The Chairman’s Report for July 6, 2018

July 6, 2018

In this issue of the newsletter

New:      New playground for young children at Christian summer camp in Jordan
New:      New mosque built at entrance to Christian youth camp – No houses in sight!
New:      Huge advance for Diapers for Refugees – Program more than doubled!
Update: Expanded ministry in Christian town liberated from the Islamic State

New playground for kids’ summer camp in Jordan

Improvements at Camp:  Each year the Religious Freedom Coalition helps to improve the environment of this summer camp for Christian children in Jordan.  Christians are only six percent of the population and most Christian children are in the public schools where the study of Islam is mandatory.  Only at their churches can Christian children talk and act like Christians.  But in the summer, for a short time, they are immersed in a very Christian environment at Camp.

Children gather for sunset service at Camp. The children sit facing Israel, just across the Jordan River behind the cross.

The Camp  for children was founded by a dear friend of mine more than 30 years ago.  Constant maintenance and updates are required and each year the RFC works with Camp administrators to help repair and update the camp.

A few years ago, the Religious Freedom Coalition replaced the rusted steel water tanks on the roofs of the buildings with modern PVC tanks.  The old tanks were so corroded that insects could fly in and lay eggs.  The system is now sealed. We replaced all the mattresses some years ago and replaced them again this year.  We also helped to remodel the kitchen and bought new commercial refrigerators.

Last year, the police refused to allow the camp to reopen unless new security measures were taken.  While additional security was needed, the majority Sunni Muslim nation often makes permits for Christian institutions very difficult to get.  The Religious Freedom Coalition helped to repair and extend the fencing and paid to install a state-of-the-art security camera system.  Our help allowed the camp to open on time.

This year our goal was to rebuild the playground for younger children and somehow provide protection from the sun during the hot summer days.  First, the rocks were removed, and the dirt leveled.  Sand a foot deep was then placed to level the area and two sets of slides, swings, and other playground equipment were added.  Most importantly, heavy poles were installed to support canvas covers over the area to protect the younger children from the hot summer sun.

About one-third of the play area is shown in this photo. Slides, swings and other playground equipment is now installed, and other improvements are on the way. The area is now covered.

During my recent trip to the Middle East, I traveled to Jordan to inspect the new playground.  OK … I admit that I really just like going to the summer camp and watching and hearing the children having fun, learning more about Jesus, and praising the Lord.  The area for prayer and praise is an amphitheater built in the side of the Jordan Valley.  As the children worship, they look at a large cross with Israel visible on the other side of the valley.

The camp, in one form or another, has existed since 1974.  It was first called Camp Emmanuel.  The founder and his wife lived at the camp for 30 days each year.  He led the camp and his wife cooked for the children.  They’re a lot older now, but they still visit the camp almost daily each summer to be with the children.  This year, over 6,000 children, including Syrian and Iraqi refugees, will visit the camp in the summer — and all will hear the wonderful Gospel message.

Three-day camps are scheduled for July just for Iraqi Christian refugee children whose parents cannot afford any payment at all, not even for food.  The Religious Freedom Coalition will sponsor summer camp for those children.

A mosque for a Christian youth camp?  The Camp we support  is located quite far from Amman and there is no nearby residential community.  That did not stop Sunni Muslims from building a large mosque with the highest tower possible, as close to the Christian camp as possible.  No one actually attends the mosque, but five times a day the call to prayer goes out over loudspeakers in hopes it will disturb the children and their counselors.

Approaching the Camp  this year, I was surprised for about two seconds to see the new mosque less than 50 yards from the entrance drive. My surprise did not last long because I am aware   that Muslim believers are taught to always impose Islam on others.  Christianity spread in the 600 years after the Crucifixion by evangelism, not the sword.

The mosque built near the Camp  features a tall “prayer tower” that lights up bright green at night. The loudspeakers are the most powerful that can be bought.

Then, the Christian nations of Egypt and the Levant (that is Syria, Iraq, Israel and Lebanon) were all conquered one-by-one with the sword of Islam. Murder and rape were the main means of forced conversion to Islam.  The Eastern Roman Empire did not fall until May of 1453, as the Ottomans used cannons they had bought from France to bring down the walls of Constantinople.

The spread of Islam by violence — particularly the Sunni version of Islam preferred by Saudi Arabia — continues to this day, except now we call it “terrorism” and don’t mention Islam.

The expanded diaper program in Iraq

Goal of doubling the program in 2018 surpassed by big numbers:  The number of dollars for diapers has not yet doubled for 2018, but the number of diapers is fast approaching four times the number we distributed last year.

What happened and why I waited to say anything:  There were two ways to expand the number of diapers distributed to displaced Christian families in Iraq — increase the amount of money spent on diapers or reduce the cost of the diapers.  We did both.

