Radicals approached the shopkeeper and complained that the New Testament was prominently displayed in his shop. Although he is a Muslim, he told them in no uncertain terms that he would continue to display the Injeel prominently.

I was amazed and encouraged to hear this from the man, as I visited his shop. The New Testament has just been printed in the Kurds’ language for the first time. His friends in another non-Christian bookshop in the bazaar had gladly taken a box to sell, and also passed them on to him.

Raising up shepherds and equipping the church

The moment when a people group is presented with its first printed New Testament is a glorious moment and the dedication ceremony here was no exception. A good number of unbelievers were present and a prominent university hall was provided for the ceremony.

Good though it is that we have the New Testament after 25 years’ labour, it is worth remembering that Jesus commanded his disciples not to distribute books but to “make disciples … and teach people to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt 28:18- 20). Paul pictures this obedience being worked out in the working of a healthy body in Ephesians 4.

Our prayer is not that people will purchase a product like they buy a new JK Rowling novel, but rather that shepherds will be raised up who will understand and teach the book, and equip the church to speak its truths to one another – body-building not bookselling. One of the griefs of the work here is that few believers commit to careful study of the Bible, though many have disposable time.

Incorporating the Word of God into worship

As well as the weekly exposition of the Scriptures in Kurdish, we are committed to incorporating the Word of God into the warp and woof of our worship. Much labour in 2018 gave us a folder of benedictions, prayers and a baptism script, and we are trying to co-ordinate a translation of Vaughan Roberts’ God’s Big Picture.

Unfortunately, Bible translation has often been determined by book-publishing goals not pastoral needs. Sadly, the Kurds have no Psalms in the local dialect, when the Psalms speak so well to their situation, preparing our hearts to face suffering with the hope of the Messiah’s ultimate victory.

Another issue we face is that there are eight Arabic speaking Protestant churches in the city but it’s difficult to grow a view of church as a place where we are givers not takers, all playing a role. Some churches boast state-of-the-art halls funded by overseas money and offer employment opportunities. We feel like the poor relation: a dozen people on the floor studying the Scriptures. But some see our concern with their souls, and are grasping biblical truth.

God is calling a people to himself

You will have seen reports of conflict in our region, but in our better moments we rejoice that God is calling a people to himself, even while the secular media push the reverse narrative: that Christianity is dying. Far from it! The launch of the New Testament in Behdini and its being preached and received in unlikely places is a sign that God is doing a wonderful new thing after the church’s decline and exodus from Iraq.

 

J and J serve in bi-vocational ministry in the Middle East