Number of families visited: 435
Number of cities: 13
222 Ministries’ ongoing work with refugees in Turkey has brought so many opportunities to reach families who would otherwise receive no support. Our heart is to reach the Christian communities, our brothers and sisters in Christ, who have fled unimaginable horrors in their home countries. The needs brought about by this refugee crisis are too many to count, but we are privileged to be able to play our part in the lives of those we have been able to touch so far.
Our network of families is constantly growing, and this year, in addition to Operation Christmas Joy, we have supported some of the most vulnerable families with help in heating their homes through the bitterly cold winter months. Contrary to common belief, some areas of Turkey can still have snow on the ground as late as May, making winters long and especially harsh for the poor.
These Christian families have fled their countries after ISIS attacks or pressures from the Islamic government in Iran. They have left everything behind and are now living in very difficult conditions. The houses are cold; they have no money to heat their home; and many are in need of daily food, rent or medication.
In total, our teams visited 435 families to distribute heating aid, 406 of whom are Iraqi Chaldean Christian families, and 28 were from Iran or Afghanistan. Seven of these families were in such dire need that we visited a second time. It became normal to enter a very cold home with a coal stove in one room. Keeping the heat in one room made their fuel last longer, so all family members would often sleep in the one room together. We were also able to provide occasional help with medical costs, where funding was available.
Under attack: terror enters the city
My name is Jackline and I am from Baghdad where I ran a daycare. One day some people with covered faces came to our house, talked to my husband and took him outside by force. They told me that it would only take five minutes. That was 13 years ago and I haven’t seen him since. My son was two years old at the time.
In exchange for my husband they demanded $10,000, but we didn’t have this amount of money. Many people had paid ransom money for their loved ones and only received a corpse in return.
They blew up my house and left a letter giving me three options: 1. pay the ransom money, 2. leave the country, 3. convert to Islam. Within one hour Al Qaeda blew up seven houses and two church buildings. Because of those threats, we were forced to leave Iraq. Now I am living in Turkey with my son and daughter in very poor conditions.
In 2014, due to threats to Christians in Iraq, I came to Turkey with my wife and five children. We have no resources and the house is very cold; whenever possible we heat the home with coal. I’m trying to find work, but it’s not easy. There are few opportunities especially for Christian refugees. Only my 13-year-old son works, earning 100 TL per week (£22). It’s our only income. There is no other financial support.
I live in Turkey with my wife and two children. We are both agricultural engineers. During the Iran-Iraq war, I was injured and lost sight in both eyes. I’ve never seen either of my children. We had a good life in Mosul, but when ISIS attacked the city, my wife and I were both fired. All non-cash government aid that we used to receive was suddenly cut off. Water and electricity was cut off. ISIS drove through the streets announcing that not even one Christian is permitted to stay. They turned all the Christian homes into ruins. Even our Muslim neighbours raided our homes, plundering everything we had. All our cash, jewellery and even our medicine was taken from us before we left the country with nothing and came to Turkey. I have a heart condition and have just undergone open-heart surgery. We are so grateful to God that we can live in peace in Turkey now as we wait to be relocated to another country.
I lived in Baghdad with my husband and extended family, serving God in the local church. I served in the prayer intercessory team and my husband in the security team. My brother Raghid was the pastor of the church.
In 2004 a bomb was placed in the church and I sustained severe injuries in my stomach, back and legs, which needed operating on. Later, in 2007, during shootings by unidentified people, my brother (the pastor of the church), my cousin and two other Christians were killed.
My husband and I, with our son and my parents fled to Mosul first and after that to Turkey, where we now live. My husband, Jamil, has platinum placed in his back from an accident at work where he fell from a balcony breaking both his legs. In Turkey the doctors couldn’t do anything else for him, he is hardly able to walk and therefore can’t work.
Restoration: rebuilding the ruins
Families who have fled the terrors of persecution, war, violence and ISIS, carry so many more needs than just financial support. Hearing story after story of murder, torture and years of living in fear without anyone to turn to, brought to light so many more needs, and our team worked tirelessly to provide all they could. Naturally, many families did not offer their trust easily, so simply allowing us to enter their homes and accept our help was a hurdle for many.
The majority of Christian refugees living in Turkey live in isolation. Although there are other believers in their locality, they are not regularly connected to a church where they can have fellowship and encourage each other in their faith. They suffer alone and in solitude. Our visits meant so much more than heating homes. The warmth of love brought from their brothers and sisters across the world who have sent aid, and the warmth of a hug and smile as we sat with families, spent time together, prayed with them and wept over their pain and loss touched their hearts in ways financial aid will never reach. The wounds of trauma run deep in these hearts, but our God is a God of restoration who does not turn his back on his children. Please join with us in praying for the complete healing and restoration of these families, who have experienced the worst this world has to offer.
- Pray that the Holy Spirit will bring inner healing to traumatised minds and hearts, and that they would find peace in Him.
- Pray for the strengthening of community, that they support and encourage one another in daily fellowship.
- Pray for continued support from our brothers and sisters globally, that the refugee believers would not be forsaken.