By Peter Hammond
John Michael is just one of many South Africans working in Iraq. Previously he served in 44 Parachute Brigade as a Pathfinder and was Wing Commander of the Bushman Reconnaissance wing at Omega with 31 Battalion in 1983. He has been assisting in security for those who are restoring basic services for the communities of Iraq, as part of the reconstruction and development of this war devastated nation. While seeking to save lives and uplift the community in Iraq, he has endured numerous bombardments from mortar and rocket indirect fire and survived ambushes with IED (Improvised Explosive Devices), RPG and small arms fire in the day-to-day nature of his work. John Michael is a dedicated Christian and he has seen his work in Iraq as an opportunity for Christian witness. Both amongst the local community, foreign soldiers and expatriate workers serving there, where he has engaged in friendship evangelism. “Overt evangelism is strictly prohibited. However, open discussions and opportunities to “give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope you have” 1 Pet 3:15 is a natural way to share one’s faith. Being a royal priesthood and a peculiar people of God definitely creates positive curiosity.
“What really helps in Iraq is the very strict discipline of the USA-led Coalition forces. The consumption of alcohol, pornography and any form of intimate relationships between unmarried members is prohibited. The Rules of Engagement are incredibly strict as is the ethical standard of conduct, which is exemplary in every way. Ultimately holiness before the Lord is the only avenue for true success and the US assists tremendously in the conduct and discipline of all their members, despite all the controversy around Operation Iraqi Freedom. This is what the Middle Eastern Iraqi people see and experience - especially the incredible love which the American soldiers openly express to the children of Iraq. Many come to Jesus merely on the testimony of what is taking place in Iraq on a day-to-day basis, by what is seen and experienced.”
A contrast of faiths
John Michael writes: “With all the negative and extremely disturbing violent news coming out of the Middle East, there is good news. Where there is conflict, there needs to be sober examination of our own faith as we are put to the test. Our purpose and meaning to life must be scrutinised.
“What is overwhelmingly obvious is that those who promote freedom and respect towards others, are expressing their own personal faith in the God of the Bible. However, when confronting a religious system that lives for, and thrives on, violent conflict in Jihad with suicidal martyrdom seen as the only assurance of salvation, the question remains – what is the purpose of living? The hope for a peaceful and blessed life is really limited when such an extremely violent death is sought after. This raises some really disturbing questions about such a religious system, which has so little respect for humanity and life in general.”
Living a life of Grace
John Michael, writing from the Biblical site known as Ur of the Chaldeans (Iraq), reports that it is tremendously inspiring to be working in this land where Abraham was called, where Daniel and Esther served, and to witness the clash of civilisations - the clear contrast between the healing Gospel of the love of Christ and the destructive message of Jihad and hate.
He mentions the testimony of General Georges Sada, a former Air Force fighter pilot, who once served as a senior military advisor to Saddam Hussein. Sada is one of thousands of Iraqis who are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. In 1991, General Sada was ordered by Qusay Hussein (Saddam Hussein’s son) to execute British and American prisoners of war. This he refused to do. That courageous stand led to his dismissal from the military, although, by God’s Grace, not to his execution.
Thousands coming to Jesus
General Sada reports that he knows of many thousands of Iraqis who have openly confessed Jesus Christ as Lord since the country was liberated by the Americans. General Sada has publicly thanked the American people for liberating his country and said that all peace-loving people should “kneel and thank the mothers and fathers who have sacrificed their sons and daughters for the sake of freedom in Iraq.”
He asked for patience as Iraq’s fledgling democracy builds foundations and finds its way. He has also repeatedly said that there is far more good news in Iraq today than has been reported by the news media.
Record numbers of Iraqis are turning to Christ. Even Saddam Hussein’s throne room, in his main palace in Baghdad, has been turned into an Evangelical church. “Once Saddam used that room to order thousands of people to be executed, but now the Name of Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, is praised there instead.”
One mission involved in Iraq reports that in the year before the war, in 2003, there were only 3,000 known Evangelical Christians in Iraq and only six Evangelical churches. Today there are more than 24,000 Iraqi believers and 25 churches in Baghdad alone. Hundreds of new churches have been established in the other areas of Iraq, particularly in the north, in Kurdistan.
Missionaries working in Iraq point out that the Kurds of today are the descendants of the ancient Medes, such as Darius under whom Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den. The ancient city of Nineveh, where Jonah was led to preach, was in what is today Northern Iraq. John Michael asks us to mobilise your church, home cell and prayer fellowship to intercede for the Christians in Iraq and to pray for the fulfilment of the Great Commission in that troubled land. He ends his letter: “Jesus truly is Lord. It is God’s perfect love which drives out all fear.”
Dr Peter hammond is a missionary who has pioneered evangelistic missions throughout Africa. For further information on the persecuted church and missionary initiatives in the Middle East visit: www.frontline.org.za. To encourage John Michael write to him : c/o Frontline Fellowship. For more info call 021 689 4480 or firstname.lastname@example.org