By Peter Wooding, European Bureau Chief for ASSIST News Service
BARTELLA, IRAQ (ANS – December 22, 2017) — As thousands of refugees are returning to war-torn Iraq, they are finding their homes devastated by ISIS. When they walk through the doors of where they once lived, their floors are strewn with broken glass and family photos, walls are burned black and full of holes with dust everywhere. Then, in the middle of an ash heap are the charred remains of their Bibles.
With nowhere to go, many are living in burned out houses. They might have a mattress in one room, and that’s all they have to live.
One refugee said: “The first shock came when we ran away from ISIS. But the biggest shock was when I came back home and found it like this. It was the worst thing I have ever seen.”
But in the midst of the chaos and despair, Leading The Way is helping to rebuild lives both physically and spiritually in these areas torn apart by ISIS.
Through the ministry’s Help The Persecuted, field teams positioned inside Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and other key areas, they are planting churches, hosting spiritual retreats, and providing vital practical aid.
Leading The Way’s Founder and President, Dr Michael Youssef, explains what people are encountering as they return to the city of Bartella, Iraq, which was under the grip of ISIS:
“After a lengthy occupation, liberation has finally arrived with the defeat of ISIS in the region. Life is slowly coming back to the city, but as refugees make the journey home, they are returning to rubble. ISIS knew very well how to steal, kill, and destroy — and they have left most of the city uninhabitable.”
However, one of the ministry’s field team members explains how they have now been able to plant a church in this city: “After an Iraqi refugee named Wahid* received practical help from us, he made his home available to be used as a church. During the first service, despite having no electricity and intense temperatures, 160 people came. When prayer was offered for anyone in distress, the entire congregation stood up in response.
“When we put our hands on them for prayers, I felt the pain of the suffering they had been through.
“This is just one of two houses in two cities that have been given by Help The Persecuted recipients. These homes will be used as churches in cities where all the churches have been destroyed, allowing the Gospel to go forth. These are house churches. It’s like the book of Acts again. We are living it again.”
Leading The Way is helping many more people like Wahid both spiritually and practically as they seek to start their lives over again.
Dr Youssef concluded: “What ISIS meant for evil, God has used for good. Many of these refugees came to faith through our broadcasts and field teams during the crisis. Others received practical support through the ministry of Help The Persecuted. Now, they desperately need the encouragement, hope, and restoration that is found only in the Gospel.”
To find out more on this story watch this video: Beauty For Ashes: Behind the Scenes In Iraq.
For more on Leading The Way, please to go: http://www.ltw.org/.
*Name changed for security reasons.
About Leading The Way:
Now celebrating 30 years of ministry, Leading The Way’s television and radio programs are broadcast in 25 languages to audiences across six continents. Leading The Way also produces DVDs, CDs, books, a monthly devotional magazine, and daily e-devotionals to spread the light of Christ. This Atlanta-based ministry utilizes field teams to evangelize seekers, disciple new believers, and help the persecuted in places where it is dangerous to follow Christ. Dr Youssef’s unique perspective has given him a platform to speak boldly into today’s issues and provide Biblical solutions to the challenges Christians are facing today.
About Dr Michael Youssef:
Michael Youssef, PhD, is the Founder and President of Leading The Way with Dr. Michael Youssef. Dr Youssef was born in Egypt and lived in Lebanon and Australia before moving to the United States. In 1984, he fulfilled his childhood dream of becoming an American citizen. He holds degrees from Moore College in Sydney, Australia, and from Fuller Theological Seminary in California. In 1984, he earned a PhD in social anthropology from Emory University. He has authored more than 30 books, including popular titles like The Leadership Style of Jesus and The Barbarians Are Here. He and his wife reside in Atlanta and have four grown children and ten grandchildren.
Editor’s Note: For media enquiries in the UK/Europe contact Peter Wooding by phone: +44 (0) 7500 903067 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For media enquiries in the USA contact Mike Tilley by phone at + 1 404-809-4094 or by email: email@example.com
Photo captions: 1) A member of the Leading The Way’s field ministry team prays for Iraqi refugees in the home of Wahid, an Iraqi refugee who has given his home to be used as a church. 2) An Iraqi refugee surveys the damage after returning to his home in Iraq. 3) Leading The Way’s field ministry teams pass out Arabic Bibles at a retreat for Iraqi youth. 4) An Iraqi man stands inside a burnt out Orthodox church. He was one of the first to come back to his city after ISIS left, and he is encouraging others to do the same. 5) Michael Youssef preaching. 6) Peter Wooding filming his father, Dan Wooding, during an interview with Dr. Youssef.
About the writer: Peter Wooding, the younger son of Dan and Norma Wooding, is an award-winning radio, TV, and print journalist and media. Having previously spent 10 years as news editor with UCB Radio in the UK, he has travelled extensively reporting from countries including Greece, Russia, Serbia, South Sudan, the Philippines, Uganda, South Korea, Zambia, Gambia, Mozambique, Croatia, Israel and India, and he reports regularly for ASSIST News Service, Samaritan’s Purse, and Leading The Way. Peter is also the London Bureau Chief for the Global News Alliance, and he, and his wife, Sharon, live in North Wales, UK, with their three daughters, Sarah, Anna and Abigail. To contact Peter, please e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: +44 7500 903067.
** You may republish this or any of our ANS stories with attribution to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net). Also, please tell your friends that they can have a complimentary subscription to ANS by going to the above website and signing up there.