A Story from Mosul
For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
These familiar verses are a bedrock of our Christian faith, memorized by children and quickly recalled in old age. They are the firm foundation for all who have been raised in the Faith, as well as for any who have come to the throne room of Grace at death’s threshold. These simple, yet profound, words promise life, salvation, peace and hope through Jesus the Messiah. They are the ultimate message of the House of Blessing missionaries in the Middle East. This is the message which they live to convey. It is the message for which they are willing to die, because death is a daily reality in the mission fields of the Middle East.
The following story comes to us from Brothers Mustafa and Akram, relayed through Brother Khaled from Mosul, Iraq. It was translated from Arabic as closely as possible, though some of the details are difficult to describe in English. We share this story with minimal editing for English language clarity only. It is their story, through their eyes.
After nearly a year of military operations launched by the Iraqi Army, the people, and the Kurds with the help of the U.S. military and coalition aircraft, ISIS was eliminated in Mosul. The military operations were under the supervision of America which provided air protection to the Iraqi forces as it carried out continuous bombing of all centers of the Islamic State forces. Many people have been killed in order to liberate Mosul. One million have been displaced from their homes under the barrage of shelling and killing. Many who tried to escape were killed by snipers. The story contains a lot of horror, fear and risk.
Mosul is entirely destroyed. Houses, as well as mosques, places of worship, universities and vehicles have been destroyed. The dead were left unburied under the rubble, in the streets, in destroyed houses everywhere. There was a stinking smell from the bodies of human beings who were killed.
Many citizens who were captured for the purpose of being human shields were killed. The death toll is much higher than what is reported as the number of the dead is still kept secret. More than 85 women, members of HOB coworkers, were captured, but we did not know their fate. The brothers and sisters told us that they tried hard, under the threat of death, to search for them. Unfortunately, they were able to find only four of the women among the dead, recognized only by their clothing.
There were many wounded, hungry and thirsty. The HOB workers were blessed to be able to pray and encourage these. Mustafa and Akram worked to distribute Bibles in all the places where they were. They preached about a faithful Christ who came to the sick, the wounded and the tormented in the land of fighting and conflict. As much as possible, they provided shelter, food and teaching of the Gospel.
Sister Miriam arrived to help with the hundreds of wounded. She told of two old women, one who had become deaf because of the loud explosions, gunfire, and the bombing from aircraft. She said that she was terrified when she heard the sound of the explosions. She tried to close her ears and hide her head from the pain associated with each explosion.
The second woman said that she was blinded from the heavy weeping for her children and grandchildren who had been killed in the war to liberate Mosul from the Islamic State. She told Miriam, “We were all hiding in one of the abandoned houses. We do not have water or food to eat. We wait in the dark to move from place to place, more secure than the killing on each side. At first we walked through the day, but a sniper killed my eldest son and three of his children. This is why my children decided to walk in the dark, but the night in Mosul becomes flash after flash of arms fired from both sides of the conflict. At night, my children thought that it was quiet. They organized themselves and started walking toward the next Iraqi force to liberate Mosul, but in the middle of the night we were in the range of both sides. On the right, I heard a roar of mortar fire and artillery shells and other heavy weapons. We do not know where to go, in this direction or that. Wherever we go, there is exploding in front of us and behind us. Terrifying, terrifying, shaking the heart and we cannot stand on our feet and feel that our heart will come out of our chests from fear. We were hungry and thirsty, but at this moment we no longer feel hunger, but only fear. Before the sun rose, the fighting intensified and I fell on the ground, but my children and their wives, my grandchildren walked on and I could not see them, but I could see the fire coming from the shells, and I heard the sound of huge explosions. I did not know how long it took me to see the lights. Then I walked where my family had gone and I saw a flash, shining there. I did not see any of my family. I was so tired, but I kept walking forward until I fell on something warm. It was blood and the remains of my children and grandchildren. Oh, my God! Their bodies were in pieces! I cried and cried and did not stop hitting my head with both hands until I lost sight.”
Both of these women are still under the care of Miriam and House of Blessing.
(I pause here in this narrative from Mosul, to ask you to read the following message from the missionaries. Though it is difficult to decipher if these words are Miriam’s or Khalid’s, Mustafa’s or Akram’s, they speak the heart of all of the HOB workers, some of whose names have become familiar to us over the past 5 years, some whose names we never heard. But Malachi 3:16 reminds us that Our Lord knows each of them by name: Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them. So a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name.“)
“I invite you to pray and ask the Lord to heal these women, to restore sight and hearing. He is close and he responds to your prayers and requests. I thank you all for what you sacrifice. I thank you for your support of the work of the Lord and the Apostles by conveying His Holy Gospel and His good teaching. The love of Christ for us, and your prayers, are the light that lightens us on the way in the streets and the dark, in destructive Mosul. Please pray your prayers for us all.”
Please join us in praying from 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5: “We pray for the House of Blessing coworkers and all missionaries that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored. And we pray that they may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. But you, Lord, are FAITHFUL and we pray that you will strengthen and protect them from the evil one. We pray, Holy Spirit, that you will direct their hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. May the work they do in You bear fruit, much fruit. We pray this by the Power of the Blood and in the Name of Jesus, the name that is above every name in Heaven and on earth. To HIM be Glory forever. Amen and Amen.