Rev. Bob Armstrong ministers firsthand to those in desperate need in the embattled city of Mosul and surrounding areas
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
MOSUL, IRAQ (ANS – January 2, 2016) — Late December, 2016 saw many changes in the Middle East, especially concerning the tentacles of ISIS.
The strangle-hold on the second largest town in Iraq, Mosul, which ISIS has controlled since early summer, 2014, began to loosen when one-third of the town of 1.5 million was no longer under the control of ISIS.
The Rev. Bob Armstrong, founder of Love-Link Ministries (http://www.lovelinkministries.com) from Bradenton, Florida (and “Operation Freed from ISIS”), was recently invited by Kurdish leadership in Northern Iraq, to see firsthand what was going on there, and to minister firsthand to those in need in this embattled city.
However, due to continued skirmishes and the planting of explosive devices by retreating ISIS fighters, the government did not want to be “responsible” for an American; and complete access was denied.
“But,” said Armstrong, “I had the opportunity of going to the outskirts of the city and minister to warriors, refugees, homeless, colonels, even pray for Iraqi soldiers enroute to battle in Mosul, less than 7 miles away. I even came within 20 feet of five IS prisoners of war!
“But first I stopped by the Armenian Christian village of Havresc (near the Syrian border) to visit school children where Love-Link helped to provide a school van so they could go to school in Duhok, Kurdistan [Northern Iraq].
“I was with my close warrior friend and the mayor, who for safety reasons, I cannot name. Tears came to his eyes as I was privileged to unveil for the very first time in that town the movie about the town called Havresc!”
Armstrong said that Love-Link continues to reach out to survivors of ISIS by distributing food and diapers to those in needy who are “living” in tents. He added that for security concerns, he cannot mention names or show faces, but Love-Link continues to rescue girls and families physically from IS and assists in their rehabilitation!
“One of the highlights of this dangerous trip was spending a few hours with the top leadership of Samaritan’s Purse outside Dohuk at the Kanke Refugee camp which houses 16,000,” he said. “We explored and discussed ways to work together mutually on special outreaches in the future.
“I spent three days with a devoted Kurdistan pastor in Dohuk, preaching in his church and ministering and praying alongside of Pastor K. We visited in the homes of needy refugee families and gave out money and food. Most of these fled from Mosul earlier this year.”
On a humorous note, Bob Armstrong said that he stayed one night in a “hell-hotel” and added, “That’s okay, for when I first went on the mission field, I slept in a tent.”
He told me that the “hell-hotel” had no amenities — no electricity, no Internet, no heat in the freezing weather, and no toilet paper, “but you were expected to bring your own.”
He went on to say, “By the way, the importance was not in that order. I must confess, I ‘stole’ from poor refugees! Let me explain what I mean. When a guest arrives in their home, they are served a cup of hot tea. On the table is a box of facial tissues (for napkins). I must admit, I took 8 tissues for later use, just in case — if you know what I mean! I know that it was kind of selfish.”
Armstrong, who for over 30 years has been running Love-Link Ministries, and has traveled to and ministered in 47 countries, said that with “special permission,” he went to Qaraqosh, a former, thriving city with many well-to-do-people of 75,000, outside Mosul.
“Thanks to ISIS, it was now a true eerie ‘ghost town’ with bombings and burnings from them two years ago still evident,” he said. “I warmly embraced a Colonel of the Nineveh Protection Unit, who was my host. He described how thankful he was for evangelical Americans who supported these Assyrians (first Christians) during the war on ISIS.
“Small signs of life started to show as hundreds had begun to come to clean up. It is gratifying to know (because I saw the footage on a national US news channel upon my return to the States) that on Christmas Sunday, services were held in one church for the first time in over two years! Food and water was delivered to the town.
“Qaraqosh was recently liberated by Iraqi and Kurdish forces. I prayed for one large 35-armored vehicle Iraqi force that was moving out to fight ISIS in Mosul that very day! The V for victory sign was shared by all.
