Iraq (MNN) — After nearly a year of violence between government troops and the Islamic State, the battle for Mosul is coming to a close.
But that’s only part of the story. As people return to the city, they’re coming back to destroyed homes, businesses and schools, along with power and water shortages.
“One of the families that we’ve heard from, their whole house was destroyed, gutted, because ISIS had broken in and stolen everything that they had left, and then it was burned, and then anything that was left remaining was destroyed after a bomb had hit the water tank, and so everything was destroyed,” Open Doors USA‘s Emily Fuentes says. “There was barely any structure left of the building. There was nothing. So they returned home to be homeless.”
So why come home at all? Fuentes says there are numerous reasons. Many of those who have been displaced long to return to anything familiar. For others displaced outside the country, starting a new life brings numerous complexities.
“Many were displaced in the Kurdistan region, which up there, it’s a different language, it’s a different currency, different permits for work, different schooling permits,” Fuentes says. “And so that’s a life of almost rebuilding there, too, and not being permitted to work, and working through all these new applications there as well.”
Still others seek to be the light of Christ in Mosul and refuse to give ISIS the satisfaction of having wiped out Christianity. Fuentes tells of one pastor who chose to continue his ministry amidst the violence.
“He was talking about the significance of the church bells ringing again, and having people to come and people to minister to and people to reach out to the community for, and remaining that beacon of hope,” Fuentes says. “So I think it’s an encouraging time for pastors like him and others who did choose to remain to see that it’s coming to fruition of people coming back home, that Christianity was not destroyed.”
Pastors are seeing fruit all over the Middle East. Fuentes shares the story of a pastor in Syria who witnessed an extremist come to Christ.
“One of the pastors who chose to stay there talked about how he was hosting a church event, feeding the community who was remaining in this city, and they would feed the community and have a sermon where they shared the Gospel message,” Fuentes says. “And as he’s preparing to do it, he and the other pastor saw a Muslim extremist man with a beard without a mustache, which is an indication of a more fundamental, extremist Muslim, so they were concerned.
“They prayed about it, but invited the man in and just kept an eye on him, fed him, and he heard the sermon and he gave his life to Christ.”
The Middle East is still in a desperate time, but it’s clear God is moving. Fuentes asks that you pray for strength for these people as they work to rebuild their lives and share Christ’s love.
Open Doors works with partners in Mosul to assist families and churches by rebuilding homes and providing physical resources, as well as career skills training. You can support their work financially here.