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Mohammad and Sara, with their girls Samantha and Melody, live in a makeshift home in a school hall that houses 78 people. Separate rooms for families are created by piled up mattresses to offer some privacy.

All they owned had been left behind in Mosul, but they took pride in what little they had been given.  A simple cross was marked on the pillar in their home, as though to declare, like Joshua,

“As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD”Despite their circumstances and all that had happened to his family, Mohammad maintained his deep respect and trust in God.

They had a very happy life in Mosul. Mohammad had a good job and was able to provide for his family.

The couple had a seven-month-old baby with a disability. Just four days before the incident which was to change their lives, the child suddenly died. Distressed and grieving their loss, Sara still insisted that she wanted to go to church and pray with her fellow believers.

On Sunday morning, Mohammad dropped Sara off at the steps of the church and went to find a car park. He kept Samantha and Melody with him so that Sara had some time to pray before the service.

Thirty seconds of terrorSara was speaking to her pastor when gunmen broke into the church and began to spray the believers with machine gun fire. It seemed like a long time, but in fact only lasted around 30 seconds.

Immediately, people dropped to the ground, some injured by the bullets and some instantly falling dead onto the floor. Sara tripped over something in the mayhem and fell onto a bloodied victim, but stayed as flat as possible while the bullets rained over her head.

Hearing the gunfire, Mohammad left the girls staying low in the safety of the car as he raced in concern to the church, wondering if Sara was still alive.

It was over in seconds. As quickly as they had come, the intruders disappeared. The ringing in Sara’s ears persisted. She tried to stand up but tripped once more on the slippery floor, which was covered in blood. Mohammad saw her there with blood all over her and raced to her side.

By this time, screaming had erupted from the wounded and afraid, adding to the confusion. Mohammad stared with horror at the blood all over his wife and cried, “Are you alright? Where are you injured?”

Sara looked at her dress, stained with the blood from the body of a fellow believer who was dead on the floor. She broke down in tears while Mohammad grabbed her in his arms, thanking God for the protection of his wife. Neither of them could comprehend the slaughter of innocent believers they had just witnessed.

Reports later revealed that three people died and twelve were injured. Sara had only wanted to go to a holy place to pray through her grief for her lost child, but more lives were lost in the cowardly act of terrorism against Christianity.

Flight over the mountainsMohammad decided they must leave Mosul for the safety of Kurdistan. He made immediate arrangements for them to leave home. Their arduous, 12-day journey was a story in itself, but now his family is safe in their makeshift home, where they have lived for almost two months now.

Sara continues to struggle with severe trauma from this event. “Each night I cry myself to sleep. My husband puts his arm around me to comfort me, but the dreams are so real. I can never forget this time in my life,” she shared.

Mohammad said, “Even though we escaped with our lives, I feel like we are in a prison here. I don’t mean to be unthankful, but I am desperate for work to support my family in any way. I would love to come to Australia, but if God allows us it will be a minimum processing time of two years. What do we do in the meantime?”

Mohammad and his family’s journey is just one of countless stories. VOM Australia is committed to providing assistance to our family in Iraq, with our national contacts there able to develop special projects to support them. We must be prepared to strategically plan long term assistance in order to be effective.

Please pray first of all for this situation to be resolved. Pray for families like Mohammad’s to find peace in God and a safer haven in a country where they can begin a new life. Thirdly, please pray for our national contacts, who experience these things daily, and ask our almighty God to provide abundantly for the needs there.