The streets of Erbil, Iraq, are lined with children begging for money, for food, for anything to ease their suffering. Why is it that in wars fought with guns and radical ideology, children—the most innocent of all—are the ones who suffer the most? This is the heart wrenching reality of nearly every child in Iraq.
We went from apartment to apartment along the city streets, and were greeted by two or three families crammed into each tiny room. As we unloaded boxes of food, warm winter clothing, and other critical items, I watched as relief visibly washed over each of their faces. In that moment, they knew their families could survive another day.
Raad, his wife Entisar, and their four children were one of the families we were able to serve.
Originally from Qaraquosh, the family fled when ISIS infiltrated their city and began killing civilians. As bombs began to drop, they piled into their car and drove north. They lost their car at a Kurdish roadblock and were forced to proceed on foot. Raad had to carry his disabled daughter (who cannot walk) for miles while his wife held their newborn son.
Over the past few months, they’ve lived in an abandoned church, in tents, and everywhere in between. Every location presented a new challenge to care for their special-needs daughter, who hasn’t had any access to the care she so desperately needs. Two villages and two displacements later, they now live in this tiny room with several other families.
It is illegal for Raad to work and he worries about providing for his daughter, who requires extensive care. My heart broke when I heard him speak these words:
“We are thankful to be alive and actually feel much safer in this area. But our children still cry at night from flashbacks of ISIS’s attack on our village. Our neighbors help strengthen our faith. We are holding fast to the verse that says, ‘you will be persecuted because of me . . .’”
The sincerity of his faith challenged me to the core. I asked him if there was a message he had for the church in America. This was his powerful response:
“Pray God would protect us. Pray God would bring us back home. Pray God would show us a way out of this darkness.”
This, my friends, is how the Church must respond to the terror of ISIS and the plight of persecuted believers in the Middle East: We must commit ourselves to prayer!
Our partners are working diligently in these communities on a regular basis, building relationships with refugees during regular disbursements of rationed supplies. Knowing that this crisis is far from over, we know that sustainability is a crucial element of our relief strategy. Aid and relief has paved the way for us to find jobs for the unemployed, education for unschooled children, and spiritual development for all those who desire to learn more about Christ. Ultimately, we believe the transformative message of the Gospel is Iraq’s only hope for healing, forgiveness, and restoration.
As our team prepares to leave Iraq, I ask that today you would join us in praying for the millions of people who have lost everything they have. Pray for peace. Pray God would use you—your family, your church, your community—to respond with compassion to this great need.
Be a hope-giver to someone who has lost all hope.