by Joe Culumber, Assistant Director, Impact Middle East
… Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:4, NIV).
In the summer of 2014, ISIS entered the Iraqi city of Mosul under the pretense of being liberators. Soon, a wave of Christian persecution was unleashed. When a Christian family applied for their government food stipend, they were refused because of their faith. Christian women were prohibited from shopping in public, unless accompanied by their husbands. A new law declared the money and property of Christians in Mosul would become property of ISIS.
When Abu Steve,* a Christ-follower in Mosul, started to take his car out of the garage, his neighbor warned him that ISIS would confiscate his car at the edge of the city. The neighbor told Abu Steve to leave it and he would protect both the car and the home. Abu Steve, his wife and children took their luggage and traveled 50 miles by taxi to the city of Erbil, the center of Free Methodist work in Iraq.
After a few days, Abu Steve received a phone call from his neighbor informing him that ISIS soldiers had painted the letter nuun on the wall of his house, announcing it was now the property of ISIS. The Arabic letter nuun, or N in English, stands for “Nazarene,” the name ISIS uses for Christians.
“The news was very hard on us,” said Abu Steve. “We lost everything.” Shortly Abu Steve and his family obtained visas to Amman, Jordan. What had happened in Mosul was very difficult to bear, but Abu Steve affirmed, “Our Lord can comfort us.”
In Mosul, Abu Steve had served with an evangelical church, extending ministries of mercy to poor families and sharing the good news of Jesus with them. In Amman, Abu Steve met Pastor Haythem, who directs FM ministry there to both Syrian and Iraqi refugees. He told Pastor Haythem he would like to be part of the ministry to refugees.
Today, Abu Steve is part of the FM team in Jordan and testifies that God is using him in a wonderful way. Once mistreated by Daesh/Sunni Muslims, he now spends his days caring for Sunni Muslims who have fled Syria. Abu Steve declares, “I, who was in need of comfort, God is now using to comfort others. I feel that my soul is at peace, and I believe that our God is the God of all comfort.”
*In Middle Eastern culture, men are often identified by their eldest son, with the title “Abu,” meaning “father of.”