Out of Every Kindred, and Tongue, and People, and Nation: Iraq

I was born in the North of Iraq, in a Christian family. When I say “Christian,” I mean I wasn’t born in an Islamic family. Generally speaking, that was the only meaning in Iraq of the claim to be “Christian.” All the Christian denominations believe that they are Christian by birth and by baptism. I believed that I was a Christian; I was baptized, attended church every Sunday, and partook of the communion.

However, all of that belief didn’t give me the assurance of heaven. As a nominal Iraqi Christian, I thought no one could know for sure that he would be in heaven if he died. I believed that we would stand before God one day and He would then decide, according to our deeds, where we would spend eternity. And that was frightening to me. In my early teenage years I often dreamed that I had died and been lost forever in hell, with no hope or second chance of repentance. I would wake up terrified, thankful that I was still alive, and would cry to God to forgive my sins. But all those dreams and resolutions would be forgotten when the sun rose. I would continue my life the same way, as a sinner. Because I was a musician in a very famous band in Baghdad, and had the unique ability of singing songs in six languages (Aramaic, Arabic, English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian), I was busy through the day and would rarely think about eternity.

After the Iranian war ended, in which I had spent eight years, another war started – the Kuwait war – which led 33 countries to fight against Iraq. I was back in the Public Army. When I took a 6-day leave to take my wife and my only son to the North of Iraq for safety, I was stranded from my unit, and ended up being branded as a deserter. This put me in danger of immediate execution, and I went into hiding. But the mayor of the village where I was hiding announced that the next day any deserters found would be executed in front of their families.

I couldn’t sleep that night, nor could my wife. We cried to God, and asked Him for three requests: an end to the war, a pardon for the deserters, and finally a discharge for me from the army. God answered all the three requests. At 5 PM I heard on the radio that the President of the US decided to stop the fighting at 8 AM that morning. I thanked God that day for answering my prayer, even a prayer of a lost sinner.

I returned to Baghdad and was released from the army without any charges. But I didn’t want to stay in Iraq any more and relocated to Jordan with my family. In Jordan, I heard that there was a gospel meeting for Iraqis in one of the evangelical churches. My wife and I went, and it was the first time in my life that I heard a clear message of salvation. Although I was thrilled by the message, my problem was that I never took the Word of God for myself. I believed that Jesus came to save US but never thought that He came to save ME. I believed in Him as OUR Savior but never MY Savior. I thought that if I repented and God erased my past sins, that I could then keep my life clean. I thought I needed Him to do His part, and then I would do mine, but I failed. I never thought that a person could know for sure where he would be if he died. But when I heard the Word of God, it was so clear: “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:12).

The word of God said that I could have eternal life, not by my works, prayers, baptism, or anything else, but by having the Son of God. I asked myself, “How could I have the Son of God?” The answer was in the Word of God. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock” (Rev 3:20). I understood that the Lord had been standing at my door for almost 32 years of my life and all the things that happened in my life were His voice to me. I was amazed that the Lord of Glory would patiently wait for me all those years. He is the God of grace, praise be to His name!

I read from Romans 5: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly … But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us … For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son . . .” When I looked at these verses, I asked myself, “Is there anything else left for me to do in order to be saved?” The Lord Jesus, on the cross, cried, “It is finished.” I believed His Word and needed nothing more.

I started reading the Bible and taking each word and each promise to myself. I began telling everyone how many great things the Lord had done for me. By the grace of God my wife was saved, then my sister, my parents, my aunt, my five cousins, my niece, and my nephew as well. Praise be to His name now and for ever and ever.