Our partner ministry in Iraq was buying the diapers at a cost of about 11 cents each from a wholesale house in Dohuc, Iraq.  The diapers are name brand and made in Turkey.  As we were able to increase the funding for diapers, the Lord responded with a bread and fish miracle right out of Matthew 14:13-21 … Instead of buying the diapers wholesale in Iraq, we were suddenly allowed to buy them direct from the manufacturer in Turkey.  Praise God!

Each mother received two packages of diapers per child and three packages of sanitary napkins. A small bag of baby clothing supplied by a German ministry was also picked up at the same time.

The result of direct importation reduced the cost of the diapers to less than four cents each!  These are the same name brand, the same high quality, and still packaged just as a family would buy them in a store.

Rather than an $11 donation buying 100 diapers, that same $11 donation now buys nearly 300 diapers! Currencies across borders can vary wildly and this may not be the exact amount for our next purchase in September.  But nearly 2,000 babies and toddlers will receive diapers for June, July and August!  The program is expanding down as far as Mosul, the city that was ravaged in the last major stand of the Islamic State.

The need in devastated Qaraqosh:  There are more than 1,600 babies and toddlers just in Qaraqosh, a destroyed Christian town that residents are trying to reclaim.  There is still no drinkable water to the homes here.  The well water is as salty as the ocean and diapers cannot be washed in it because a heavy solution of sodium will severely irritate a baby’s skin.

When I was in Qaraqosh in June of 2017 not even 1,600 people in total had moved back.  Now, over 21,000 Christians have returned of the 50,000 who were driven out.  Many others want to return but more than half the homes are beyond repair.  Some families are moving into homes that are not structurally safe and still smell of fire because they have nowhere else to go.  Some of those mothers were pregnant when they fled ISIS and had their babies while in IDP camps in Erbil.

Just in Qaraqosh we are supplying diapers to 437 toddlers born in 2016; 572 babies born in 2017; and 396 born so far in 2018. Of course, some of those born in 2016 already have, or will soon drop off our list as they are potty trained.

In June of last year, there were only two stores open in Qaraqosh and neither had electric power while I was there.  We distributed the diapers from the shell of a building with no door or windows.  This year, the distribution was made from a new building constructed by our ministry partner with the help of volunteers and funding from ministries such as ours.

Well water is filtered at the location of this new ministry center, so families can bring large bottles and fill them up with water after the sodium is removed.  A German ministry furnished the expensive pumps and filter system which were far beyond the capacity of the Religious Freedom Coalition.

Instead of standing in the 100 plus degree heat, as the mothers did last year, they were in line in an air-conditioned building.  Dozens of stores are now open in Qaraqosh, but real jobs are few and many of the men must commute for hours to find work.  Without the help of ministries such as ours and our partners in Iraq, resettling Qaraqosh would not be possible.

We distribute diapers in six sizes from newborn to toddler. Parents register through their church and present their ID and the ID of the baby. Diapers are distributed according to the age of the child.

These diapers are extremely valuable to the Christian families who have returned to Qaraqosh.  It may be another full year before normal power and water are restored because the entire Nineveh Plain area infrastructure was bombed and destroyed in the battle against the Islamic State.  This year, we expect a record turn out of children for our Christmas for Refugees program in Qaraqosh.

There are still many thousands of Christian families who cannot return to their destroyed homes — not only in Qaraqosh, but in Bartella and other Christian towns.  Those families are still in IDP camps in places such as Dohuc and Erbil.  I attended additional diaper distributions in an IDP camp in Erbil located, of all places, on the empty floors of an office building downtown.  I also travelled to Karemlesh, one of the smaller Christian towns not mentioned in media reports. Diapers were distributed there, as well as to a small area of Mosul.

The entire three months’ supply of diapers is not given to the mothers all at one time.  We hold the diapers in storage and they receive two packages per child each month for three months.

During the war, in the areas occupied by the Islamic State, the U.S. led coalition including the U.K. and France bombed out every bridge, every power station, and all pipelines in order to starve out the terrorists.  The cost to rebuild will run into the billions of dollars and none of the nations that did the bombing are coming forward to pick up the reconstruction bill. Different ministries are supplying different needs.  Samaritan’s Purse is helping to make some homes livable again.  Open Doors and others supply much needed food items.

Each ministry fills a void.  The Christians of Qaraqosh and other towns simply call us “the diaper ministry.”  We fill a void that no other ministry is addressing.  At the same time, our partner ministry reinforces the Gospel of hope through our Lord.  Please pray for the Christian families of the Nineveh Plain.  Pray that their suffering will end and some normality return.

William J. Murray, Chairman

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