In this issue of the newsletter
New: Full report on July mission trip to Assyrian areas of Iraq
New: Report on adult diaper programs in poverty ridden Christian villages
New: Rocket attack by Turkey near village we visited to distribute diapers
Update: New Nigeria orphanage site will be ready for move in by September 6th!
Our programs in Iraq
July mission report: In July I travelled with my wife Nancy to inspect our missions programs in Iraq and Jordan.
We flew nonstop from Washington, DC to Amman, Jordan. The flight took over 11 hours and arrived in Amman too late to connect to Erbil, Iraq. Our flight to Iraq was later in the afternoon the next day.
(Note … Some photos and names in this newsletter cannot be viewed online. Some material is redacted online for security reasons.)
Getting to the Middle East and getting in place to work can take time.
Day one, leave USA. Day two, arrive in Amman Jordan late. Day three, fly to Iraq late. Day four, visit ministries in Erbil and drive to Duhok. Day five, visit ministry operations in Duhok. Day six, return to Erbil and then fly back to Amman, Jordan. Day seven and day eight, in Amman, Jordan. Day nine, return to USA.
There are only ten flights a week total between Amman, Jordan and Erbil, Iraq. There are NO flights to Duhok. Although Duhok has a metropolitan population of over one million people, it has no operating airport. The drive from Erbil to Duhok takes almost 3 hours.
The roads are now passible. Most bridges in northern Iraq were destroyed by the United States to stop the advance of the Islamic State. The very advanced rail system was destroyed in the first Gulf War in 1993. All goods must now move by truck on the roads. This makes travel difficult, even with the roads much improved and most bridges replaced.
As a point of interest, before the first Gulf War (President George H.W. Bush) one Iraqi dinar was worth three U.S. dollars. Now it takes about 1,500 Iraqi dinar to buy one U.S. dollar. War changes everything, particularly the lives of the people.
Duhok was the first location for our active ministry work. We did, however, stay in Erbil long enough for the ordination ceremony of the son of a pastor friend of mine. In Duhok we followed our ministry partners as they distributed diapers, and on occasion helped to hand them to the women and children.
It is always a blessing to meet with the Christian families we help.
Bersawa, near the Turkish border is one of the Christian villages we visited. While Duhok is a thriving metropolis with 5-star hotels, Bersawa is poverty stricken. In this small village of 310 families, we support 38 children and 17 special needs adults. All the inhabitants of Bersawa are Assyrian Christians who speak Aramaic, the language of our Lord. Aramaic is a totally different language than Arabic.
We distributed diapers for infants in Bersawa and then visited the homes of the disabled to deliver adult diapers. One of our visits was to the home of Sylvana, who has been disabled since birth. She is now 11 and has never walked or spoken a word.
There is no such thing as Medicaid in Iraq and the family is totally dependent on charity. The major charities are busy handing out aid to Muslims, and Christian families like hers are ignored.
Our Heart for the Persecuted Church project began when I saw firsthand the distorted view of aid in the Middle East, and how Christians were forced to the back of the aid line – often getting no help at all.
Any NGO or charity accepting USAID, EU or UN funding must distribute aid according to the demographics. In nations that are 97% Muslim, 97% of the aid must go to Muslims. Most often the local programs are run by Muslims, which means the Christians get less than their allotment – or nothing at all. Christian organizations that accept even a little government funding must adhere to all rules, and that includes support of Muslims who openly hate Christians.
The Religious Freedom Coalition accepts no funding from U.S. government, European Union government or United Nations agencies. Our programs are smaller, but 100% of the aid we take to the Middle East goes to Christians.
Bersawa (Bersiveh in Assyrian Aramaic) is a Christian village 76 kilometers (47 miles) from Duhok. To get there we travelled on route 2 and passed through Zakho. Zakho is a Muslim resort area in the mountains where many Iraqis spend their vacation time to escape the summer heat of the south.
