Seeing the Light in Northern Iraq

October 4, 2017 • Iraq

An Iraqi family escapes ISIS and finds salvation in Jesus.

Yusuf* is a volunteer with Samaritan’s Purse in Northern Iraq.

My name is Yusuf*. I am 29 years old and I have six children. Before ISIS, we had a normal, simple life. We were happy. In August 2014, ISIS came and we fled. In the confusion, we were separated from my parents and my brother’s family. ISIS captured us as we tried to escape.

They started piling people into their trucks, but they didn’t have enough space for my family so they left us. We hid behind rocks in the valley without any food or water for three days. I watched my children suffer from hunger. My youngest son was not able to understand why we were hiding. He kept asking me for a little bit of money to buy snacks. It broke my heart.

On the fourth day, I decided we had to go somewhere. Unsure where to walk, I chose a direction, only to realize that we were walking toward ISIS. ISIS captured us and I was sure they were going to kill us. I looked at the faces of my children, fearing it would be the last time I would see them.

I tried to call my mom to hear her voice one last time but an ISIS member took my phone, giving me the Quran instead. He pointed his machine gun at us and said, “All of you read it and convert to Islam.” Afraid, I read a few verses so that he would stop pointing the gun at my family.

My youngest son asked me, “What will they do to us?”

I replied, “Don’t be afraid. Nothing will happen to us. We have a better future than this.” I don’t know why I told him this. I didn’t even believe it myself but I was encouraged when I saw the hope in his eyes.

In the midst of all this, a dispute broke out among the ISIS members and they decided to leave us there. We started to walk in the opposite direction and eventually reached a few people who took us in their trucks to the Kurdish region. We lived in an unfinished building for almost a month until we moved to a camp for displaced people.

At first, it was a relief to be in the camp, but then my son got sick. I couldn’t find work. All I could do was sit and watch him grow worse. I lost all hope. Then I heard that Samaritan’s Purse was looking for volunteers. I decided to join them because I could work and be close to my son. In just a short while, I felt like the team was my family.

After a few days, I noticed that the team gathered for devotions each morning. I joined them one day and the person leading the devotion said something that changed my life. He read this sentence from the Bible: “I am the Light of the world.” I asked him, “What does this mean? Who is this person who said this?”

He explained to me about the Bible and about Jesus. Intrigued, I decided to regularly attend devotions—and I started to find joy again in my life.

I realized that my life had been bought by someone who saw me as valuable and who loves me like a son. I started to see life differently. I found hope again. I saw the Light of the World. I was blind but my eyes opened to see this beautiful light.

Knowing Jesus has changed me a lot. Before, I was selfish. My prayers centered on me and my family, but now I pray for everyone around me, including friends and people I don’t even know. I know they have suffered like me. Every day for the rest of my life, I want to share this light so that their lives can change, too. I want to share the light of Jesus with everyone.

*Name changed for security.