Samaritan’s Purse is helping people rebuild their lives in a violence-scarred region of Iraq.
“The way you feel right now doesn’t have to be the way you feel forever,” said Marigold, a Samaritan’s Purse mental health clinician, counseling a young Yazidi woman sitting on a cushion next to her. “I believe it is possible for you to feel better than you do right now,” she continues.
These words resonate with hope in the mind of the woman sitting next to Marigold. When the woman lifts her head, her eyes have a spark of hope despite the deep pain and tragedy she carries. Can she dare believe her life might have any joy left in it?
People from across Sinjar often come to Marigold and other Samaritan’s Purse staffers with heavy burdens. The weight of trauma, poverty, and even everyday life is difficult to bear alone.
Sinjar has known deep pain. This small region in Iraq—on the edge of the Nineveh Plains—borders northern Syria and has been home to the Yazidi ethno-religious group for thousands of years. In 2014, ISIS invaded the region, killing thousands of these precious people, taking many into captivity, and forcing thousands more to flee. Yazidis refer to this tragic date—August 3, 2014—as “a black day.” It is not a day that can be forgotten. It is a day that upended lives, tore apart families, and shattered hearts.
Samaritan’s Purse began helping Yazidis in Sinjar soon after the tragedy, bringing food and tents. Today in Sinjar, Samaritan’s Purse is operating a mental health program and also supporting families. We are also restoring livelihoods by providing kitchen gardens, beekeeping training, and cash grants.
People are slowly returning to abandoned villages and beginning to restart, but there is a lot of work to be done. One village at the base of Sinjar Mountain, once famous for its olive and fig orchards, sat abandoned until several months ago when the community decided to return home together. They came back from refugee camps to the rubble and disrepair of their village. It is families like these that Samaritan’s Purse is assisting.
“You are the first people to come to our aid,” the village leader said. “But the most important thing you have done is to bring hope and laughter back to our village.” The proof of this returned joy was visible on the faces of happy children, all chorusing their thanks for “The Good Neighbors” as they affectionately chose to call Samaritan’s Purse.
Day after day, Samaritan’s Purse staff continue to drive down streets surrounded by reminders of war. They go to remote corners of the region to teach families how to keep bees and sell honey. Staff pause in the midst of this work to sit with people on thin Iraqi cushions in mud houses, holding hands as tears spill down widows’ cheeks. They listen as young survivors of the genocide tell their stories and as mothers shares their hopes that their children will be returned one day from captivity. And they pray. They pray for God to be present. They pray for healing and hope.
Hope Begins to Blossom
God has answered many prayers. Witnessing these moments when hope and joy return to hearts that have been so long heavy with grief is among the most precious things in the world. Some things even the worst of atrocities cannot destroy forever. Though the heartaches aren’t forgotten, the signs of hope are visible:
- Children laughing after months in captivity.
- Old men playing love songs with worn fingers. Even after ISIS destroyed their instruments, and even after five years without making music, their fingers won’t forget.
- Wildflowers growing back in fields where battles were fought and new green shoots coming out of tree stumps where ISIS cut down whole orchards.
- People playing soccer matches on dirt fields.
- Families turning newly repaired houses into homes again.
Hope is the sound of one beekeeper playing music for the bees in his new beehives one afternoon. He pulled out his tambura and began to play right there in the field at the base of Sinjar Mountain. The notes of the instrument mixed with the voice of a young man struggling to press on. He sang while Samaritan’s Purse staff clapped and danced and celebrated the joy of bees and harvest and life returning to the shadows of Sinjar Mountain.
Keep the Yazidis in Prayer
The Yazidis keep pressing on day by day. Maybe tomorrow can be better than today. The Samaritan’s Purse team keeps encouraging Yazidis to hold on to hope. The best is yet to come.
For many Yazidis, the weight of tragic moments, bitterness, loss, and day-to-day challenges continues to hold them captive. Please join us in praying for God’s presence to bring healing and hope to the people of Sinjar as they rebuild their lives.