About 5 months ago God spoke clearly to me in my office while I was prepping for my sermon in the Book of 1John. It was as if The Holy Spirit had grabbed my heart and wouldn't let go. Out of that came a vision to reach the precious people in Iraq who were being displaced by the atrocities of Isis. Our church unloaded their support. They immediately prayed, gave, sacrificed and formed a team to go to the war torn country. To be quite honest, we were discouraged by many to not go. Some people thought we were crazy, others were even upset with me because they thought I was leading people to a death march.
But we knew God wanted us to go! Out of that prompting by the Spirit a team of 8 mighty men who decided to go in first, knowing full well the potential cost. Our wives and families stood in support and bravely held down the home front. I will never forget the night we rolled out of Goshen with tears streaming down our faces realizing the risk at hand.
Fast forward to today...
We just returned after a second visit with a big vision to rescue hundreds of refugees. We desire to find them housing in apartments for 6 months and a fresh start to their lives. Our prayer is that out of the ashes of Isis comes a strong a mighty church planting movement for Jesus.
God is alive and well in Kurdistan... on this second trip we were able to go and support, love, care, and pour courage into these precious people. We saw first hand what God is doing with our Grace4Iraq mission. God is giving us a chance to link arms with a man of God, Pastor Malath Baythoon and his church to reach people who once would never have given us any chance at all.
In this photo above to my right is Pastor Malath and to my left is a Yazidi man who greeted me with a kiss on both cheeks because he knew that this group of Americans were caring for his people. In fact he showed up to the church service I preached at earlier that week. God is truly at work for that to happen.
Grace4Iraq is rescuing people who were in tents along the side of the road and pulling people in who had no place to call home and restoring dignity, hope. Plus it is showing them that Jesus loves them. The ladies above represent 3 generations of women, who now have a place to call home. We sat with these precious ladies and heard their horrific stories of Isis pushing them out. We ate a meal with them that they had prepared for us. We saw the smiles on their faces. I wept tears of joy as I saw first hand what can happen when a church decides to help their brothers and sisters on the other side of the world.
We were able to purchase beds, cabinets, blankets, heaters and mattresses to get a couple of apartments ready for two families being rescued. I will never forget the smiles on their faces, the taps on the hearts by men, and the kisses on our hands from the women to show us how grateful they were.
As we carried supplies to the new apartments I again wept knowing full well this is what God longs to see his church do for the harassed and helpless.
The apartment complex entrance was a daily reminder to us that this was a war torn country as a guard packing an AK47 stood on his watch. But if God is for us who could ever stand against us. This apartment complex now holds 100's of rescued refugees who are meeting in small groups to study the Bible and learn more about the love of Jesus. Out of the ashes of Isis, Jesus is building a mighty church.
One of the most powerful moments was us being able to hand the keys over to a large family who had been displaced. As we stood in the hallway and looked out the glass window we watched a van roll in packed with a family that would be placed in this apartment.
As we stood in the hallway and prayed over this family and prayed over many family members I was overcome with emotion knowing full well this is what can happen when God's people link arms together.
I wish you could have been there as we handed over the keys to this new apartment and watched the families enter their new apartment... Simply beautiful...
Apartments like this one are now bustling with kids, adults and families. We ate with them, prayed with them and saw first hand hope emerging in their hearts.
I still can't wrap my mind around the fact that God allowed me to preach in Northern Iraq last Sunday while Isis was a town away. I was able to tell them from Matthew that they do not need to worry because Jesus had their backs and that there was a church in America called Grace Community that had their backs too..
This picture above captures fully the emotions our team felt as we were able to sing happy birthday to every person who had a January birthday. Stop and ponder this reality. We sang happy birthday and cut cake together. In fact, I too have a January birthday and never for the life of me did I ever think I would be celebrating my 53rd birthday with a group of rescued people and an Iraqi Church on Sunday Night in Kurdistan.
Out of the ashes of Isis hope is emerging... this is kind of story the press needs to be reporting!!!