Turkey and Iraq
I left Jerusalem on Saturday at around 3:45 in a shared taxi on my way to Turkey for 3 days and Iraq for 13 days and back to Turkey for a further 5 days. The purpose of the trip was to help Iraqi refugees who are in Kurdistan and in Eastern Turkey.
No one wanted to talk to me in the shared taxi to the airport, I received a cold shoulder.
At the airport I spoke to an Austrian young man about the Gospel who was an intern at the Yad Vashem, and was able to explain to him the biblical faith.
In Istanbul I met another man who we picked up in our taxi in Jerusalem.
We had a long chat about the existence of God and creation. This man was a transit passenger and ended up being the last passenger to go through. So there is our timing and there is God’s timing.
I had a bag full of players with audio Bible recorded on them, hundreds of those players, and did not want to get stopped at customs . The people before me were stopped, but I passed through with no problem and after customs got a bus to Istanbul, though missed the first one and had to wait for the next bus. On the second bus I met an Armenian Turk, nominal Christian and he confessed he was a homosexual. Certainly I wanted to tell him that homosexuality is a sin but I guess they know that already – it’s just liberals who tell them that it’s not. In the end I said, “you should read the Bible” and he said, “yes I should” and I ended up giving him the New Testament.
The person who was supposed to meet me was not there. I crossed the road and saw a man sitting on the steps and asked if I could use his phone. He called and the brother who was supposed to meet us told him to tell me to come to Burger King. The man who helped me with the phone turned out to be an Iranian student who was a protester in Iran and disillusioned with Islam. He walked with me and in the end he gave me his number and took a New Testament in Turkish. I passed his number to the pastor of the Iranian church in Istanbul. I am so glad that he was waiting for his mother and his mother was delayed and that my friend was not there, so we could meet.
My friend and I went straight to get Bibles; first we went to a branch of the Roman Catholic institution to check their prices and then to the Bible Society so we were able to arm ourselves with the greatest and most powerful weapon that can destroy the kingdom of darkness.
At the Roman place of worship, we saw many people, including Muslims, buying candles. Sadly they don’t preach the Gospel as they don’t have a Gospel to preach. We ended up handing out some New Testaments and when we returned to Istanbul we handed out a number to some Muslims, those whom we met at Roman Catholic Church building. The church workers were not so happy with us for evangelizing.
We had many opportunities to witness in Istanbul. One black Muslim man we met on a bus was so happy to talk to us and said, “I have been here many months and you are the first people who have spoken to me and treated me well. They usually call me terrible names!” We gave him a New Testament and hugged each other on departing. We met a waiter who had a tattoo with “God is love” and we told him where it came from and gave him the Bible in Turkish.
I stayed in an area in Istanbul that is full of communists and Leninists, and had a good time presenting the Gospel to the host (where I was staying) and his friends.
After 3 days in Turkey we flew into Iraq to prepare the way for the rest of our team in all there were 9 members: 5 Americans, 1 German, a Canadian, a man from South Africa, and me.
After all the preparations we began the ministry.
Main purpose was the Gospel then Aid.
We visited a group of Iraqi internally displaced Christian nominal refugees who were living now in a church building. Many people fled with only the clothes they were wearing. They lost everything. We met an Iraqi believer who lost two houses and a business and yet he is rich in the true sense of the word. He has the Lord Jesus, as the Scriptures say, “Into us who believe He is precious” and we were able to minister to each other.
As we went around the area of Erbil we met many interesting people that we could minister to, hand out Gospels and challenge especially the nominal Christians.
We met a young man from Bartilla near Nineveh. His family escaped from ISIS a day before they entered into their city and some people escaped even an hour before the darkness fell. He said that he was so busy and had no time to think about spiritual things, but now he has time. He said that he knows God is in control of all things and even the situation they found themselves in.
Another man was forced to confess Islam but refused and managed to escape to Erbil with his family. We met him at an unused mall turned into a refugee centre and the priest running the centre gave us permission to hand out New Testaments and literature.
Many of the Christian refugees are from Qarakosh and if you would have gone there to preach the Gospel it would have been a miracle if you would have escaped alive.
They fled with nothing and now they are open and their priests are encouraging Bible distribution.
One day we travelled in the direction of Iran for around 2.5 hours and when we got there we gave out hundreds of New Testaments and blankets in a refugee centre. I managed to preach in public there for a few minutes. After our distribution of books and blankets someone complained about us to the Imam of the Mosque who contacted the authorities. The local pastor said, “They will come to us and we will have problems after you leave”, but he was so glad that we came with the Gospel. He said that this was the first time in six years that anyone has done evangelism in his town and we have given them great encouragement to continue. The problem is that very few give the Gospel – they just give material aid.
