Challenged and Encouraged by Iraqi Christians
I was recently reading an article (Starting Over) in World Magazine and realized that many of our Iraqi brothers and sisters face extreme challenges that we can only imagine, but at the same time they are just like us.
Here is a sampling to illustrate: About 25 people meet in an apartment to study the Bible in a city that is just 30 miles away from the “present threat of ISIS.” A majority of those who are a part of this gathering have been displaced from the ISIS takeover in and around Mosul, Iraq. They are led by Pastor Malath Baythoon and they read the book of Romans together and discuss pride and humility. They share their experiences of fleeing the jihadists, leaving all they owned behind, not knowing where they would go. One woman asks for prayer to have the courage to pray aloud. A man asks that the group pray for a sick Muslim girl who lives down the hall.
Some of this is unimaginable to many of us: 25 people gathering in an apartment that is not far away from the trigger-happy terrorists that forced them from their homes. In this way we are worlds a part. But a lot of it sounds just like the kind of experience many of us commonly have in the United States. We come together to know God’s will by reading the Bible. We share life and pray for each other. We exhort and encourage each other to keep following Jesus in good and bad circumstances. They are not so different than us after all.
The common ground found in Jesus gives us cause to pay close attention to their example. On the other hand, the differences serve to challenge our western and cushy circumstances. The author, Mindy Belz, writes:
Baythoon asks if they are learning in the midst of their suffering and everyone nods, yes. “This thing has made me know God more. I am praying three hours a day,” says one. “I have time to read my Bible I never had before. It is new to me,” says another. “I am learning that church is not just a building. You can bomb the walls but not really destroy the church,” says a third.
What a challenging example! What an encouragement from brothers and sisters who are half a world away and living in a very foreign situation to my own.
It is not that American Christians don’t have trials and difficulties. We do! But it is always helpful to see the diversity of difficulties that people face, while also seeing that they are just like us; striving to glorify God together through Jesus.