The forgotten children of Nineveh – Update from GAiN – January 2017

O death where is your sting?

I pray this year finds you very well and brings you Shalom.  I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Sometimes this love creates great dissonance inside us.  On Christmas morning I found myself relaxed and happy, enjoying a well-deserved break after a hard year’s work.  As the duck was roasting and the lamb was simmering in a unique English-Italian culinary fusion, my heart was filled with gratitude for the gift of Jesus – and quite a lot of chocolate.

As we eagerly awaited our meal, my friend offered a prayer of thanks for the year past, but also for the children of Aleppo, and my eyes welled up with tears and my heart was filled with pain and sorrow.  I put on a brave face, and kept smiling on the outside but could not stop crying on the inside.  For me, Aleppo was not a burning city in the news.  It was a place of pain for the children I had come to know and love.

On one of my recent trips to Greece, I reconnected with “Generosity”, a 15-year-old boy I met on a previous trip.  We took him and his friend bowling, playing games.  Over dinner, he told us his story.

I was nine when the war started and now I have images in my head I can’t get rid of.  One day I was late for school and my mum was screaming for me to hurry up. As I was approaching the school I saw a bomb coming down and the whole school was destroyed. I saw body parts everywhere, but I was unhurt.  32 of my friends were killed that day.  You have no idea what it was like.  I was sick.  I could not eat.  I could not sleep.  I could not make sense of it.  More images flash into my mind. Four people beheaded in front of me.  Others shot in the head.  Every time a bomb hit a house, we all went out to see if everyone was still alive.  Two years ago a bomb hit a family friend.  Five children, parents and grandparents.  I went in and checked.  Dead.  Dead. Dead.  Only the father was alive.  I tried to pull him from the rubble, but only half his body came out.  He died immediately.  I was scared.  I ran out.  I didn’t know what to do.  I was very ill.  I could not eat.  I could not sleep.  I could not do this anymore.  So I left Syria to go to Turkey.  I was 13.  Shortly after this, I heard my house was burned.  My dad was injured and fled.  Now it’s only my mum and 6-year-old brother left behind.

He burst out crying, wiping his tears with his sleeve.  Me and two friends were trying to put on a brave face, but we couldn’t stop the tears escaping. The boys carried on saying ‘What you have done for us today we will never forget.  We will carry it in our hearts. Nobody has done anything like this. We are just refugees. We’ve never been bowling before.  In a long time, we’ve never been this happy.’  We are still in touch via Messenger, but from time to time he calls me when he is sad. Just before Christmas, he called me to say the last of his relatives had been killed, and his mum and little brother were missing.  In one call, he was concerned about me.  ‘I’m really sorry Rezi.  You have such a happy life.  I don’t want to be a burden.  I’m only telling you because you asked.’  I gave him Psalm 63:1-8 to read.
Please pray for this wonderful boy that he will get to go to Germany or UK and have a future.

Refugee camp trip in Greece  
The recent trip to Oriocastro camp in Greece was very challenging for me. On previous trips, we distributed food, clothes and different aid items whereas on this trip we did very little distribution but more visits, praying and eating and listening to their stories. Everyone we met was so thankful and grateful for our visit and our prayers, however, I could not help but feel redundant…..is this it? Is this all I could offer?  We were told that the Oriocastro camp was one of the best in Thessaloniki because at least the camp was indoors – and yet I found this very heard to hear.
(If not having any heating or hot water or clean toilets and rats everywhere, was the best camp I could not imagine what the other camps looked like.)On our first day in theOriocastro Camp, we met a lady who was traveling alone from Syria. Her daughter and son-in-law had been killed by a car bomb, the day after their wedding. Immediately following this, her husband and three sons were beheaded. She now has nothing; no family, and no home.
I have no words and I don’t know what to feel. I keep wondering how someone can live after all that. Do they really have a life? All I could offer was just another pointless hug while she cried her heart out.
We went back to see this lady the following day. Her face lit up as we entered the tent and she started smiling. She kept hugging us all, especially the two younger girls in my team. After praying for her again, she said that although she had lost her only daughter, she now has four! She said she loves us all and she is so thankful for the visit and prayers. She said “Please pray for me every day’’.Pray for healing for her: that she may find favor in the eyes of the officials, and that she might quickly move on from the tent.
The forgotten children of Ninevah
The trip to Iraq in June last year was heartbreaking. It is horrifying and beyond imagination to witness what the war has done to the country and its people. Time and time again people were telling us their stories of horror and death. The only difference in these stories was the numbers of family members that had been killed.
It was the same story again and again of people fleeing with nothing, to find shelter in shells of buildings, tents or abandoned warehouses. The same story of people whose only hope was the aid they receive to survive.“’Two years ago when we arrived in Erbil we were so glad to find this building. There was no glass in the windows, so we covered them with plastic and used blankets over the doors. The first winter was tough, with very cold temperatures and little water. Our children were crying of cold and missing their toys but we were so thankful to be alive. We’re thankful for all the food and clothes that people give as it helps us keep alive but It is hard to keep hope alive: hard to be a parent, to educate our children and, hard to see a future. We are so thankful for your visits and for your gifts, it keeps up our hope that we are not forgotten.  Please don’t forget us, please do not forget our children’’Everywhere we went there were thousands and thousands of children with no education, no hope, no future, a forgotten generation that only God knows what they will become.
I was amazed how thankful and full of gratitude and smiles the people were, how they welcomed us and gave us the best tea or coffee. In one room as I was standing by the door, I was trying so hard to measure the floor, to see how 7 people could sleep in it.  During our stay in Erbil and Dahuk, we were able to distribute a lot of food, hygiene and sanitary packs, blankets, shoes, children’s stationery, and toys. However, I could not help but feel sad that we could not give to everyone.
In one of these camps, we met Dr. Rahim after a day of distribution. He said to me:
‘’ You know Rezi, I was a very rich man I had three houses – I was a good man looking after my 5 children and my wife, and then I lost everything and left with nothing. Here we are at the mercy of the food and gifts that we receive to survive, but I tell you the truth I have never been this happy. I thank God for the ‘’evil rebels’’ every day, as because of what they have done I found Jesus. There is no security in anything but Jesus’’
Thank you for your prayers and support 

Thank you all for your clothes donations and women care packs.
We sent 687 boxes to Northen Iraq and around 2000 women received care packs.
A heartfelt thank you to many churches in Birmingham, and a special thanks to Bexleyheath Community church, who donated 1000 care packs, and many businesses: PWC, News UK, John Bell pharmacy, Greater London Authority office and many more, for their generosity.
Last year I received generous one-off donations which enabled me to work and visit Iraq. I would very much appreciate your continued support in this coming year.

Love Rezi

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John Masheder

22 January 2017

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