With Mosul in Ruins, Iraqis Desperate for Help
August 17, 2017
Terrified and in tears, an Iraqi mother pleaded with Islamic State (ISIS) militants not to take her beautiful 3-year-old daughter.
Their dark fatigues and ammunition belts contrasting with the faded yellows and oranges of her tired robes, the young Catholic mother crouched on the floor of her concrete apartment clutching the crying child. The mother said again that the family had no money to give them.
One terrorist grabbed her arms while another snatched the screaming girl out of her lap. If the family had no money to give in exchange for remaining alive, then they would take little Christine. They stomped out of the home in Qaraqosh on their sweep to take Mosul, which would be the largest city in their proclaimed caliphate.
That was 2014, and three years later the mother was crying again – with joy. When Iraqi and other U.S.-backed forces liberated a part of Mosul earlier this year, ISIS militants left Christine in front of a mosque. Residents handed her over to the Iraqi army, and now soldiers were bringing her to the Internally Displaced People (IDP) camp in Erbil where her mother had taken refuge.
"When Christine was returned to her mother, a large number of displaced people gathered to celebrate the arrival," said the director of an indigenous ministry. "Her mother was in the street crying and smiling at the same time."
"Some are afraid of revenge – it's not completely secure for them," the director said. "There was so much destruction in the streets. People were very skinny and looked like they were suffering."
The child's older brother also greeted her. Christine, who at 6 years old had spent half her life in abusive captivity, was so traumatized and confused that she had a blank expression, the director said.
"Christine did not remember much of her stolen childhood and language except her mother, who collapsed in tears when she saw her alive," he said. "Christine was very confused because she couldn't distinguish what had happened to her, but she saw a lot of love from everyone. Because of the sympathy and love people showed her, she immediately saw the difference between what she had been in and today."
The girl told the ministry team that the people who took her were evil. As workers visited with her family, they perceived that they did not know the grace available in Christ's death and resurrection, and they explained the gospel. They then prayed with them to seek the Lord.
Can't Go Home Again
The ministry teams find such opportunities to proclaim Christ daily in IDP camps, which are still full more than a month after Iraqi forces retook Mosul from ISIS. Some people have only rubble where their homes once stood; others are afraid to return because most Mosul Muslims hold to an extremist ideology similar to that of ISIS and consider them traitors.
"So some are afraid of revenge – it's not completely secure for them," the director said. "When I was driving through there, it looks like you just discovered an old civilization, because there was so much destruction in the streets. People were very skinny and looked like they were suffering."
ISIS sleeper cells, suicide bombings and booby-traps may still present dangers, but many people from Mosul received Jesus in the Erbil camps, and the ministry has trained them to minister once they return.
The director found some dormant, radical Islamist cells among civilians in Mosul, but he heard God telling him to begin looking for key Christians to establish ministry in the city. He and his teams have wide-ranging plans for meeting humanitarian needs and proclaiming Christ in the city adjacent to the ancient site of Nineveh.
"The ministry team and I met many of the people in the city and talked about the Lord and his salvation," he said, adding that they spoke often about God's warning to Nineveh, in the Book of Jonah, that destruction would come if they failed to repent. "We reminded them what we had told them before, and how they turned against God and instead wanted their god, Allah – how they wouldn't listen, and God brought destruction by ISIS."
"The ministry team and I met many of the people in the city and talked about the Lord and his salvation," he said, adding that they spoke about God's warning to Nineveh that destruction would come if they failed to repent.
Saying that the Lord again wants salvation for the city, teams distributed many audio Bibles and children's Bibles on the outskirts of Mosul and helped numerous people in need as far as funding would allow. Crossing the Nineveh Plain, the teams visited several villages and camps, sharing Christ with more than 500 people and presenting more than 3,000 children's Bibles and 1,500 audio Bibles in three different languages.
"About 100 people asked Christ into their lives and prayed the prayer of salvation, and I personally think that the number is greater than that as we often pray with great numbers," he said.
The Sign of Jonah
The spiritual transformation of Mosul has thus begun with those on the outskirts who have come to Christ. There are also new Christians in Mosul, such as a 32-year-old well-driller named Younus, translated as Jonah.
His work was in high demand because the city was long without water service after ISIS took over. Before he became a Christian, the team often encountered him and had the opportunity to speak to him about Christ and give him a Bible.
The last time the director saw him, Younus had nothing good to say about Islam and said he felt compelled to preach Christ.
"Younus told me that he felt he has a duty to tell all the people of Mosul about this salvation, peace and love that the city of Mosul has not seen since the time of the Jonah – and that it all exists in Christ," he said.
The director prayed with Younus that God would protect him from evil and give him the spirit of Jonah in his preaching. Such encounters now take place regularly in Iraq, and your generosity enables indigenous workers to offer aid and the opportunity to know Jesus Christ. Please consider a gift to help workers meet massive physical and spiritual needs.