I have just returned from a very different kind of mission trip. This time, in addition to visiting our persecuted brothers and sisters in Gaza, we traveled down into northern Iraq. It was also one of the longest times I have been away from my family, when you include nearly two weeks ministering in Canada and Minnesota. I only saw them one day in more than a month.
Our visit to Gaza is always very special, since few Christians from the outside are able to get in. As always, we ministered to the church and encouraged the teachers at the Lighthouse School, as well as visiting many homes and helping meet material needs.
In Erbil, in northern Iraq, we visited a number of refugee families who had lost everything fleeing ISIS. More than 20,000 people had fled there in the past few months .
Our visit took an unexpected turn when we were told that we could visit the largest Christian town in Iraq. Qaraqosh had just been liberated from ISIS, and we had to go through several Kurdish Army and Iraqi Army checkpoints before we could enter. More than 120,000 Iraqi Christians and members of other minorities had been forced to flee the ISIS invasion in August 2014, and the town had been held by the terrorists until its recent liberation. Nearly everything had been destroyed.
While there, we entered the Church of the Immaculate Conception, the largest Christian church in the country, which ISIS had burned. Thanks to the combined armies, Christians were recently able to celebrate the first mass in two years.
Archbishop Yohanna Petros Mouche (C) of Mosul leads a mass at the Church of the Immaculate Conception on October 30, 2016 in the town of Qaraqosh, 30 kms east of Mosul, after Iraqi forces recaptured it from the Islamic State (photo by: Safin Hamed/AFP)
While there, we distributed MP3 New Testaments, blessed one of the evangelical churches in Erbil, and helped and encouraged local families.
Many of the one thousand Iraqi Christian refugee families that we minister to in Amman had come from Qaraqosh. When we got to Jordan, I stood before my congregation and told them I had just come from their home town, which had just been liberated. The room exploded with thanksgiving.
In Amman, we continue to minister to more than 1,000 Iraqi Christian Refugee families (4,000-5,000 individuals, including the children ). Half of our 12-member ministry team receives a stipend through CMG, enabling them to regularly visit and minister to these families and help them with their spiritual and material needs. As you know, refugees in Jordan are not allowed to work, so they desperately need food, heaters, blankets, medicine, and rent money.
While we were there, we also held a special event in which we invited fifty non-Christian refugee families to church, shared God’s love and our mission, and in this trip we saw some people who are not from Christian back ground , come to faith in Christ. Praise the Lord!
It is very difficult for me to try to describe the needs of the people we minister to. They are overwhelming, and the suffering is indescribable. I thank God that you and your family have not had to experience such terror and loss. And I thank you for your love and compassion for them. Your generosity blesses them & bless the ministry , and they are comforted in the knowledge that their Western brothers and sisters know of their suffering and are praying for them.
If you can share a special gift this Christmas, please send it to:
Christian Mission to Gaza
255 E. Santa Clara Street, Suite 100
Arcadia, CA 91006
Thank you & God bless you
P.S. I have lot more to share and will send another letter in the next couple of weeks.
Also, please read the attached note below from my good friend, Justin.
My wife Allison and I first met Pastor Hanna around 10 years ago in the Gaza Strip. He was the faithful pastor of the Gaza Baptist Church at the time and he gave me the honor of preaching at the church while we were there.
I have never forgotten that experience and especially the Christ-like love of Pastor Hanna and the other Christians that were a part of that church. As a result, we have kept a strong relationship ever since then, supporting his ministry in Amman and he has preached at our church in Frisco, TX a few times.
We had wanted to come visit Pastor Hanna in Amman for a few years now but over this past Thanksgiving, we were able to make it happen. We got to once again see firsthand what Hanna and his incredible ministry Christian Mission to Gaza was doing for the churches and the Syrian and Iraqi refugees there.
I have been hearing about the persecution of Christians by ISIS but it is a whole other thing to actually meet with, pray with, and hear the stories of those who have literally endure scars for Christ and lost everything because of His Name. Hanna’s ministry was able to give a weeks’ worth of food to all the refugee families we visited along with a heater for many who did not have one. We also were a part of the worship services that are held weekly for the refugees and it was very evident that the Spirit was filling that church. Most of the Syrian refugees are Muslim but Hanna and the others involved show the love of Christ to them in the same way they do to the Iraqi Christian refugees.
What Hanna is doing in Gaza and in Amman for the “least of these” (Matt 25:40) will move anyone involved to tears. We got to see firsthand Christ at work through the hands of Hanna and the many wonderful pastors of these churches in Amman. This is such a needed and incredible ministry to support in the Middle East.
Allison and I are so thankful we could be a part of another mission with Pastor Hanna and look forward to the next time. It will be soon!
Justin W. Bass, PhD
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