Evangelist Franklin Graham visited the city of Qaraqosh in Iraq during the Easter weekend and discovered something amazing when he rummaged through the ruins of a church that was burned down by the Islamic State (ISIS).
Qaraqosh used to be the home of some 50,000 Christians before ISIS took over in 2014, forcing them to evacuate. Graham wrote on his Facebook page that now, just a handful — about seven families — remain in the city.
“I visited a church that had been burned and destroyed by ISIS and met with the pastor. Incredibly, in the ashes and debris, we discovered one of our Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes that had been given to a child there at some point. I couldn’t help but wonder where the child who received this box is today,” he shared.
The evangelist said that his heart goes out to the pastors in that region, because most of their congregations are now dispersed all over the world due to religious persecution.
“As shepherds they want to be able to help their flocks. They want to be able to care for them and protect them, but until there’s a political settlement there’s no way this is going to happen,” he said, adding that people should pray for these pastors.
Graham also revealed that he found charred pages from a Bible in one of the ruined churches. When he picked it up, he read the verse John 20:27, which reads: “Then he [Jesus] said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.'”
Graham spent Easter Sunday with believers in Iraq, sharing God’s hope with members of the Christian & Missionary Alliance Church in Erbil. He said he was told by some members of the congregation that ISIS militants were forced to leave their homes because of ISIS.
“In spite of the tremendous difficulties, they have hope in Jesus Christ,” said Graham. “I told them, ‘Today we celebrate Easter, when our Lord rose from the grave. He is alive — He is not dead. He’s alive, and the only hope in this world is for God to change hearts, and the only way hearts can be changed is through Jesus Christ.'”
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” — Jesus (Matthew 24:9-14, NIV)