Just as it did during most of 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic continues to create both physical and financial barriers to our programs to help persecuted Christians.
In my work to serve the victims of radical Islam, the need is so great and my time and resources are stretched thin.
Restrictions caused by the coronavirus have caused even more stress on our systems to distribute aid to persecuted Christians.
Since March of last year our ministry partners in Iraq have had great difficulty delivering adult diapers to those who have critical needs and cannot leave their homes, including the elderly and those wounded during Islamic State attacks.
Our operations in Erbil have been forced to shut down and we are now working with partners in Duhok, which is north of Erbil.
Duhok, a city of 1.5 million, is the center of Assyrian Christian culture but now has scores of empty churches, as Christians have been forced to abandon the area over the last several decades.
Many Christians are in poverty, having had their homes and businesses destroyed by the Islamic State.
Many of those in need in Duhok are from the same Christian towns as those who also fled to Erbil. They are displaced in their own homeland.
There is no Medicare or Medicaid in Iraq, and there is no social security for the elderly. Many older Christians, particularly women whose sons were killed by the Islamic State, have no one to support them. They must seek out charity for their needs.
The Christian community in Iraq has been badly broken by the continued attacks since the first Gulf War. The Islamic State destroyed Christian families and homes, and the Muslim controlled Iraqi government does little to help Christians rebuild. Then came Covid-19!
One church we were working with in Duhok was hit hard by Covid-19 and had to suspend operations. Medical care had already been poor in Iraq, before Covid-19 completely overwhelmed the hospitals.
My good friend Ashur Eskrya, who was president of the Assyrian Aid Society, died due to Covid-19 in April. His organization was one of those assisting in the distribution of diapers.
As bad as Covid-19 is in Iraq, we still managed to distribute about 10,000 adult diapers monthly to special needs elderly adults and 50,000 diapers monthly to destitute families with infants.
Each month the reports from Duhok arrive on my desk, with the stories of special needs adults that break my heart.
Often, along with the reports are photos that I just cannot share here, such as one of a man whose feet had turned black from lack of proper medical care.
There are still lockdowns in Iraq. Hopefully those lockdowns will end this year.
When the lockdowns finally end, it is important that we have in place the financial resources to reach the special needs adults, including those gravely wounded by Islamic terror.
Young families are financially worse off than ever as the Christian population continues to shrink in Iraq. Parents with babies and toddlers have returned to their ancestral homes on the Nineveh Plains to find factories and businesses destroyed.
What work there is goes to Muslim men, not Christians.
Iraqi and Syrian Christians have fled to Jordan.
There is still fighting in Iraq and the Sunni Muslim revolt is still ongoing in Syria.
Many of the Christian Iraqi and Syrian refugees we help in Jordan are not infants. Many of those receiving aid are elderly and have special needs. Because they are not Jordanian citizens, they receive no government aid.
Many we supply adult diapers to in Jordan are not elderly but were wounded in terror attacks or are extremely ill. Mrs. Al-Daoud, an elderly woman now living in Safout, Jordan had a stroke during an attack that caused her paralysis, and she is unable to move.
Mrs. Al-Daoud is not a citizen of Jordan and receives no government aid. We supply adult diapers and wet wipes to her continuously. Without state aid she must rely upon an unemployed daughter who came with her for all her needs.
Despite the Covid-19 lockdowns we are able to continuously supply diapers to 97 special needs Christian adults, most of them elderly but some younger who are paralyzed.
Up until Covid-19 began to sweep across the world the Diapers for Refugees program was growing in Jordan and Iraq.
During 2019 we were able to increase the size of the program, so the cost per diaper went down. The more diapers we are able to buy at one time, the less each diaper costs!
The bad news is that our funding has become tighter as the coronavirus has affected the incomes of the vast majority of Americans.
In 2019 we were able to deliver over two million diapers to toddlers, infants and special needs adults. In 2020 our totals were down to one million, but our costs per diaper increased.
Diaper program: Our Diapers for Refugees program is still curtailed by Covid-19 which is severe in the Middle East. There is no access to Western produced vaccines except in Israel and in wealthy Gulf States such as Saudi Arabia.
In Jordan a Chinese vaccine is being used, and our main missions director there has had both shots because of his age. It does not much matter though that he got the shots — because he can’t go anywhere anyway, with most functions in Jordan still shut down.
