The news headlines coming out of Iraq might be horrific, but a new Adventist church is being built in the north, Adventists are inviting neighbors to Sabbath worship services in Baghdad, and ADRA is opening an office to provide humanitarian relief.
“Many wonderful things are quietly taking place behind the scenes,” said Homer Trecartin, president of the Adventist Church’s Middle East and North Africa Union, who visited Iraq for four days this week.
Iraq has been the subject of prayer for Adventists worldwide amid an outbreak in militant-led violence against minority groups, including Christians, this year. Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the world church, asked for special prayers this fall and said no more than 50 Adventists remained in the Middle Eastern country.
Trecartin, who confirmed that about 50 remained on the membership books, said he was inspired to see a small but vibrant church community during his visit.
Adventists who have fled the violence and moved to Erbil, a northern city of more than 1.5 million, are grateful to the ruling Kurdish authorities for helping them to register the Adventist Church there and for giving them permission to build a house of worship, he said.
“Construction is well under way on a building that will have a church hall, offices, and two apartments,” he said. “For now the members gather each Sabbath in a rented apartment, where friends, neighbors, and occasionally some refugees join them.”
The number of church members is small, and they live far away from their former homes, but they are actively reaching out to those who are worse off, he said. Together with George Shamoun, the leader of the Adventist Church in Iraq, the members have used their own money, donations from others, and a special contribution from Adventist Frontier Missions to build toilet facilities in several centers for internally displaced people, to distribute food parcels, and to hand out winter clothes and blankets.
Even more humanitarian work is expected to be carried out soon with the registration of the Iraq office of the church-operated Adventist Development and Relief Agency, or ADRA.
After much work, the Iraq office was registered with the authorities, and it is in the process of bringing in staff and setting up projects to provide even more assistance, Trecartin said.
A few Adventists still live in Baghdad, and they are sharing Jesus with their neighbors, he said. Every Sabbath, the church members meet for a worship service filled with friends and neighbors.
“Please continue to keep the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Iraq in your prayers,” Trecartin said.
Adventist Review, Sept. 19, 2014: “Adventists Invited to Pray for Peace on UN Holiday”
Adventist Review, Aug. 12, 2014: “Wilson Releases Statement on Persecution of Religious Minorities in Iraq, Syria”
Adventist Review, Sept. 2, 2014: “Adventist-Linked Group Presses UN on Iraq and Syria”