Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Thank you for your interest in the Gospel-focused labours we are involved with in the Middle East. Our most recent newsletter provided an overview of some of the work we will be engaged in with mention that a supplement to the newsletter would soon follow. We send you this thumbnail sketch of the work prior to our planned departure for Iraqi Kurdistan in less than a week. We continue to request your focused prayers concerning the work of the Gospel.
You are most likely aware of the suffering inflicted by the Islamic State to common citizens who currently dwell in the region of Kurdistan. As droves of people were forced to abandon the comfort of their homes and familiar surroundings, there has been the assumption that these displaced people would respond with anger toward God. This is had not been the case. In fact, one is hard-pressed to find an atheist among the masses amid their suffering. Rather, the hardships appear to have given occasion for openness and possibly even an increased interest and receptivity to the Gospel. Please pray that God will continue to generate a hunger for the truth, responsiveness to the Gospel, and ultimately a greater awakening among the people at this crucial time.
It is not difficult to recognize the effects of the Islamic State’s aggression. Over the course of recent visits, we met a 75-year-old man and his wife who assisted him. This couple endured a walk of approximately 18 kilometres (11 miles) through difficult terrain to escape ISIS instigators who made a daily routine of visiting the couple’s house to extort money and assets from them. We spoke with a woman (and her daughter) whose husband and two sons were taken by ISIS several months ago. These family members have not been heard from since. While spending time with the Kakai people, we talked with a boy (“Ahmad”) whose father was killed by members of ISIS.
All of these victims bear the marks of the flagrant violence incited by the Islamic State. However, the incalculable pain inflicted by such assaults as provided occasion for God to turn the lamenting of such people into the joy of Christ. His Kingdom “cannot be moved” (Hebrews 12:28).
In addition to the untold numbers of widows and orphans among refugees and displaced peoples in the area, the need for quality medical care is overwhelming. Health disorders are rampant in the region. One young boy, Yacob (age 10), has only one kidney, which does not function properly. Several children have heart problems. A few of these babies and young children were given opportunity to visit Israel for heart surgery. Sadly, between the substandard medical facilities and bureaucratic obstacles on his home region, one young baby died before making the journey to Israel. At the time of this writing, two of these children are in Israel receiving treatment.
Although challenges threaten the livelihood of many in Iraqi Kurdistan, God willing, we are building connections with additional workers in the area. A Christian woman with medical expertise who is part of a local church intends to open a mobile clinic free of charge to refugees and internally displaced people. One local pastor in the region is providing for nearly 2,000 Kobani families. Some from among these families have since expressed interest in Christ. One Christian brother from the Kakai people is providing for his community via the local mayors of the region. Even governmental officials channel aid through this man because of the integrity of his testimony. We anticipate working with him as well, offering up to 150 kerosene heaters as needed.
Please continue to remember these and us in your prayers as we desire to spread the fame of the Gospel at such a time.