October 26, 2022
The Way of Enduring Faith
DAHLIA FROM IRAQ
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“Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:12b-13 (NKJV)
Editor’s Note: In August 2014, Christian families on the Nineveh Plain in Iraq learned that a terrorist group was coming and, in fear for their lives, fled their homes in the middle of the night. For three years, they lived displaced. After their cities were liberated, only a small remnant (about 40%) returned. Those who did return came back to bombed-out buildings and vandalized and damaged homes, many beyond repair. Today, the situation in Iraq remains tense for Christians like Dahlia — the struggle isn’t over.
I still remember waking up my children in the middle of the night and fleeing our home. We left our house that my husband, Ghader, and I had spent years building, and we ran into the unknown with our three young children, with not much more than the clothes on our backs.
I’ve learned from Scripture that those who follow Jesus will be persecuted. Jesus told us, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!” (John 16:33b-c, NIV). But that doesn’t mean what happened to us didn’t affect me. I was crying the whole way when we fled. Still, it never affected my faith. The persecution we’ve suffered for following Jesus has made me cling to God even more.
In the refugee camp where we lived for three years, people asked me why I was always smiling. I told them that we might have lost all our earthly possessions, but we still had Jesus, and no one could take that away from us.
In late 2017, we made the decision to return to our home in the Nineveh Plain. This is our country and heritage. We trace our lineage back to the days of Jesus’ disciples — Peter even sent his greetings to the church in this region where we live.
But when we walked into our city, I barely recognized it. The destruction, the burning — the place was almost like a desert. Our house was looted, the rooms torn down. I felt like a stranger inside my own home, as if I didn’t belong there.
Today, we continue to rebuild our lives and communities. City infrastructures are lacking, the economy is struggling, and extremists are still a threat. Our bags are always packed in case we must flee again. I am very strict with my children; I urge them to be careful. My daughter studies in nearby Mosul, where kidnappings and explosions often happen. It’s scary.
You may ask how I can live with such uncertainty and risk losing so much again. My answer is simple: Going to church and meeting with God gives me hope. I pray a lot. When my prayers are deep and from the heart, I hear the voice of God inside of me, and the Holy Spirit speaks to me. Whenever I feel sad, oppressed or alone, I cry out to God, especially when I miss my family. I am the only one of my extended family who’s still here — the others didn’t return.
Christians here are building the church in the midst of our city’s restoration. I also lead a women’s Bible study. When I first returned, I felt I needed something to strengthen my faith and restore my self-confidence. I saw that some of the women around me needed it too. We thought, What better place to gather than the church, and what better place to find hope than in the Bible?
Recently, around 150 women attended our gathering. I feel the Holy Spirit is at work in us during the meetings. Each time we meet, we talk about women in the Bible who were persecuted and people who bravely faced trouble. Through this, we feel we exist. We feel Jesus’ presence. And we feel we belong here again.
Persecution and suffering have taught me that in every situation, in every crisis, there is only one thing I can do: rely on the Lord and focus on Him. I always ask, How do You want to use me, Lord? I remember the words of the Apostle Paul and repeat them in my head: “Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12b-13).
Please pray with us. With the prayers of the worldwide Church, we can continue our ministry and spread the life-giving Word of the Lord … right here in the midst of persecution.
Father, thank You for Your promise and blessing of refining fire, and thank You that I can rely on You to walk with me through it. I am overwhelmed by Your love for me — Your strength, deep compassion and abundant grace. Help me to ask, How do You want to use this, Lord? When I’m walking through suffering, please surround me with Your presence and voice. Please strengthen Dahlia and her family and bring Your peace as they follow and serve You. And be ever present with my sisters and brothers throughout the world as they risk so much to testify to Your goodness and power. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
OUR FAVORITE THINGS
Persecuted Christians like Dahlia ask you to pray with them to stand strong in their suffering. Will you commit to pray with them through Open Doors USA? Download the new Open Doors Prayer App to receive real-time notifications and prayer requests straight from persecuted believers. You can also download Open Doors’ 52-week prayer guide and pray with believers like Dahlia in the 50 most dangerous countries for Christians.
Dahlia lives with her husband, Ghader, their three young-adult children and their white chihuahua in Bashiqa, a city in northern Iraq. They are very active in their church but miss their relatives. Open Doors USA is publishing this devotion on Dahlia’s behalf to share her story of how God has worked through her and her trials. Learn more from Dahlia and other persecuted Christians at OpenDoorsUSA.org.
FOR DEEPER STUDY
John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)
Are you struggling with having hope right now?
What distractions can you eliminate to focus your mind and heart on Jesus today? Join us in the comments.
© 2022 by Dahlia from Iraq. All rights reserved.