Monthly Archives: July 2015

Northern Iraq – Update from Displaced Iraqis and Syrians

FROM R.K.’S CORNER

Ulrichs 11-14In the October 2014 Bridge Report, we featured The Bridge’s first participation in helping ease the suffering of the destitute Iraqis and Syrians displaced by the brutal takeover of the region by ISIS — http://www.bridgeinternational.org/2014/10! Our friend and mission partner brought with them the Bridge relief funds we had received from our donors up till then! (Due to security reasons, we do not disclose the names of our partner or his organization).  Our partner did a Fall trip in which we did not participate, but during his latest trip this Spring, we sent the balance in the relief account with him, from which he wrote us this month’s report. The fact that he is Arab, thus easily blending into the local population, enables him to touch the lives of those who suffer the most—the 200,000 out of the 1 mill refugees who live outside the camps, most of them being Yazidis and Christians.  So far we have sent close to $20,000 into the field — with no overhead deducted, it means that 100% of the funds you give, directly serve the needy!  Thank you for your generosity!  THE NEED IS GREAT— PLEASE KEEP ON GIVING!

JUNE TRIP TO NORTHERN IRAQ BY OUR ARAB FRIEND AND HIS TEAM

Displaced Yazidis in Northern Iraq

Displaced Yazidis in Northern Iraq

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

We thank God for you as you have continued to give generously and helped provide food, clothing, medicine, heat, and transportation to the displaced people from Syria and Iraq and enabled us to keep sharing the Good News with those who are suffering and without Hope. During these trips, we have been giving new information and methods which are influencing the believers’ ability to reach across cultural barriers and share the message that we have been commissioned to share in a way the locals are able to  hear and receive the Good News of the Kingdom.

Life goes on - baby born in diaspora

Life goes on – Iraqi baby born in the camp

Entering Iraq this time, we found that ISIS had made new gains. What had appeared to be a “hands  down” victory in Northern Iraq by the Kurds, had turned into a fresh infusion of troops and money from ISIS. We were present as ISIS took Ramadi.  This was heartbreaking for us. We also experienced firsthand a renewed campaign of suicide bombs in the region’s capitol of Erbil.  This made it an interesting visit, as everyone was a suspect of the Kurdish guards along the roads. We saw several “plumes” that were the evidence of the efforts by ISIS to penetrate into the heart of Kurdish territory.

Despite the efforts of ISIS, the King of Glory has been working in the hearts of men. We met several of the new Kurdish, Yazidi believers and had opportunity to encourage them and spend good quality time with them. We actively listened to their stories and learned as much as possible, so we could help them contextualize “the message”, for the purpose of reaching as many Yazidis as possible.  My wife and I visited one of the main ancient Yazidi temples to learn about their history, traditions and ceremonies to enable to better help the Yazidi believers continue the movement that God has clearly started.

A Yazidi’s Testimony

N and A sharing their lives with us in the camp.

N and A sharing their lives with us in the camp.

We met with one new believer whom I’ll call N for security sake, who shared his story. The following is his account:

“When the attacks began we had to leave to the mountain (Shingal). My wife was with my family, while I went ahead to the top of the mountain.  Before my wife could join me she was bitten by a poisonous snake on her left leg which was swollen up to her thigh. I was the only young man in my family so I had to walk more than five kilometers every day to bring water to them. There are more than 84 people in my family, so I drank less than a cup of water each day which was not enough. We had no food for 18 days. My wife was getting weaker since we had no medicineand her leg was turning black and blue from the poison.

I had to make a decision as to whether I would stay with my family or try to take my wife to get help. My family was ok, except for their necessary to walk to get water. Because my wife could not walk, I had to carry her every day.  I made the decision to leave my family to save her life. I carried her on my back, and  many times she told me, ‘just leave me on the ground’, but I could not. I was dehydrated from carrying her and I asked a woman for water but she would not give it to me. My feet were bleeding, I still had not eaten, but I felt like someone was pushing me to go forward. I did not know who it was but I knew there was someone behind me telling me that there was a plan for my life and I must continue. Finally someone gave my wife a ride to Dohuq.  I was able to get there later and she recovered fully.

Later, I met a man who introduced me to “A” (our partner) and he told me about Jesus and then brought me to meet a local pastor.  Then I knew it was Jesus who gave me the strength to go on and that he does have a plan for me to tell my people about Him and give my people hope.”  

The Situation on the Ground

Liaison - Outhouse June 2015Liaison - Camp Toilet-Wash Area June 2015In addition to the work being done among the unreached Yazidi people, we also continued to deliver aid to the Persecuted Christians. The situation among the Christians look very bleak at the present as there appears to be no plan by the Government of Iraq, the Kurds or anyone else to go retake the City of Mosul which is the ancient homeland of so many traditional Christians in Iraq. The feeling was very hopeless for those who had lost homes, businesses and land owned by their families for generations. Most of the Christians wanted to simply leave Iraq saying they could never trust the government or the situation again.  They are still living on bare subsistence and in need of fruit, vegetables, meat and medical assistance.

