Are you a Bible lover? Do you dive into the Word each morning to get inspiration for the day? Or are you more the type that likes to discuss the verses during Bible study evenings with fellow church members?
You are not the only one. For persecuted Christians the Bible is a treasure they hold onto in their darkest hours.
But not everyone can just order a Bible or the latest Bible study book on Amazon.
In Iraq, a country haunted by persecution and other violence, there are many Bible lovers just like you. Over there, getting your hand on a new Bible or Christian book is more difficult then adding one to your digital basket. With your help we can satisfy the thirst for the Word and other Christian study books. Your support doesn’t only bring them books, but also helps train leaders for specific target groups such as youth, women and children and provides for lectures on specific topics.
How do we do that? Join us on a Bible distribution trip: meet believers far away and see how they use your gift to share the Word with others.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
It’s 6:00 AM when distributor Ramy* loads his van with books. Early mornings: they are unavoidable when you are a Bible distributor. But Ramy isn’t affected by bad moods in the morning – not when he is about to deliver the best book he ever read to his brothers and sisters. “Let’s pray before we go,” he says while folding his hands.
With the Coronavirus pandemic, Ramy’s work has become more difficult: the borders between different regions are closed and special permissions are needed to pass. But, apart from the many negative sides of the virus, there is also a positive one: people have started studying the Bible at home more. An extra reason for Ramy to push the pedal.
Today the delivery is going to a village in the Nineveh Plain where Poulos, a church leader is waiting with some strong men to carry the heavy boxes full of books into the church. The Bibles and other Christian books are stored in the church and will be distributed by the priest. Next to Bibles, Christian study books are given to groups of church members that study a particular subject in church. Children are given Children’s Bibles. Sometimes Poulos gives a family a Bible when he visits them.
“A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”(John 13:34)
This delivery contains Bibles and new testaments.
Inside the church we meet 21-year-old Sedar. Her eyes sparkle when she talks about God, His church and His book: “The Bible is the most important book in the world, it is the book that teaches us most: it is fundamental for every human being.”
In a time in which the rebuilding of the church community after the displacement by the Islamic extremists of IS is central, Sedar says the Bible is unmissable: “We need to rebuild our lives with a strong base. The Bible is such a base: it’s the book that takes us to our eternal life and gives us happiness.”
Sedar is very active in the church and volunteers in diffrent discipleship groups. Also with her friends she prays and reads. “I would like to tell people to come to Jesus with all their difficulties and struggles. It’s good to pray together when we feel weak. And we shouldn’t forget about our Bible: reading the Bible gives inner peace.”
Sedar’s friend Hanen (26) is also a lover of the Bible and a volunteer in the church discipleship groups: “You can come to the Bible whenever you want,” she says.
A Bible story that particularly inspired her is Matthew 5 where Jesus talks about Christians needing to be the salt of the earth. She was the only Christian in her university class and tried to show the love of Jesus through her acts. When students were giving each other descriptive names at the end of the year, Hanen was given the name ‘salt of the class’: “I remembered what Jesus said about salt in the Bible and was happy that my classmates gave me that name.”
“By your patient endurance you will gain your souls.” (Luke 21:19)
Sedar (1st photo) and Hanen (2nd photo) love to participate in their church’s Bible Study activities.
We go from the young generation of Bible lovers to the old: we visit75-year-old Jalila in her house. Her eyes don’t work as good as they used to anymore, but this doesn’t withold her from reading the Bible: she just uses a magnifying glass to read the small letters.
“The Bible is the food of the soul. It is the most important thing in my life.”
Jalila might receive Christian Bible study books through church, but there is no need for a new Bible today: The Bible she is holding was one of the few things she took from her house when Islamic extremists of IS were approaching her town in 2014 and she had to flee: “I stood in front of the bookshelve, not knowing if I would ever return. I took my Bible with me and asked the Lord to protect the rest of my home as we left”.
Jalila never regretted only taking her Bible – the book was the one object guiding her through the displacement in her ‘refugee camp’, which was a church hall shared with several families. Jalila wasn’t only reading the Bible herself, she was also gathering others to study a verse from the Word together each day. Because of your support, our local partners were able to provide Bibles for those in Jalila’s group.
After the town of Jalila was liberated from the Islamic extremists of IS, Jalila returned home. She now reads the Bible daily with her grandchildren. She is happy that she doesn’t stand alone in her efforts: with your support her grandchildren have received a children’s Bible and other books that help them understand their faith. Aram takes after his grandma in sharing: “I share the stories I read with my friends in school,” he says.
“You will be hated by everyone because of My name, but the one who perseveres to the end will be saved.” (Mark 13:13)
Jalila and her grandchildren enjoy exploring the Bible together.
Further down the road we meet 65-year-old Sabah. His book case has a prominent place in the living room. He’s collected quite a few books over the years, but one remains his favorite: the Bible.
“The Bible is my best friend,” he says.
Spending 10 years in an Iranian prison as a prisoner of war, he experienced the power of that ‘best friend’ intensely: ” I used to read Bible verses out loud and discuss them with my fellow Christian inmates. My friend Mohammed didn’t participate, but he listened in on our conversations from a distance. He became a Christian. But he wasn’t accepted by his community and when he went home he was killed for his faith.”
Today Sabah shares the Word of Jesus with children in the church. With your support he can give the children books. During the lockdown he had to resort to zoom meetings for a while, but now the face to face meetings are cautiously starting again. “My vision is to create unity between denominations and raise children to read the Bible so they become fighters of faith.”
Sabah planted the Bible loving seed in his son Miron (25) from a very young age. Now Miron is a Bible lover and teacher himself. Father and son love to talk about the Bible together.
“The Bible is the spirit of the body,” says Miron. “Without your Bible your body lives without being alive.”
Miron began his ministry of teaching the Bible at what might have been the lowest point in his life: he had just fled IS and lost his house in Mosul. Shortly after that his mother died of cancer. “I learned how to walk as a Christian in the middle of the sea,” he explains. “Through all these difficulties I learned how to reflect the picture of Jesus.”
“Call upon me on the day of trouble, I will deliver you and you will honor me.” (Psalm 50:15)
Sabah (left) and Miron (right) love to discuss the Bible together.
The last visit of the day we bring a delivery to school teacher Bashar (35).
‘The Bible is the food for my soul’
What drew him to the Bible was, strange as it might seem, persecution. “We were the only Christian family in our neighborhood in the city,” he tells us. “Extremists told us they were going to ‘clean the ground’ of Christians. They hated us. It made me depressed and scared. I thaught I was useless.”
“But one day I had a vision from the Lord; I saw Jesus being baptized in the Jordan, and I saw myself next to Him. A dove landed on my shoulder and said ‘stay strong, I will never leave you’.”
The day Bashar started reading the Bible was the day God changed his life. “I started to love myseld and the people around me. I am here to testify what Jesus has done in my life.”
Local school teacher, Bashar (35)
The day is coming to an end, the van is empty. Inside the church people come together to study the Word of God.
We leave the village in the Nineveh Plain with the words of Jalila resounding in our minds: “Through the Bible, I listen to His voice. I know the hand of my savior is with me.”
Ramy closes the back of his van and starts his engine: Tomorrow new Bible lovers await.
*Pseudonyms used to help protect identity.
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