Five years ago, a Muslim family man in northern Iraq believed Christians were misguided and that the solution to the world’s problems was Islam.
When Islamic State (ISIS) militants took over his town in the Nineveh plains, Khalid* celebrated the certainty that sharia (Islamic law) would finally be implemented in his country. Within a week, ISIS forces beat his sister and mother on the street because they were not wearing the hijab (head covering) in a way the militants thought acceptable.
Within a month, ISIS personnel stopped Khalid on his way home during the evening prayer time and beat him on the street for not praying at the mosque.
“Later, troops came to his home urging him either to pay money to support them or to participate in the fighting, and when he refused to continuously, they beat him and broke his leg,” the leader of a native ministry providing aid in the area said. “When his brother tried to defend him, they shot him in the foot and left him to bleed to death, chanting verses of the Koran and ‘Death to the infidels.’”
That day Khalid decided Islam was not from God, the now displaced father of four said.
“In my time of grieving over my brother, I did not pray even once and did not read the Koran,” Khalid said. “I didn’t even bury my brother in an Islamic way.”
Over the course of a year under ISIS rule, he managed to watch a Christian television program regularly. He did not understand the gospel he was hearing, but it did pique his interest in the Bible.
Christ in a Dream
On July 7, 2016, he said, Christ came to him in a dream, telling him to flee to a town [undisclosed for security reasons] in northern Iraq’s region of Kurdistan.
“He was saying to me, ‘I am with you, do not be afraid; I will meet you there,’” Khalid said. “I was surprised by the dream, and I was afraid to ask others about it’s explanation.”
He told his wife, though, and she encouraged him to arrange for the family to flee. As he faced great pressures under ISIS rule, he had the same dream several more times.
“I was able to escape with my children and my wife,” he said. “I stayed in a hotel next door to a church building, and I stood in front of its closed door looking at a picture of Christ on the cross, and I said, ‘How will He save me if He could not save himself?’ Someone got out of a car and asked me, ‘Are you waiting for someone?’”
Khalid said he answered that he was indeed waiting for someone – Christ.
“Immediately this person answered, ‘Oh, so you are the reason why the Lord brought me here on my off day!’” he said. “He spoke to me about Christ, gave me a Bible, spoke to my wife and children about Christ, and at the same night we all accepted Christ as a personal Savior.”
Since then, their lives have radically changed, he said.
“The love of Christ is poured into our hearts, and the wondrous peace that He has given us is priceless – I no longer fear,” he said. “He is with me, He freed me and freed my family, and He is working in my relatives’ lives.”
Going Home Again
Khalid is one of thousands of displaced persons struggling to return to their homes in the Nineveh Plains. The ministry leader said returnees face the challenge of rehabilitating destroyed homes, finding work in a ruined economy, finding functioning schools for their children, and learning to survive without basic services wrecked by war.
“They have to find solutions to lack of utilities, such as electricity, water, gas for cars – these cities are starting from scratch,” the ministry leader said. “Our ministry is helping to provide support for transporting refugees, helping them rehabilitate their homes, helping them find work through small projects, providing food, medicine and children’s needs, and emphasizing the mission of Christ in every situation.”
At the same time, native missionaries are facing an influx of displaced persons from camps in Kurdistan that the government has closed down, as it has been nearly two years since the defeat of ISIS – even as new refugees from Syria are arriving. Many of the more than 250,000 Syrian Kurds displaced by Turkey’s military attacks in northern Syria are arriving in Kurdistan, where native missionaries are striving to keep up with needs.
“For the Kurds of Syria, things are getting worse, and refugees are starting to flee everywhere,” the ministry leader said. “So far, we have accepted about 20 families. We are trying to secure housing for them.”
Securing housing costs about $1,000 to $1,500 per family, plus the cost of materials, he said.
“And there are about 50 other families on the waiting list,” he said. “Most of the displaced families are very poor and came from villages where families suffered under ISIS, and today they are suffering under Turkey.”
Native missionaries are striving to meet such growing needs for shelter, food and other aid – and the gospel – throughout the country. Please consider a donation today to bring relief and recovery to afflicted souls.
*Name changed for security reasons