Planting a field takes incredible work. Tilling the ground to remove rocks and stumps and to turn the soil in preparation for planting seeds and harvesting the crops take time, commitment, and hard work. It is truly “ground breaking” work, but quite a humble process.
World Compassion has been working in Northern Iraq for 10 years. So when the Syrian refugee crisis exploded, we were in a perfect position to respond with humanitarian relief and provide the Gospel through Christian literature, with local church pastors providing the ministry. Our objective has been, and remains, to provide ongoing ministry so relationships can be forged, people saved, and churches grown.
Just like in growing crops, this is not done through a one-time event, but though a labor-intensive, ongoing ministry process. Our last trip provided monumental breakthroughs in many areas and gave us (and the Syrian refugees) much to be thankful for. We saw the first sprouts of revival.
On the second night in northern Iraq, Dr. Law, Joel, Kevin, and I sat in our hotel room with two of the Syrian men who manage the camp with 3,500 refugees now living in it. Bilal as camp director and Mohammad as administrator carry more authority and influence than anyone with the Syrian refugees we work with.
We have met and worked closely with these two men over the past six months in conducting our food distributions. They have watched us and heard the message of Jesus. They have read The Story of Jesus booklet and the Bibles we provided. They have inquired about this Jesus we love and serve.
And on this night, sitting there in the hotel room, we felt the presence of the Holy Spirit join us in a powerful way. Dr. Law asked Bilal if he was ready to make Jesus Christ the Lord of his life, and Bilal said, “Yes, I am ready to take that step.” He prayed and confessed Jesus Christ as Lord, and we all jumped to our feet to hug him as a brother. Mohammad even congratulated him!
We next turned to Mohammad and asked him if he too was ready. Mohammad asked if he would have to change his name, but we reassured him that Jesus was concerned with the condition of his heart, not his name. And Mohammad made Jesus Christ the Lord of his life too!
During the week, we joined with In His Image to treat over 500 patients through the medical clinic with medicine provided by Blessings International and distributed food to 3,000 refugees. We also provided personal ministry and The Story of Jesus booklets to hundreds of Syrian refugees. All the while, Bilal and Mohammad were working at our side.
A conservative news station, which interprets Islam very strictly, came to interview Bilal on two occasions. They demanded that we stop distributing the Bibles at the food distributions and medical clinic. But Bilal took a stand. “The Bible is the holy book of God. It is also in our constitution here in Kurdistan that we have freedom of religion. We will continue to distribute the Bibles.” It was a stand of faith, a line in the sand by those on the ground in Iraq to stand up for religious freedom and preach Jesus!
During the week, we had many meals and talked about the love of Jesus Christ. Mohammad’s children asked questions and listened. One week after we left, our local pastor in Iraq launched a home Bible study group. This we believe will grow into a thriving church in years to come as we consider the influence and impact Bilal and Mohammad have on the thousands of Syrian refugees in their town.
Ongoing ministry builds relationship. Ongoing relationship builds trust. Trust opens the door for Jesus. We cannot underestimate the impact and power of these two men coming to Christ. Joel said as we returned, “In all our years of ministry, this may have been the best trip I’ve ever experienced.”
World Compassion will keep working the field, and we believe that God is preparing to increase His kingdom in the Middle East beyond our imagination. The fields are white for harvest.