- The Story of an Iraqi Church -
They remove their shoes, stand facing toward Mecca, and bend their upper body until the head touches their personal mat on the ground. Everyone is gathered in a row to worship in quiet and reverence and to listen to the Qu’ran.
Under the blazing sun, Ehsan’s mind is restless as he bows in prayer. He has moved from one place to another in Syria and Lebanon since three years past after he fled from Saddam Hussein’s tyranny. Now his mind is under more pressure and thirstier than it was when he crossed the borders to leave his home country.
Where in the world did I come from and where am I going?
To find the answer, he once became a Catholic monk, has been in the company of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and then returned to become a Muslim again, but no faithful worship could solve this question for him. He wondered if God even existed. In frustration, he has attempted to die, but Ehsan’s mind only became more distressed because he could not find any trace of truth.
He became confused when he found out a devoted priest was homosexual. He could not understand why Muslims cut their body and bled as they observed the Day of Ashura. He has arrived here, running away again and again after he witnessed the lies of the Muslims he knew and could not follow the truth taught by them. However, his heart was troubled and in agony all these days after he abandoned his home and Islam, the religion of his family and friends. He buried that heart under hard labour from 6 in the morning to 8 at night. In spite of all this, he asked God every night: “This is the last time. If you are there, show me. Otherwise I have no reason to live.”
On the third day of wailing prayers, he saw a leaflet fluttering in a luggage.
He walked up to look at the leaflet closely. These words were written on it: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Also there was a name of a church. Who is this, calling me to him with such assurance? In curiosity he dialed the number on the leaflet.
Then the spring of my life came.
This was it.
All the answers to where I came from and where I was going were here.
The understanding of Jesus Christ turned the ways, contents and direction of his life upside down. The beach he used to frequent while living a fast life now became a place of worship; the vicinity of the mosque where he used to follow Islam now became a place of evangelism; and the prayer he used to offer asking for death now became a prayer asking that he be used by God.
The privilege of serving God is that you can be at the forefront where the spiritual transformation is happening. It was full of miracles where male Muslims came to the Lord in tears as they watched a movie about Jesus, where people changed when the Gospel was preached on the streets each week, where wives from a polygamous family experienced healing while receiving counseling, and especially where children’s ministry, praise ministry and Palestinian refugee ministry took place. The kitchen table ministry that started with 180 people a week has increased in size as it doubled over the years.
Ehsan began to pray one more prayer as he experienced the ministry led by God. He felt a strong calling toward people from Arabic culture who spoke the same language and prayed, “I will serve any country, any people, except for Iraq.” However, God led him to meet Iraqis wherever he went, and as he kept interacting with them, God let him experience a special calling for the Iraqi people.
He married Dalia whom he met in Lebanon and she gave birth to Abigail and Joel. Now they had to face a difficulty that in Lebanon, if you marry a foreigner, your child cannot receive citizenship, health care or education. Ehsan started to pray to God for the next step. At the right time, Ehsan’s families who were living near Toronto asked him for help, and he decided to make a refugee claim in Toronto on the grounds of his family’s pain and hardship.
In September 2014, Ehsan, Dalia, Abigail and Joel settled in Canada and are now experiencing the new culture and climate. The cold winter has started, and they are dealing with the winter climate which is too cold and strange for them to walk in and are trying out foods that are too sweet and salty. Since they are not Muslim, they are isolated from the Iraqi and Arabic cultural and ethnic communities, and sometimes they miss the food, climate and friends from back then.
The vision of Pastor. Ehsan’s family is to build a church for Arabs, especially for Iraqis. They want to start as a small home cell, not as a building, which helps build living relationships. They want to serve as disciples of Christ and, eventually return to the Middle East to serve God.
This family that used to go out, from the early morning to late night, to meet Iraqis to preach the Gospel is now abiding and praying, waiting for God’s time. They await the spring when they would be able to visit the homes of Iraqis to become their friends and to invite them over to share the Gospel.
To establish a network among Iraqis to worship together
To solve transportation issues; to continue studying English