European Baptist Federation Church Planting Newsletter - Iraq - Sept 2009
There are over 3000 Evangelical believers worshipping in 12 churches in Baghdad alone. New churches are being planted in some of the most difficult places including the big city of Baghdad and the north of Iraq.
Good news amidst war
We hear most of the time about the ongoing war in Iraq. However there is also better news that comes to us from that disturbed and wounded country. According to the current reports of Baptist leaders who know the local situation, the Iraqi people are now much more open to the Gospel than ever before. In spite of the war there have been thousands of Bibles distributed, numerous evangelistic events were organized and new churches have been started.
We hear that there are over 3000 Evangelical believers worshipping in 12 churches in Baghdad alone. Some new Baptist congregations have also been started in the north of Iraq. All churches participate in an annual Iraqi conference in order to pray for peace and to intercede and seek God's protection over the nation. The conference is always accompanied with baptism ceremony of many candidates.
Church planting in Iraq
The Baptist work began in Baghdad in 1985 through international mission partnerships and close cooperation with the Jordanian & Lebanese Baptists. Thanks to the joint efforts one indigenous missionary started working since 1990 with some families in home groups. This was an underground church as a matter of fact. Such gatherings were not allowed, so the group constantly changed meeting places & dates. Eventually on January 16th 2004 the dedication of the First Baghdad Baptist Church and the ordination of its pastor took place.
The mission work faces numerous obstacles. Six churches in Baghdad and one in the north were attacked on July 12th 2009. Many times the roads in the district are closed which hinder people from attending the services. Despite the difficulties church grows and new ministries open. In addition to preaching and teaching the church also developed a social ministry - underprivileged families are supported with parcels of food.
During the last five years the church grew very fast. The average attendance on a Sunday is over 200 adults despite unsafe status & difficult circumstances. Every Friday, the day off in Iraq, various groups have their meetings including the children and youth. In addition, there are theological classes by extension and discipleships training classes. Over 500 individuals attend the FBCh of Baghdad every week. It is still possible to freely provide the Iraqi people with spiritual materials which come from the Baptist Publications. The vital part of the ministry though is due to an evangelistic team which regularly visits non Christian families in order to share the Gospel. The other ‘follow up' group takes care of the new converts.
Indigenous missionaries are planting several new churches in Iraq. One of them is in the part of Baghdad, where is no Evangelical witness and the vast majority are not Christians. Some other church plants are in the north of the country.
Indigenous missionaries' reports
One indigenous church planter working in the north wrote in his recent report:
Our Christian meetings are going well and on a regular basis, also each week we have three cell groups joining us from three neighboring villages. Then we have another two Bible studies during the week which take place in another village. In 2008 we had a profound Bible study, and have now started another series about the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a new believer. Last spring we organized evangelistic meetings for four days with Pastor Nabil Sara.
Lately the First Baptist Church in Baghdad sent us a lot of Christian material that have been distributed for the public and used as an outreach ministry. Several people joined the church and nine persons got baptized during the last six months. Also our visitation ministry is continuing as it helps the members to comprehend their role in the church. We celebrate the Lord's Supper once a month with all six Baptist home churches which are in our district. We are working now on the official papers to register the church.
Another indigenous church planter reported from Baghdad:
The migration to the West is not helping the church at all. We are still about the same number although the church is adding new people who are confessing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, but a lot of current members are leaving the country. Our church still has to contend with other traditional churches accusing us of attracting their youth and children. In the midst of all this we find the hand of the Lord is working efficiently. We had twelve people baptised on May 29, and we are looking to arrange another baptism in the Tiger River very soon.
The leaders are trained in theology by extension and are involved in different kinds of Biblical Christian Leadership training. They attended six training courses in and out of Iraq, the goal being to prepare them to be qualifiied leaders. Also our church is training other Evangelical churches with Sunday Schools' curriculum called "Children Evangelism Fellowship".
In addition our church in Baghdad keeps helping and equipping the home planted churches in the north. This year we were able to provide many of their needs by supplying them with Bibles, Christian literatures, as well as helping them with evangelistic meetings. The insecure situation in Baghdad forced a lot of families to leave temporarily towards the north of Iraq. Therefore we have to accommodate our structure and organize more services and train more leaders.
In Christ, Daniel Trusiewicz, EBF Mission Coordinator
European Baptist Federation Church Planting Project: www.ebf.org/imp