I recently returned from a ten-day missionary outreach in Iraq.
My friend and ministry partner Mark Van Nierkerk and I were blessed as the Lord used us to bring the Gospel to suffering refugees, as well as providing for some of their physical needs. During the first three nights we had Gospel meetings and then distributed cleaning materials. We also visited caravans (mobile homes) sharing the Gospel, emphasizing God’s free grace and the need for repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus.
We pray you will be blessed by this brief account.
Day 1, Erbil, Iraq
Our first day saw us visiting several families and distributing audio Bibles among the caravans (mobile homes). In the evening we had a Gospel meeting with around 100 people in attendance. We preached on blind Bartimaeus, focusing on his determination, restoration of sight, and his following the Lord.
We also distributed powder and liquid washing detergent. On all of our missionary outreaches to villages and refugee camps, we not only bring the Gospel, but much needed food and practical items.
We ministered to a man from the village of Bartella, which is in the area of ancient Nineveh. He escaped ISIS soldiers just hours before they entered his town. This man is wheelchair-bound and had to be pushed by his wife for 21 miles. On their journey to safety, however, they encountered ISIS troops who told them, “Don’t think you can escape from us to Erbil. We will soon come there and find you.” We had the privilege of preaching the Gospel to this man along with his son and daughter-in-law. We also gave them audio Bibles.
Day 2, Erbil
Temperatures climbed over 100 degrees as we did caravan-to-caravan evangelism. The highlight of the day was sharing the Gospel with a dear woman 74 years of age. She was very open to what we had to say, and her son was equally enthusiastic as he encouraged us to visit their camp every day to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Please be in prayer for this woman as she has cataracts and is need of an operation. We will do our best to help her.
Day 3, Irbil
Today was a big day for us. Among the highlights:
- We saw a man with a shirt which read, “Equipped for life.” I asked him, “Are you equipped for death?” He was from Pakistan and fortunately I had a New Testament in the Urdu language; he was happy to receive it.
- We visited a refugee centre and presented the Gospel to a number of families and distributed audio Bibles. These are “traditional Christians” who believe they can be saved by works. We counter this by preaching salvation through grace alone.
- A woman handed me a list of medicines she desperately needs. She is in the camp with her granddaughter, and they have no one to help them. This precious woman had suffered from cancer and has had a mastectomy. Sadly, refugees have no medical insurance and very little money to purchase medicine. We purchased medicine for those so in need.
- We distributed aid after hosting a Gospel meeting with displaced people from the Nineveh area.
- We visited the Mandean Center. The Mandeans are followers of John the Baptist, yet they deny Biblical truth by following their own invented version of Bible history. We gave their secretary an Arabic New Testament and audio Bible.
- We had a great Gospel meeting at night as I preached from Romans 3:10-24. The 100 or so people in attendance listened closely, and we prayed that they would repent and come to faith in the Lord Jesus.
Day 4, Erbil
During a stop in a desert “nuts and things” shop, I gave out four audio Bibles. Please pray that not only will people accept these gifts, but will listen to the message on them that their eyes and hearts will be opened to the Truth.
We met two Ethiopian girls in a restaurant, and I gave them a Gospel book in the Amharic language and a New Testament in English. These small blessings make carrying around a heavy bag of Bibles in different languages all day worth it!
We had a great day visiting two refugee areas and explaining the Gospel, distributing audio Bibles, and praying for the people. I had the privilege of praying for a father and son. The boy was run over by a vehicle and suffered some broken limbs and a head injury. The child is in shock and no longer speaks. His parents want to place him in a private hospital where he can receive good care, but cannot afford the $500-a-day cost. The parents are convinced that if they place their son in a government-run facility, he will come out in a coffin. We were able to give details about his condition to a medical team from the U.S.
These refugees have lost everything. They fled their homes with nothing, and are in desperate spiritual and physical need. Please be praying for them!
Day 5, Erbil
During the day, we met four young men driving a car in a refugee camp, and I shared Christ with them. They were showing their Christian tattoos to us, but we made clear to them that their tattoos do not make them real Christians.
In the evening, while visiting refugees in their caravans, we shared the Gospel with a man and gave him an audio Bible. These are very effective tools as many of the refugees cannot read. Sadly, they have to rely on word of mouth and tradition, but know very little about God’s Word. Their traditional way of thinking is that God will see the “goodness” of their hearts and their good works, and that these will save them on judgment day.
Day 6, Erbil
We were officially banned from a particular refugee camp for sharing the Gospel. The priest behind this move used another excuse for banning us, but the real reason is the Gospel, which he does not want us sharing. He was also not happy with me when I called him by his first name rather than “Father.” Matthew 23:9 says, “And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.”
Despite this, we visited several houses and met a few Muslim refugees, young men, and a family from Qaraqosh, a city in Iraq. We distributed New Testaments and audio Bibles to them, as well as to Kurdish Muslims and taxi drivers. Traveling by taxi gives us the opportunity to distribute New Testaments in Kurdish. This is crucial as, sadly, very few people are ministering to the local Muslim Kurds.
Later, in the coffee shop of our hotel, we handed an African young lady a French New Testament. At a coffee shop next to the hotel, we handed out a Bengali New Testament and two audio Bibles. When we retired to our room, we requested towels and a pillow. A Pakistani man delivered the items to us, and in return I gave him a New Testament in the Urdu language. He was very happy to receive it. He then showed a Christian young man named Alex the New Testament.
Day 7, Erbil
We had another amazing day as we distributed food to Muslim families from Kobani, Syria, as well as audio Bibles and children’s Bible storybooks. The people were glad to receive the food parcels, and most of the families offered us water in return and invited us in to sit with them. In all, we delivered 50 food parcels and audio Bibles while also presenting the Gospel. We purchased another 50 parcels which the Kurdish church was to distribute over the following days.
Day 8, Erbil
With our two-car convoy we distributed aid to 34 isolated Christian families and 100 Muslim families from various people groups as we travelled to a city near the Iranian border. We were equipped with Bibles, audio Bibles, children’s Bibles, and Persian and Kurdish New Testaments. The 34 refugees are staying at a church property. We spoke to the priest from the church and left him a box of New Testaments in Sorani Kurdish language, as many Muslims are asking him for New Testament.
Later, we preached the Gospel to nominal Christian refugees and distributed cleaning materials.
Day 9, Update
There are many needs in Iraq. The refugees can’t find work, therefore there is mass unemployment. Making matters worse is that some aid agencies have stopped the monthly food parcels, creating a great need for food. Other essentials include cleaning material and medicine. The medicine shortage is particularly worrisome as the very sick cannot afford it. Also, both children and adults suffering from life-threatening injuries and situations cannot afford the operations they so greatly require.
We are also getting ready to provide these refugees with winter aid – including blankets, heaters, and food.
Day 10, Amman, Jordan
I flew from Iraq to Amman, and had a 17-hour layover. This gave me the opportunity to hand out literature and audio Bibles to some Chinese and Filipino airport workers. I also spoke to a young man and some nuns. The young man was from Arkansas and had a liberal view regarding the Gospel and Christian denominations, especially the Orthodox.
Conclusion and Upcoming
It was an amazing and blessed trip and the Lord provided many wonderful opportunities for sharing the Gospel.
I plan to return to Iraq in September and November, when there will be a great need for blankets and heaters. I am also looking for opportunities to minister to Syrian Kurdish refugees who are living in difficult conditions and have many needs, particularly food.
But of course, the greatest need is always the Gospel. Please pray that God will allow our team to meet as many spiritual and physical needs as possible.