In the same place we got to preach to some nominal Christians and hand out blankets and New Testaments, and these people were very happy to see us.
One of the local believers in this town who helped us was an Iranian believer. The Lord saved him out of Islam 3 years ago by reading the New Testament. He escaped persecution into Iraq. Since then he has been to several countries including Iran. Six months ago he was caught in Iran with 10 Bibles. He was arrested and interrogated. He told them he was a Muslim but he is now a Christian. He was afraid of what they would do to him but the Lord intervened: the police became unable to speak to him. They could only grunt and motioned to him to leave! It’s so encouraging to meet this dear man.
We travelled one day to the border with Turkey to distribute blankets and New Testaments to Yazidis (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yazidis).
We went to distribute New Testaments and children’s books and blankets to Yazidi refugees. One of the leaders of the Yazidis was a man who was on Sinjar mountain for 15 days, four days without food. We could never have gone to them because they live in a dangerous part of Iraq but they have come to us so we can evangelize them. The authorities turned up as we were distributing the Bibles and took them from the Yazidis and they left them on our van but the Yazidis stole them back.
During our whole trip in Iraq we distributed around 7000 New Testaments and also many children’s books and audio players.
We were also able to help many children with heart defects get connected to an organization that brings sick children to Israel for free treatment.
After Iraq we flew back to Turkey for a few days to try and aid the refugees residing in Turkey which was much more difficult as we had to deal with officials in the east of the country who have connections to left wing political groups . We made a few mistakes by taking pictures as these people were a little paranoid and were not used to the picture culture. I say this not to criticize anyone but to encourage others in a similar situation not to make the same mistakes, especially in sensitive places and delicate situations. They asked us for weapons, so they can defend the city of Kabane against ISIS and we said we are Christians and the greatest weapon is the power to forgive – in fact you need more power to forgive than to fight.
At that time the Kurds were demonstrating against the Turkish government’s unwillingness to help the Kabane Kurds in any way and in fact they were hindering their defence and even would not treat the wounded. While we were in Eastern Turkey, the place we were originally supposed to go and help with the refugees became under curfew for several days because of the riots and constant tear gas firing at the demonstrators over the Turkish refusal to aid Kabane; therefore, we had no choice but to return to Istanbul. We did manage to distribute New Testaments in Kurdish and in Turkish and Arabic. The day before we were to fly out we spent the day doing evangelism in Istanbul and handing out Turkish and many Arabic New Testaments to those who crossed our paths in Istanbul.
It was a great trip and a great blessing.
I am writing from Rome. I am taking a family holiday in Italy and the Lord is giving us many opportunities to witness even in Italy.
Thanks for your prayers and support
Antony and Dona Simon and the Voice in the Wilderness Team
This is a letter circulating the net and in the end of this page you can read my response to it. The letter goes the following:
PLEASE READ, PRAY AND FORWARD AND THEN PRAY AGAIN.
Prayer warriors needed urgently!
This is urgent news from Samaritans Purse, for prayer from Chaplains with Rapid Response Team.
“We lost the city of Queragosh (Qaraqosh). It fell to ISIS and they are beheading children systematically. This is the city we have been smuggling food too. ISIS has pushed back Peshmergia (Kurdish forces) and is within 10 minutes of where our CRI team is working. Thousands more fled into the city of Erbil last night. The UN evacuated its staff in Erbil. Our team is unmoved and will stay. Prayer cover needed!”
Please pray sincerely for the deliverance of the people of Northern Iraq from the terrible advancement of ISIS and its extreme Islamic goals for mass conversion to Islam, or death for Christians across this region.
I plead with you not to ignore this email. Please do not forward it before you have prayed through it. Then send it to as many people as possible. Send it to friends and Christians you may know. Send it to your prayer group. We need to stand in the gap for our fellow Christians.
My response to this letter:
Sorry to tell you but this information you give is more than seven weeks old.
There were no people killed by ISIS in Qarakosh, only by shelling before the Pershmega left. When the Peshmerga retreated then all the Christians (nominal) fled to Erbil on foot, by wheels, where they found different kinds of shelter and are all safe. It is important to understand that the majority of them are just traditional, nominal Christians, and the Gospel must be preached to them as we need to preach to all the lost. I had an opportunity recently to hand these refugees New Testaments and children’s books. Please, pray for their salvation.