By Mark Ellis
As battles continued in Syria and Iraq between flesh and blood, Christian workers watched in awe as the gospel advanced “nearly unopposed” on the spiritual front lines of the same region.
Christian workers in northern Iraq could barely keep up with people’s desire to learn more about Jesus and the Bible, according to a report by Christian Aid Mission. Residents in northern Iraq’s largely Muslim, autonomous region of Kurdistan have been more open to Christianity than other Iraqis and have shown heightened interest in response to the advance of ISIS.
“They’re just sick of Islam,” one ministry director told Christian Aid Mission. “People are very hungry to know about Christ, especially when they hear about miracles, healing, mercy and love.”
The ministry leader said that administrators at a sharia (Islamic law) college recently made contact with him after they learned he was giving away Bibles. They requested 21 Bibles for a comparative religion class so they could equip Muslims with ammunition to defeat the Bible and proselytize Christians.
“In a couple months, after they took that class going through the Bible, five of the students got saved,” the ministry leader said. “They called me and said, ‘Hey, we’re done with Islam.'”
The Muslim teacher reported the conversions to authorities, who demanded the ministry director come in for questioning. A policeman asked him if he had tried to convert the students, and he replied that he had never even met the students.
When the officer asked him why he gave them Bibles, he said the instructor had requested them. The officer confirmed this with the teacher and asked the students why they converted to Christianity.
One student said, “The Bible is strong, powerful; it changed our lives.”
Then the policeman said, “Okay, then go, there is no case here; I can’t do anything.”
As they were walking away the policeman turned to the ministry leader and asked, “Is it true that the Bible has the power to change lives?”
“Yes, of course. It’s been changing lives everywhere,” the man replied.
“Can I have a copy?” the policeman asked quietly.
The ministry leader gladly complied with his request.
In numerous testimonies heard from Kurds every day, the ministry leader cited an “awakening” among Muslims in northern Iraq, according to the report by Christian Aid Mission.
No one refused a Bible or passed up an opportunity to hear the gospel, he said, even if not everyone came to faith overnight. He recounted the story of a Muslim who received aid – and a new Bible.
“OK, but I’m Muslim, I can’t become Christian – I have a big family, and my father is a very extremist radical,'” the man said.
“I didn’t ask you to be Christian,” the ministry leader replied. “I’m not trying to change your religion here. I just want you to read the Bible and know who Jesus Christ is. I want you to have a relationship with God.'”
The Kurdish Muslim thought this reasonable, and he began reading the Bible with his wife and children. There were often power outages in the area, so when the ministry director visited him, often they found him reading God’s Word by candlelight.
The Muslim man presented the ministry leader with a list of questions from his study of the Bible. One day he asked the ministry leader for his perspective on Muhammad.
The surprised director, who normally does not talk about Islam, gave him a summary description of Muhammad but did not include anything offensive.
“Why do you ask me that question?” the ministry leader asked.
“You know what? I don’t like Muhammad anymore,” the man said.
Surprised by this turn, he asked the man, “What now?”
“I want to be a Christian,”
“I thought you said you didn’t want to be Christian before.”
“Oh, I changed my mind.”
As a result of the power of God’s Word and the Spirit of God opening the heart, the Muslim man prayed to receive Jesus as his Lord and Savior.
Kurdish Muslims are discovering a sharp contrast between Christianity and Islam – especially as practiced by the radical militants. “As terrifying and horrifying as ISIS is, they did us a great favor because they came and have shown them all the killing, saying that it’s all in the Koran verses,” the ministry leader reported to Christian Aid.
“So now we don’t have to say much, we just say the truth.”
The indigenous ministry leader said the gospel continues to be well received among displaced people, with 10 house churches meeting regularly in run-down apartments in Erbil, Dohuk and surrounding areas. From time to time the fellowships vanish as displaced people leave the country in search of a better life, but others spring up in their place, he told Christian Aid.
The ministry continues to provide aid to displaced people in tents and whatever dilapidated or unfinished buildings they can find for shelter, with needs for blankets, heaters, food and diapers still being high.
First ministry members show the love of Christ by meeting physical needs, and only later do they bring Bibles, he said.
“We just help because we love them, and maybe the next time we visit we tell them about Jesus and give them Bibles,” he said. “We believe in the power of the Word of God. We don’t have many preachers. We don’t have many missionaries, but we have the Word of God that we’re able to print, purchase and deliver to the people and their children.”
For more about Christian Aid’s work in northern Iraq, go here