News / Thoughts

Updates, ideas, reflections and articles from Open Doors and our friends 
News / Thoughts

From dark desert to heaven…

January 5, 2015

For over four months thousands of Yezidi villagers have been trapped on Iraq’s Mount Sinjar and its surrounding villages. Fleeing IS militants the villagers found refuge in the mountains, only to be encircled by IS troops.Rescue operations to help the villagers began on 19th December. Many have now been freed, but as Ahmet’s story below highlights, that escape is just the start of a new journey…

On July 13, a young Iraqi named Ahmet was chatting online in his house. Suddenly he heard a commotion outside. There were shouts in the distance. Then he saw families begin to scramble into their houses. They came out with handfuls of clothes, food and whatever else they could put into their cars. Something was wrong.

Ahmet could guess the problem. For months the 20-year-old had been warned that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS, was coming to his village of Al Jazeera, located outside Sinjar in northern Iraq. Everyone in Sinjar was afraid, particularly the Assyrian Christian minorities.

The family pooled what little money they had left for a bus trip to Ankara, Turkey’s capital. After 25 hours of constant travel, the family arrived. They spoke no Turkish, had no money, no food, and no idea what to do next.

In the months ahead, Ahmet would try to piece his life together after it was shattered by the ISIS invasion. He and his family were in material poverty. But he would soon find something in return worth far more than he could ever imagine.

A new life in Turkey

For the first few days of their life in Turkey, Ahmet and his family lived in the upper floor of Ankara’s main bus terminal. Many other refugees and homeless camped in the building, as it was the arrival point for most refugees to Ankara.

A local Christian group that had made a weekly habit of visiting the bus station to pray for those there and bring them food met up with the family and discovered Ahmet and his brother spoke English. They heard that security was planning to kick all the homeless out of the terminal.

The Christians helped Ahmet and his family find housing and paid their food and utilities bills.

At that point, Ahmet knew little about Christianity from his old life in Iraq. “We just knew a little bit about Jesus that my father told me, that Christians believe Jesus is the son of God, and he was very good.”

The Christian group began to pray for Ahmet, still a Yezidi, and invited him to attend a local Turkish fellowship. Little did they know that he had been searching for God for years.

Ahmet was quickly absorbed into the church community in his new life in Ankara. He asked the Christians for prayer for physical healing and was healed. So were his mother and sister. When news reached them in mid-August that ISIS was attacking Sinjar, his family asked the Christian group to pray for their beleaguered home.

 I told my wife what happened, that Jesus is right here, right now, and he came to me. She said, ‘What, are you crazy?'”

Months after Ahmet arrived in Ankara, he still felt a deep sense of unease. One night Ahmet was praying with his wife. Toward midnight he asked Jesus to help him and show himself to him.

At that moment he heard a sound near the window in his room. He saw Jesus appear to him in a vision. He offered Ahmet water and told him to drink.

“After I drank the water, everything changed. I was not just smiling, but I was laughing a lot. I told my wife what happened, that Jesus is right here, right now, and he came to me. She said, ‘What, are you crazy?'”

His wife also prayed for Jesus to comfort her. The same doubt and pain that had plagued her left as well.

A new life in Christ

Ahmet is now trying to find part-time work in Ankara. His wife is also learning English in the hope of a possible move to the United States where Ahmet’s brother lives.

Ahmet and his wife have accepted Christ, but they have not told his family. He does not fear them shunning or rejecting him, but he knows they will have lots of questions and worries. The Yezidi belief system does not make room for conversion. If they leave the religion or marry a non-Yezidi, they are no longer considered Yezidi themselves.

But Ahmet is not worried. He said he believes Jesus has planned for all these challenges fleeing Iraq and that he will guide him during the next stage in life. “Life here has changed a lot,” he said. “That’s why I wrote my story in a notebook, from the day we left until this moment. I am always writing. I call it, ‘From the Dark Desert to Heaven.’ ”

They said they hope to find a new life for themselves, free from persecution from extremists. But for Ahmet, he said he is most excited to grow in his life as a follower of Christ.

“It was really like we were in a desert; there was no water or trees. It was a difficult life and always dangerous,” he said.

“Thank God we are safe now. That’s why I think Jesus sent us.”

Source: World Watch Monitor

Please pray…

  • For Ahmet and his family. Ask that he would know God’s love and protection as he looks for work and faces discrimination in Turkey. Ask that he and his wife would grow in their faith and lead many others to know Jesus.
  • Pray for the thousands of refugees from Iraq and Syria in Turkey, Lebanon and other countries across the Middle East. Pray that any of those that are Christians would be able to practice their faith, whilst showing practical love and care for others who have had to flee.
  • Pray for an end to the conflicts in Iraq and Syria and that a lasking peace can be found.

We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.