Life wasn't easy for Rafael and his family in Europe. They didn't receive the visa they needed to continue to live in the Netherlands, so they returned to Iraq to a very tiny village on the edges of the River Tigris. Once, a long time ago, the Tigris was used to demonstrate the location of the Garden of Eden. And now, thanks to your support, Rafael is able to grow crops in three greenhouses and provide for his family.
The village of Bakhloja, where Rafael lives on the banks of the Tigris, is only inhabited by six families; the other 37 houses have been abandoned by families who left the country for another life in the West. Complete silence is found in this place.
Rafael, in his red polo shirt and blue-chequered trousers, wears high rubber boots - it has rained a lot these past few days. "Not so good for us," he says, "we need the water from the river, and now it's too muddy to be used in the greenhouses."
After receiving a microloan from an Open Doors local partner, 35-year-old Rafael was able to build three greenhouses on his own land, prepare the soil, and buy the necessary seeds for the pumpkins he is growing inside the plastic-covered greenhouses. "We will harvest about 150-200kg in August. With the greenhouses we can harvest earlier than the harvest [we would get] from normal soil - this means that the prices we get will be higher."
He has high expectations. "This is the second year. The first year I grew cucumbers and was unsuccessful. The price I got for them was simply not enough. I have a family to take care of: my two children, my wife, my mother and my mother-in-law. With this product it will be better."
Although they will have sufficient income from the greenhouses, and although he lives in a lovely place, Rafael has his doubts about the future of his village. "Almost all from this village left the country. Besides my children, there are only two other children. I always wake up early to go to the greenhouse, but there is no one to say 'good morning' to."
It will be some months before he can harvest the pumpkins, but their yellow flowers look promising - a symbol of hope and growth in a community slowly getting back on their feet.
KEEP BRINGING HOPE TO THE MIDDLE EAST
Thanks to your support, Open Doors local partners in Iraq have been able to invest in more than 200 microloan projects, including churches and Christians who run small businesses, enabling them to bring life and hope to their communities.
Although Rafael and his family are beginning to flourish again, many Christians in Syria, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East still need help in getting back on their feet. Your prayers and support are vital in keeping hope alive for returning Christians, who are still facing the dangers of war and the threat of attack by Islamic extremists.
Many of our courageous brothers and sisters are choosing to stay to serve their communities – but they need the long-term support of their global church family to keep going, and rebuild hope for the future. Just £15 could go towards setting up a family in employment or helping them open a small business.
Please continue to pray for our church family in Iraq - if you haven't already got one, why not order a free Hope for the Middle East wristband to remind you to pray? You can also send a message of encouragement to our church family in the Middle East, to let them know that you are praying for them, and that they are not alone or forgotten by their global church family.
- For Rafael and his family, that their business would be fruitful and benefit their whole community
- For the churches and Christians who have received microloans through Open Doors local partners, that God would establish the work of their hands
- That more Christians would be able to return to Iraq and be equipped to rebuild their lives