Just a few days after we passed through Zakho the Turkish army fired artillery shells into the area killing 9 and wounding more than 30. All the victims were tourists. The artillery shells hit about 7 miles from the village. The Turkish government often attacks the Kurdish area of Iraq, claiming to target terrorists.
The Christians who remain in Iraq stand up for their faith. They do not hide. The entrance to Alqosh has a large Cross over the only entrance road. We visited this ancient Christian town to view programs funded by a partner organization.
Mongols, Persians, Arabs, Kurds and Ottomans have sacked, surrounded or occupied the seventh century monastery in Alqosh, yet Christianity has survived in this region since it was evangelized by the Apostles.
For centuries monks occupied caves in the line of mountains on the northern edge of Alqosh. Turkey sits on the other side of the mountains and threatens invasion because of Kurdish separatists who operate out of that area.
The Christians of Iraq have survived these numerous invasions and threats, and 1.5 million still lived in Iraq up to the first Gulf War in 1993. There are now estimates as low as 150,000 Christians remaining in all of Iraq.
Our programs in Iraq are carried out by several different organizations and churches depending on the area in Iraq.
In the Assyrian areas of northern Iraq some programs are operated by the Nazarene Church and the Assyrian Aid Society. Regardless of the organization operating the program for us, only Christians are assisted.
Every diaper package delivered has a label with a Scripture verse and an explanation of who it was provided by.
When available, Christian children’s books are distributed along with the diaper packages.
It is very difficult for me to explain the level of poverty that many Christians in this area of Iraq live in. Many do not have basic necessities in an area with resort hotels, huge shopping malls and 5-star restaurants.
The level of discrimination is very clear.
Christians here are rebuilding their lives. They are industrious and will not need our help forever.
But the Christians of Iraq do need our help now. The Religious Freedom Coalition’s programs such as Heart for the Persecuted Church adapt to the need as the situation changes. It is clear that one of the greatest needs is for adult diapers. As younger families better re-establish themselves, our ministry efforts move more toward the special needs adults.
The adult diaper program is far more costly … But … The adult diaper program can dramatically change lives for the better, I have witnessed the outcome.
One need of the Christians of Iraq is constant, and that is the need
for our prayers.
Please pray for the Christians of Iraq, for their safety and prosperity.
Christian Summer Camp in Jordan
Watching the children singing praises to the Lord in the camp amphitheater is worth the entire journey to the Middle East. The children are from every corner of Jordan and from every denomination.
Many of the children that attend one of the camp sessions come from non-practicing Christian families. They were “born Christian” and that fact is on their national ID. But many of the children have no real relationship with the Lord.
That is what this camp is about, and it is why the Religious Freedom Coalition has supported Camp *** (camp name redacted for security reasons) for decades.
This year we replaced the mattresses again! Notice I said “again.” We have been supporting this camp for so many years that mattresses we previously purchased have worn out and needed replaced.
We also paid for the installation of a giant canvas tarp to shield the children from the sun as they played in a newly developed area of the Camp ***. Several large games were installed including “jumping bags” which are large inflated heavy plastic bags for the children to jump on. In the United States these are often located inside children’s gyms.
While there I visited the kitchen which we remodeled several years ago, to inspect the condition of the equipment we had supplied. All the updates we have made at Camp *** in the past are in good working order including the water system we supplied as well as the remodeled and expanded restrooms for both boys and girls. The security system we installed continues to work well.
Most important … the children are safe and comfortable while having fun and learning more about the Lord. The concept is to have a summer camp atmosphere while having educational programs centered on the Bible, with the goal of the children developing a strong relationship with the Lord.
Camp *** would not be what it is today had it not been for the generous supporters of the Religious Freedom Coalition.
Nigeria Orphanage Update
Site improvement underway: The last week of July I authorized about $35,000 for development of the site we purchased in Jos for the orphanage. Since the destruction of the Miango location by Muslims, we have invested over $250,000 just to replace what was lost.
We are moving forward, planning to settle the children in the new location by September 6th. In the next newsletter I will report fully on the progress.