We and several of our partner organizations have been pounding this drum for almost a year now,  and while the situation has much improved from the first visit and there are no longer people living on the streets, it is far from resolved.  (The two pictures above demonstrate the deplorable situation in the camps.  They show the inside and outside of an outhouse, serving as toilet and washroom for between 50 – 140 people at any given time)!

Our Relief Aid Outreach

Delivery of Relief Aid

Delivery of Relief Aid

With our partners, we have been working tirelessly to provide the basic needs to help restore hope to those feeling the sting of displacement.  In addition to locally buying food and medical supplies for distribution, we have also sent two large containers from the United States. While there, one of them arrived, so we went to the Turkish Border and checked it through and had it delivered to the warehouse where it was being sorted, inventoried and prepared for delivery.

After almost a year of wondering and waiting, the uncertainty is not  less, but we have been able to ease the suffering and provide a message of comfort to those mourning and grieving.

Liaison - Distrd food 2 June 2015Some of the greatest needs we are presently facing is grief counseling, PTSD counseling and medical care. If you have experience in any of these areas and are feeling called by God to reach out to your brothers and sisters in need, please contact us.

As much as I would like to tell you the situation is 100% safe; the truth is,  the condition on the ground is not stable.  Nevertheless — when God speaks to us to go, we need to trust and obey.  While we do this charity work in obedience to Christ and His commands to “love one another”, it is not the only reason we go. We are also focused on sharing the message of the Good News with all who need to hear the Gospel message. That includes Yazidis, Muslims and Traditional Christians who do not yet have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. There are MANY of those in Northern Iraq.

Teaching and Training

Handing out groceries to the persecuted Christians in Iraq.

Handing out groceries to the persecuted Christians in Iraq.

One of the main reasons I went to Iraq on this trip was to work with a group of  people who have a heart for the lost and have been strategically placed by God Himself in this area.The last time we went, I began teaching on Crisis Discipleship.  I touched on “cross-cultural” subjects. The concepts we shared were completely new to this group. They listened to a small portion of the teaching, which convinced them we should return and bring them more training.

Most of the workers in this group are Christians, three are from Muslim, and one from Yazidi backgrounds. As I shared, I saw God stretch them all into new areas of faith. They  realized the old way has been failing. Now they are open to new ways of thinking and new ways of working.  It is a real pleasure to work together and watch God open their eyes. We met together for four hours a night while we were there. The response was almost overwhelming. The brothers all asked us to come back every three months for more training. I was not only honored, but felt that the Lord had divinely opened this door and the good seed was being broadcast onto good ground. I fully expect this to bring forth a harvest, and for the Kingdom to be manifest in Northern Iraq.

How You Can Help

Please also keep our team there in your prayers as different groups have been working in a way that is unwise.  Now, the security police have questioned “A” regarding some literature that has appeared in unsolicited ways and is causing a bad situation for the workers on the ground.

It is obvious to us that the Lord has called us to work in Iraq for such a time as this, but we can’t do it alone. We feel the fervent prayers from those of you who have prayed.  You have also given generously to help us provide for the people of Iraq. Please continue to do so, that the work we have been called to can continue!

Thank you for all your love, prayers and support!  Together we ARE making a difference!  Because He Lives!  T. D. *

     United Nations Investigators Accuse ISIS of Genocide Over Attacks on Yazidis            (Excerpts from @The New York Times 3-15-2015)

Liaison - Yazidi Camp 2 June 2015

The tent cities, full to overflowing, seem more like prison camps rather than temporary shelter for displaced people.

The investigators reported that the pattern of attacks against the Yazidis, a religious minority living mostly in northern Iraq, pointed to the intention of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, “to destroy the Yazidi as a group.” In their advance across Iraq last year, Islamic State fighters rounded up hundreds of Yazidi men over the age of 14, led them to nearby ditches and summarily executed them”, the United Nations said. The report included the testimony of men who had survived massacres by shielding themselves behind the bodies of other victims. It was quite clear the attacks against them were not just spontaneous or happened out of the blue; “they were clearly orchestrated,” said Suki Nagra, who led a team of investigators that compiled the report.

Yazidi women and girls were abducted and sold or given into sexual slavery as spoils of war, said witnesses who also cited the rape by extremist fighters of two girls, ages six and nine. A pregnant married woman, 19, told investigators that she was raped repeatedly over two and a half months by an Islamic State militant claiming to be a doctor, and that he had deliberately sat on her stomach, telling her, “This baby should die because it is an infidel.”

Yazidi boys as young as 8 were forced to convert to Islam, to undergo training in the use of weapons and to watch videos of beheadings, children who escaped captivity told the United Nations team. “There are reports of hundreds, if not thousands, of these young boys who were forcibly taken,” Ms. Nagra said.

Evidence provided by witnesses also suggested that “a huge number of foreign fighters were involved” and that they had come from at least 10 countries, including from the West, Ms. Nagra said.