“But so much of the town remains in ruins. Even the burned-out churches had ISIS practice targets inside, not to mention the ISIS tunnels that were used by the enemy extensively. The devastation reminds me of French towns destroyed by the Nazis during World War II. The rubble and debris is sometimes several feet high. Most people will not return. But some clean-up has begun.
“It is hard to encourage those involved in this sordid process, especially with ISIS only miles away. Most tragic, was the gathering of several shoes and sandals inside a church which represented people, many church-goers, who were literally slaughtered by ISIS. They were buried without their shoes. It was the most solemn moment as one realized that every shoe had a different, horrible tragic ending, but it represented a life of dedication. That site shook me to my very core!”
Bob Armstrong said that in one of the burned-out churches in Qaraqosh, he picked up a burnt prayer book that somehow halfway survived the flames. “As I held that prayer book in my hand, I prayed for this nation that God would show me how to be the most effective with His resources to bring people to the Lord and to happiness and peace. The burnt smell will forever go with me,” he said.
“Now I’m back, I am already in contact with Samaritan’s Purse in Kurdistan to push forward ways of mutual co-operation for my next mission’s trip, depending upon the strategies and outreaches.”
A respite of Christmas happiness and joy
In spite of all of the horror in the area, Bob Armstrong again joined with William Murray, the founder of the Religious Freedom Coalition, the umbrella group of Christmas for Refugees and Diapers for Refugees, and son of the notorious atheist, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, for a special Christian event in Kurdistan.
“I’ve been on his Board for over 30 years and have worked with Bill on numerous projects,” said Armstrong. “I represented him in Lebanon for three days at events and was with him for several events with children and mothers in Kurdistan.”
“Overall, about 6,000 children and refugees were given food and gifts, hundreds of refugee mothers received especially designed ‘hygiene kits’ and over 160,000 diapers for refugee mothers were recently delivered. I saw firsthand what a difference Bill Murray is making. And all received the Bethlehem Christmas story of hope!”
Rev. Armstrong said that his original plan was to have a mini-summit of organization leaders to “figure out a game plan” on how to deal with almost 100,000 refugees from Mosul alone.
“I interviewed 12 organization leaders on their thoughts and plans. Things are noticeably different. For example, the governments of Erbil (Kurdistan capital) and Duhok, do not want any Arab refugees inside their cities. They understand that ISIS has infiltrated the Arab refugees and they do not want any trouble, so they are in United Nations camps way outside the cities.”
He added, “I wish our December 2016 USA government would have taken note of the same. Outreaches to these refugees are ongoing and might even be manageable with the help of Christians! Thank you for your prayers while I was in the war zone!
About Bob Armstrong: He has been an ordained minister for over three decades and has trained 50,000 pastors in 13 countries in leadership conferences. He is also a prolific writer of many articles and books over the past four decades. His latest two books are “Razor’s Edge: from Bin Laden’s Home to Divine Appointments” and “Beware: Earthquakes Prophesied” (Creation House) can be order on his ministry website: www.lovelinkministries.com.
Photo captions: 1) Survivors of ISIS receive aid. 2) Iraqi military forces embark on a battle with ISIS in Mosul. 3) Bob Armstrong on top of the roof of Samaritan’s Purse in Kurdistan overlooking the Kanke Camp which houses 16,000. 4) Bob embraced Colonel X of the Nineveh Protection Unit in Qaraqosh near Mosul. 5) Bob, examining a burnt prayer book inside ISIS destroyed church near Mosul. 5) Refugee children listen to the Bethlehem Christmas story in Erbil, Kurdistan with Christmas for Refugee program. 6) Dan Wooding reporting for ANS outside the Kurdistan Parliament in Erbil, Northern Iraq.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 76, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria, West Africa, of British missionary parents, Alfred and Anne Wooding, who then worked with the Sudan Interior Mission, now known as SIM. He now lives in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for some 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder/president of the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and is also the author of some 45 books. He has a weekly radio show and two television programs all based in Southern California. He has traveled widely in the Middle East and his most recent trip was to Northern Iraq.
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