April 6, 2016
Country Strategy Director
DK is a sinner enthralled that God would use a guy like him. He serves exclusively in hostile areas and war zones to establish healthy, reproducing churches in unreached communities. He is also an avid photojournalist, shedding light on the truth of what God is doing around the world.
The caliber of our assistance to the persecuted Church will never match that of the torture they face if we don’t understand it. I’ve been doing undercover church planting since the height of the Islamic State’s regime in the East. It’s been years of work. But it wasn’t until a recent trip in February when I finally broke.
When I began pursuing a missional life (or just obeying God, for that matter), I was taught not to cry in front of the nationals we serve alongside, regardless of whether they are believers or not. They warned us that it relays a message that they are somehow doing things wrong – that they lack something. Therefore, keeping our emotions in check is crucial.
But that day, I cried. My heart burst and filtered out through my eyes.
Years of sitting in small, cold, smoky rooms with weathered and crumbling walls. All those times listening to stories of complete horror, watching the tears of terror wearily falling from their eyes finally did me in. I just couldn’t hold it back any longer.
I was sitting in front of an aged, elegant widow whose husband had fallen to the Islamic State. The sight of her immediately caught my attention, placing me in a state of complete and total depression. Our eyes locked. It was as if I were thrown into a prison cell with her. She wept and grieved, her eyes bloodshot from the deep and painful stress of reliving the events that took place in front of her. I could literally feel her emotional pain. While I could never understand the depths of it all, I seemed to absorb some of her and her family’s misery.
She was once young and lively, pursuing the same things every other teenager girl wanted – going through high school with pretty hair, a young boy’s hand locked in her own, friends texting her, and a legacy still to be experienced. She could have never begun to imagine what would eventually happen to her family, her home, or her country.
On June 4, 2014, ISIS began a six-day offensive against the city of Mosul in northern Iraq, just months after capturing the nearby cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. When the army conceded defeat on June 10, it was decisive blow to those trying to stop the regime’s rise. ISIS immediately used the city as a springboard to attack nearby cities and strengthen their presence in the region. When ISIS fighters moved in, they immediately took control of oil refineries, set fire to government buildings, and freed thousands of prison inmates, many of whom were serving time for terrorism charges.
But the horror didn’t stop there. The captured men were forced to fight for the regime or face execution while the women were sold into sexual slavery. Families were ripped apart. Children were separated from parents and husbands from wives. It was a memory this woman remembered too well. She was shared between two men who would simultaneously rape her multiple times a day.
“We knew that we had nothing to lose, because it was already taken away by the hands of the terrorists,” she remembers.
In desperation to escape her captors, she jumped from a window several stories high, becoming the first slave to escape from the city. She pulled out her phone to show us a photo of two brainwashed young boys, ages 7 and 12, holding rifles bigger than their them while sporting ISIS uniforms.
“These… are my brothers,” she remarked. “They are still there.”
For so many men, women, and children like her, there is little hope for the future. The devastation is simply overwhelming. Her home remains the capital and center of operations for ISIS and their threat continues to mount.
“I don’t know what to think anymore,” she says through tears. “Our lives are currently over as we know it. There is no chance of college or a future for us now. Everything has been destroyed.”
These are the people God has called me and so many others to reach. They’re homeless, even stateless. Their lives have been torn apart by violence. Those who follow Islam find themselves disenchanted by the atrocities they’ve experienced under the banner of their religion. Meanwhile, Christians, constantly under threat, are ceaselessly advancing the Gospel in their villages, towns, and cities. Though the task is difficult to comprehend, it’s my honor to stand with them. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ, our spiritual family. We owe them our prayers and support.
Will you join me?
Learn more about our work in the Middle East at www.e3partners.org/middleeast.