We arrived in Kurdistan 10 months ago with a commitment to learning the local dialect of Kurdish and understanding the culture. This was with the aim that we might be equipped to share the good news about Jesus Christ, disciple believers and, under God’s hand, see Kurdish churches planted for his glory: churches with mature believers, reaching out with the gospel, discipling new believers and seeking to be a blessing to the wider culture.
The spiritual needs here are stark: 1 to 2 million people speak the dialect of Kurdish we are learning. Believers are numbered in the tens and are scattered. There is no known church meeting in this language. Amongst the believers: some are secret believers out of fear of their families, many long for a ‘better’ life in the West. Furthermore, the New Testament has not yet been published in the language (due for Spring 2019) and the Old Testament is currently near the beginning of the drafting stage.
The Kurds are an incredibly warm people: if you turn up on their doorstep, you will very likely be invited in. We are amazed at the way we have been welcomed into people’s homes and been taken on trips to enjoy the panorama of the mountains. They are fiercely proud of being Kurdish and enjoy wearing their national dress day to day. Life revolves around the family (a large entity with 3-4 generations regularly living in the same house), Kurdish food and, for many, cultivating vegetable patches and gardens. They love drinking sugary tea together, watching TV and taking endless selfies.
Most Kurds are Muslim, but there is a huge spectrum of seriousness with which Islam is followed. We know Kurds who comfortably tell us they are atheists, others who are agnostic in their ideas of God, but the majority follow the religion with a level of seriousness and a deep conviction that Islam is true. They need the gospel and the overwhelming majority have never had the opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus.
Kurdistan is actually home to different ethnic groups and over the last two decades there have been a significant number from the historic Christian communities who now follow Christ. As a result there are six Arabic speaking evangelical churches in our city (population 250,000), two of which are growing in a conviction to have meetings in Arabic and Kurdish as a direct result of seeing more Kurds in their meetings.
Our team leaders have seen a small fledgling Kurdish speaking fellowship developing over the last two years. There has been huge turnover, as people have come and gone, but we rejoice there are now believers to disciple. However, all but one who attend are from outside the city, and many outside of our region.
The past 10 months have been full of joys and struggles. There has been deep joy in just being here, sweet times of connecting with local people and feeling like we’re beginning to enter their world. It is rather overwhelming to see the countless ways in which our heavenly Father has provided for us and our young daughters.
Having language and cultural understanding stripped from us has been humbling and frustrating. But we have been reminded through being misunderstood, and not infrequently looked down upon, that we are not seeking our own glory – that has already been achieved for us in Christ. We often feel at the end of ourselves in energy, wisdom, gifts and abilities, but we have experienced the sweetness of the sufficiency of Christ in our weakness and his power working in and through us.
Under God’s hand we plan to press on with language learning for the next year whilst setting up an engineering consultancy. Increasingly, we want to go about the work of quietly and passionately sharing the glorious gospel with those we meet and serving the fledgling fellowship of believers in whatever ways we can. And we would love to see, and pray on for, God to raise up more workers for this very needy harvest field.