Posted by Peter
Last Sunday my wife and I attended services at Grace Church of Eden Prairie. We went there to go to the church's missions festival, and to hear from some of the church's missionaries from overseas who were there to speak.
The one that held my attention the most was Ghassan Thomas, a Christian pastor from Iraq. He spoke in Arabic, and was translated by another Christian missionary from Jordan (despite the fact that he spoke very good English). Despite the fact that we had to wait for the translation of the story, he had an amazing and riveting story to tell.
During Saddam Hussein's reign, Ghassan was there, spreading the gospel even though Saddam's regime did not allow new denominations to be established. He established a kindergarten through which they could evangelize. In his own words, "I was involved in an indirect ministry through the kindergarten, as I did not get permission to officially operate and evangelize. However people soon came to me and said: "this is like a church.""
After a while he was marked for death by Saddam's regime because of his evangelism, and he his family escaped to Jordan. When the Americans finally liberated Baghdad, Ghassan was able to return to Iraq to follow his dream and open an evangelical Christian church, the Evangelical Alliance Church. Within a few weeks the church could barely accommodate all of the hundreds of people attending their meetings. People in Iraq are hungry for something to fill the hole left by Saddam and Islam, and many of them are coming to Christ.
Everything hasn't been coming up all roses for Ghassan's small church since the liberation. Insurgents in their area have bombed several other Christian churches, killing many, and Ghassan feared that their church could be hit as well. After their church started receiving threats he and some other members of the church have taken to spending the night at their church, and thankfully their church hasn't been hit yet. They never go places by themselves as it isn't safe for Christians in Iraq right now.
Pastor Thomas told us that despite all of the danger and death, that there is much good happening in Iraq, and that many are professing Christ as their savior. He said that he, and many others, are grateful that the Americans came. In a poignant moment at the end of his talk, speaking on behalf of his church, he told us all, along with the US Military - "Thank you", and later on, "We love you". He was moved by the congregation's response, and many of us were in tears as well.
Ghassan should be back in Iraq by now, where he hopes to continue evangelizing, and where he hopes to open a church training facility in the northern kurdish areas. While we are concerned about his welfare, and we will pray for him, we rest well in the knowledge that he is saved in Christ, and that we'll see him again in heaven.. Godspeed Ghassan!
For more about Ghassan, and the Christian church in Iraq, click on these links:
Christians in Iraq fear becoming next terror target
AT LEAST 11 KILLED IN IRAQ CHURCH EXPLOSIONS BLAMED ON AL QAEDA
Canadian aid worker mourned