Grace in Shame, Hope in Destruction

“Tomorrow, it will be clear to you – like a bright light!  You will know it is true!”  Surprised by my boldness, the words seemed to float from my mouth and take on a life of their own.  

Rachel’s dark eyes filled with desperate longing. “I hope so.”  

“It will happen, you’ll see.”

As if to remind herself of her past, Rachel adjusted the woolen cap that covered her shaved head.  Self-inflicted, it continued to protest the shame that her Kurdish family was experiencing.  Months before, Muslim extremists had destroyed everything in their town of Grace in a failed attempt to control it.

For security reasons, I refer to the two towns in this story as “Grace” and “Hope.”  

Rachel and her family are Kurdish refugees staying in Grace where our team was doing ministry.  Since she and her three sisters speak English, they had been translating for all the teams who had been coming there.

I was working alongside my friend David, partly Kurdish, who had come to this area from his home in Europe bringing physical relief as well as the good news of Jesus.  With him was his daughter, who reached out to Rachel and her sisters with unconditional love and friendship.  For centuries the Kurdish people have been highly resistant to Christians.  But the people and local governments of the towns of Hope and Grace welcomed David and his bold witness for Christ with open arms.  

The mayor of Hope had recently asked David to oversee one of seven refugee camps in the town of Grace.  All other relief organizations were to report to David.  Through his connections with churches in Europe and the United States, David brought food, clothing, medical teams and supplies for almost seven thousand refugees.  Teams put up two large tents and built bathrooms, showers, a kitchen and even a playground for children.  None of the other camps had these.

The Mayor’s words demonstrate the new openness for the Gospel.  “One hundred years ago there were four churches in our village but the Muslims destroyed them all.  We’ve been in misery ever since.  Look at this river, for example!  It has been completely dry for years.”  At the time of this writing, the people are returning and rebuilding Hope. David has been given permission to buy land for a church and a Christian school.  The leaders of Hope want their children to learn Christian values.  

David invited me here to train the few Christian Kurdish leaders to teach the people who were coming to faith in Christ.  He also gave me the opportunity to see the first six people in this area to be baptized in years.  I knew I was taking part in a truly momentous occasion and my bold words with Rachel had come from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on these formerly unreached people.

The next day Rachel and her sisters came to see the baptisms and translate.  Afterward, I was walking with them.  Everybody had been deeply moved by the intense love, the prayers, the testimonies and joyful singing of God’s people.

“I know you still feel confused and doubtful.’ I said, “But just put everything aside for a minute and think about two things. Do you know deep within your hearts that you need a Savior?”  

They responded wholeheartedly and in unison, “Yes!”  

“Do you believe this Jesus everyone is worshiping and talking about is that Savior?”  

“Yes!”  

“Then let’s talk to Him!”  God gave me the honor to bring them before His throne of grace for the gift of salvation in Jesus’ name.  These young women who lost everything had now received much more than they will ever need.  

The sisters stayed with us all day and late into the evening as we sang, ate and rejoiced together.  Since it wasn’t safe for them to return home in the dark, two of us drove them back to their house.  As they were getting out of the car they invited us in to have tea and meet their father.  He welcomed us with a big smile and invited us to sit down on one of their few possessions, a rug, and shared his remarkable story.  He and his wife have 13 children.  They lost their home, their farm, their cars and their business to Muslim extremists so they moved to Hope.  After two years Hope was also taken siege and for a second time, they lost all they had.  I told him what a beautiful family God had given him and he began to cry.  I asked if I could share a story from the Bible.  With his permission I told a short version of the story of Job.  Afterward he wept and repeatedly kissed me on the head.  The story planted seeds in his heart, “There is hope for restoration through God’s Redeemer”!

Weeks later, I was back in the US.  I received a Skype call from David.  A female voice was on the other line, “Do you know who this is?”  I wasn’t sure until the camera focused on Rachel’s face, beaming with joy.  She held up a picture of her and her sisters wearing white robes.  A very significant and brave act of obedience in their part of the world, they had just been baptized the day before. 

My experiences with Rachel and people like her leave me speechless and humbled before God because I cannot comprehend their suffering.  But I can see in them how the overwhelming power of God’s grace and the true hope of His redemption in Christ Jesus can reign even where wickedness is at its fiercest. 

Before being baptized, one of the sisters gave this testimony:  “I found the truth and I’ll never turn back.  It doesn’t matter what they do to me, I’ll never turn back to Islam.”