Jesus in Mosul: “The Good Samaritan Story”
(Part 2 of 3)15 December 2016
Mosul, Northern Iraq Dear friends,Before we were invited to help bring food for people in Mosul, when we were still working with the Kurds, we were told, “You Free Burma Rangers may be able to work in Kurdistan and pray with people there, but in Mosul it’s completely different. There is no place for Jesus stuff in Mosul because God is not there. It is a violent, extremist place. It is not your place.” We believe He led us to Mosul and our prayer is to be His ambassadors. In spite of our own weaknesses and sins we saw Jesus there and saw the hunger of people for Him. Here are some short stories from that experience. This one is the first in a three part series.
“The Good Samaritan Story”
Karen and the kids joined us partway through our Mosul mission. The first day that we were there we did a Good Life Club program for local children in a abandoned school that resided in a recently liberated neighborhood of southeast Mosul. Iraqi soldiers provided security for our program and helped us by inviting families of the neighborhood to join in the program. Karen, Hosannah, Sahale, Suuzanne, Peter, Joseph and Zau Sang (from Burma), Riley, Sky, Wes, Dave D, Dulo (our Kurdish translator), with Shaheen and Ezadeen (our two Yazidi translators along), with some Iraqi soldiers who wanted to help formed our team. The team taught English songs, gave bracelets symbolizing God’s love, gave Good Life club T-shirts, and lastly, performed a play about the Good Samaritan.
They acted out Jesus’ story about a Jew who was robbed and left for dead, ignored by his own people but then rescued by a Samaritan, a then-outcast of the Jewish people. This story is about love, risk, and forgiveness that crosses religious and ethnic lines. During the play ISIS attacked with mortars and RPG’s, and then began an assault on our building with rifles and machine guns. The Iraqi Army asked us to finish the program quickly as booms reverberated through the building and machine gun fire went back and forth. We ended the program with a prayer and handed out all our shirts. As a man was leaving with his children he thanked me profusely saying, “That was the most wonderful play because it describes our people. We should be like that Samaritan.”
Then under the cover of Iraqi Army fire we escorted the kids out of the school to a street, making sure that they were out of the direct line of bullets so that they could get home. By now ISIS was getting closer and the soldiers were asking us to leave as they let they could no longer hold the school. We thanked them, but as we did one soldier turned and said, “Thank you. We love helping the children.” We drove out under fire back to a stronger Iraqi position a mile away and began to prepare for the next food distribution.
Background and Context:
The Iraqi Army now has a foothold in Eastern and Southeastern Mosul. The city itself comprises of over one million people, and stretches from the plains of Nineveh to the Tigris River and the low hills of the west. The eastern side of the city is relatively modern but densely packed with two to three story concrete buildings. Across the Tigris to the west is the old city where even more densely packed buildings of concrete and mud wind in a twisting labyrinth of streets and alleys. This is the first major city that ISIS took during their conquest of parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014. The people of Mosul are predominantly Sunni and many support ISIS due to injustices they felt from the post-2003 Shia-rule in Iraq.
One day, in a corner of Southeast Mosul, our team including our ethnic medics and cameramen from Burma, as well as two Yazidis and a Kurd, were taking in baby formula, food and medicine for distribution in areas recently liberated from ISIS. Even though ISIS has been pushed out of these neighborhoods they still hold most of the city and are often only one building or one block away from the Iraqi forces. As we began to hand out the food, ISIS attacked us with rifles, machine-guns and mortars. The Iraqi Army held them off and as bullets flew over our heads and smacked into walls. We continued to pray with the locals give out food. Families would dash from their houses, get the food and medical care, and then run back inside. Many have decided to stay in this war zone because they are afraid of what will happen to them if they flee to a refugee camp. They are also afraid they will lose their homes and possessions if they choose to depart.
The Iraqi Army now is pushing ISIS back block-by-block in bloody street battles. To do this they have employed the use of tanks, armored cars, Humvees and coalition air support. But the the Iraqi Army’s strongest weapon in this fight are the brave men who risk their lives daily to fight for the liberation of Mosul and its population. This is not just a sacrifice for Iraq, but for the whole world.
During ISIS attacks Iraqi soldiers have shielded civilians and exposed themselves to direct firek. ISIS launches their assaults from a network of tunnels, rat holes, suicide vehicles and IED’s. They continue to attack night and day with heavily armored vehicles full of explosives, which they detonate into Iraqi positions and into civilian-concentrated areas. ISIS soldiers attacks on foot through doors, windows and alleyways, pouring down fire on the Iraqi soldiers. They do not spare those distributing food, and they especially do not make a distinction for the civilians who receive it. In seven of the ten distributions we have done so far, we came under direct attack from ISIS. Despite this, people continue to come to our food distributions because they need to eat and there was no other way of getting it.
The Iraqi soldiers have done a courageous job of holding back attacking forces and taking care of civilians. This has been wonderful to watch as many of the Iraqi Army soldiers are Shia, and most of the population is Sunni.
All of those we met were grateful for our food and help. However we do know that some of them still support ISIS and that many of them are wary to trust us. On some occasions after receiving their rations, the small group of civilians who support ISIS would call them from their phones so ISIS would know where we were and attack us. One time two men placed a land mine on the road we used in order to kill us on our way out after a distribution. The Iraqi Army caught them in the act and stopped the attack. We knew this going in, but we prayed and felt this was the door God wanted us to go through in order to share his love in their time of need and to develop new relationships.
Thank you for praying for us. We don’t know what will happen to the people in these stories, or anyone else we meet on our missions, but we want to stand with them, hold them in our hearts and love them. There are two more stories coming. Thank you for sending us to Kurdistan and Iraq. We believe the word of God does not return empty.
God bless you,
Dave, family and the Free Burma/Kurd/Nuba/Iraqi Rangers
Free The Oppressed