Brother Raeed is how you might picture a monk. His gestures are calm, and silence seems to be his natural state. 15 years ago, he chose a life dedicated to prayer in a small monastery community in Iraq – Himself, four other monks and Jesus – that was it.
But two years ago, the sound of honking cars and distant explosions disturbed the silence in the prayer room. Raeed looked out the window and saw cars lined up to leave the city. What he had feared for weeks had now come true – the ISIS army was approaching. Raeed calmly grabbed his stuff, declaring: “Whatever happens, Jesus will be with me.”
Raeed relates what happened that day: “ISIS came to our city, so we had to leave.” The monks joined in the slowly moving traffic jam of people in panic. All night, they slowly moved forward until they reached the city of Erbil, where they were thrown into the deep end as monks, taking care of the many displaced people around them. Once again, Raeed remembers his calling: ‘Follow Jesus no matter what’.
Two years later, and now Raeed leads evening prayer time in one of the refugee camps just outside of Erbil. There are so many attending the portacabin church that many have to stand in the doorway, the calm tones of a hymn filling the twilight sky.
Signing up for a life of prayer, Raeed had never expected this crowded place would be his place of service. But he doesn’t look back. This is where Jesus has led him.
Together with a group of nuns, the monks now provide spiritual guidance to this newly formed group of believers. ‘Monk Raeed’ even became ‘Father Raeed’, as the need for priests is high.
“Alone I am weak, but God guides me … in this new task. I don’t have to be anything supernatural, I just have to be here with the people in the church, because God needs me to be here.”
The lives of the believers in Father Raeed’s congregation have been turned upside down, and there are many challenges as people adjust to life in displacement. But within these shaky times, Father Raeed teaches his people to trust in the One he has learned to depend on. “It is all about Jesus. Jesus is the core of this church, He is the Rock we build on. And whatever might happen, our Rock will never disappear. He will always be here.”
He also invites Christians around the world to connect with them through prayer: “Even though I am very thankful for all the material help we get, I am most thankful that people around the world connect with God and with us in prayer for Iraq.”
- Give thanks for the work of Father Raeed and the many others who serve alongside him in refugee camps. Pray for them, for strength, protection and physical and spiritual resources to continue to meet the needs of the people they serve.
- Give thanks for the many Iraqi’s who have found faith in Christ through the witness and service of Iraqi Christians in the camps.
- Pray for these new believers, for their faith to grow deep and strong, and that they will know the love and grace of their Father God around and within them each day.
- Pray for the Church in Iraq as it comes under increasing pressure from ISIL and other Muslim factions. Pray for strong faith, and for their witness to be a beacon of hope and light to many others in this country.
- Pray for peace in Iraq, and for the Holy Spirit to move, to restore hope and life to this nation once again.
Ephesians 6 vs 18: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”