She sings hymns with us at our church group meetings.”
Norya’s story is one of several sent to Christian Aid Mission (CAM), a group supporting native missionaries, including in the Kurdish region of Iraq, home to many refugees.
Prayers were said in the Kurdish town of Akra, where some of the displaced are living in buildings originally built to hold Iranian prisoners during Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s reign, missionaries added. “Each bathroom is being shared by some 10 families. Most of the others live in a refugee camp and the only school is without a roof. It collapsed during the winter,” CAM told BosNewsLife.
Yet, CAM said teachers not only asked “ministry workers for help to replace the windows and roof, even with just a plastic tarp.” The workers also “prayed with the teachers and shared the Gospel with many of the students”.
While many refugees demanded food, missionaries suggested that several asked for the ‘Bread of Life’, a reference to Jesus. “As they were going from tent to tent in the Akra camp, Gospel workers came upon Abu Mustafa, a 50-year-old man who has three girls with cerebral atrophy and whose wife was killed. Mustafa was blaming God for his tragic situation, but allowed the workers to read the Bible to him and pray for him,” CAM recalled.
“This is the first time I feel relief,” Mustafa reportedly said. “For three years, I couldn’t smile or feel safe, but now I feel differently. I have peace in my heart. Please pray for my girls. I believe Jesus can heal them, and heal me, from the inside.”
CAM said the missionaries told “destitute masses crowding refugee camps” about hope in Jesus Christ. They claim He revealed Himself as God’s only begotten Son, giving eternal life to anyone who believes in Him.
“The workers go from tent to tent, sitting down with frightened families who have fled [Islamic State] militants” formerly known as ISIS, CAM added.
“The merciless Islamic terrorist group…succeeded last week in purging all non-Muslims from every town and village in the Nineveh region.”
Kurdish forces had been protecting the last remaining cities in the region, including Qaraqosh, the largest Christian town in Iraq, but they were outgunned by militants, according to witnesses. “Arguably one of the most extreme and brutal terrorist groups in history” control a huge portion of Iraq, forcing hundreds of thousands of Christians and others refusing to embrace Islam or to leave their homes, CAM explained.
“They have kidnapped, raped, and sold women. They’ve beheaded children” and reportedly sliced a five-year-old boy in half last week, according to CAM missionaries.
More than 200,000 people, many of them Christians, fled to the Kurdish city of Irbil, 55 miles (88 kilometers) east of Qaraqosh, “with literally nothing but the clothes on their backs,” missionaries told BosNewsLife. “Their homes and churches were burned to the ground,” as part of the militants campaign to establish a strict Islamic state.
What would usually be a 45-minute drive between Qaraqosh and Irbil, took fleeing masses reportedly 12 hours. Over two million internally displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees, also fleeing the militants, are packed in the Irbil region, aid workers say.
“These have filled every building in the city beyond capacity, leaving thousands to live and sleep on the streets. For those people without shelter, ministry workers organize “sleeping groups,” where a large number of families gather together to sleep in one area for safety,” CAM said.
Amid the misery however, “the Lord’s hand is clearly upon us and protecting us from evil,” reported a mission leader. “Even though some of us are going through trials, we believe strongly that the Lord is taking us to another level of faith and a higher place of blessing.”
Native missionaries include volunteers from local churches and house churches, all evangelical believers with at least basic Bible training, CAM said.
The CAM backed workers buy supplies from local markets to distribute to those who have been forced from their homes by militants.
CAM said the greatest needs are food, clothing, mattresses, medicine, fuel for transportation, as well as Bibles and worker support.
“In addition to their need for prayer and spiritual strength from the Lord, the workers have personal needs. At the end of the day when they return to their homes, they have to take care of their own families,” a missionary stressed.
Long after foreign aid agencies leave the region, “these native workers will remain to continue their outreach to the many broken people, hungry for hope and truth,” CAM warned.
“God is using native missionaries in Iraq to share the saving message of Jesus Christ with those who have been forced from their homes. But the needs are great [and] Gospel workers want to meet physical needs, as well as spiritual needs, and they require our help to do so.”
Barnabas Fund, another aid group supporting Christians in Iraq, says it is currently supporting some 30,000 Christian refugees following an appeal which was also published by BosNewsLife.
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