Iraq is a mess, and I was incredibly surprised that Pope Francis travelled there in March, although I am thankful that he did. Pope Francis called to the attention of the world the plight of Christians in Iraq in a way that the mainstream media in the West has refused to do for decades. The Christian population of Iraq has been decimated since the second occupation by the United States began in 2003.
Despite the difficulties, there are successes in places such as Bethlehem and Beit Sahour in the West Bank.
West Bank: Diapers are being provided for a number of elderly Christians living in a nursing home operated by the Antonian Charitable Organization. And at the House of God shelter for children with special needs, diapers are provided for 24 handicapped children suffering from mental and physical problems. The shelter provides the children alternative nonstop care. Third, the Greek Orthodox Church in Beit Sahour (Shepherds’ Field) received diapers to help 10 vulnerable elderly individuals living in poverty and in need of daily necessities. Many of these vulnerable adults are residing in the St. Nicholas nursing home in Bethlehem.
Jordan: Because the adult diapers are so expensive and the need is so great, we cannot do mass distributions. Each case of need is looked at by our ministry partner in Jordan. Just one example is an elderly Christian woman who lives in the town of Safout. She suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure, and had a stroke that caused paralysis. She is unable to move. Diapers and wet wipes are provided to her daughter regularly to care for her.
There are dozens more cases of Christians in such need, many of them refugees from the Iraq and Syria wars that have injuries that cause them to be unable to control their bladder or bowels. There is no medical aid for refugees other than from relief agencies. Jordan, just like Lebanon, is simply too poor to care for the medical needs of refugees.
Iraq: Our Diaper program for Assyrian Christians displaced from their homes and jobs in northern Iraq costs out at over $13,000 per month and includes diapers for unemployed Christian families with infants and elderly who have no other place to go for the diapers they need so badly.
Back to “normal.” I am not sure what normal will be like in six months or one year. I would like to see the Diaper program back to distribution centers as it was before. In Iraq, Jordan and the West Bank diapers must be delivered to homes and care centers because of government restrictions. This makes our work difficult, demanding and exposes workers to illnesses.
Our Diapers for Refugees program continues to
function in most areas other than Iraq, where there are continuing problems
because of Covid-19. Notably in Jordan
we have expanded the distribution of adult diapers to more elderly and special
needs people in need. Most of those are either Iraqi or Syrian refugees who do
not qualify for any aid from the Jordanian government, as they are not
The diaper program has also expanded in the West Bank areas of Bethlehem
and Beit Sahour. Adult diapers continue to be given at a Christian care center
there, but we have also ordered diapers for a Christian orphanage that takes in
severely handicapped children. As the children there are older, more expensive
diapers are required.
Please pray for all affected by Covid-19. Please pray for our continued
mission to persecuted Christians, in particular the children.
New Diaper Program: The coronavirus was introduced to the Bethlehem area by Christians on a pilgrimage from South Korea. No infections were reported until more than two weeks after they left.
Some areas of the Church of the Nativity are small, such as the Grotto of the Nativity. Often areas of the church are very crowded, with virtually no fresh air.
My wife and I have been there many times and in 2017 came across a large group of Korean Christian pilgrims who were singing beautiful hymns in one of the chapel areas.
This year the Korean Christian pilgrims who were infected before leaving Korea also ate at the breakfast buffets this Middle Eastern area of the world is well known for. That is an example of the complexity of a virus spreading.
The situation in the West Bank comes just as we had begun a diaper program at a nursing home for very elderly Christians who are in need of constant medical aid. A local charity provides the beds and medical care, but families must bring in adult diapers which are very expensive there. There is no state program there such as Medicare. The elderly are on their own.
The adult diaper program will be a small start for us, as there are only 30 residents of the nursing home. Almost half do not have family members who can afford the diapers and must depend on occasional gifts. We would assure them a monthly supply.
Please be in prayer for those in the nursing home there. Many of those who died of the coronavirus in Washington State were from just one nursing home.
For now all we can do is pray that funds will be available to wire to those carrying out our programs and that sanity will return to the American financial system somehow.
No diapers this December: As mentioned in a recent newsletter, the Diapers for Refugees program has changed the dates we buy diapers making December a lot easier to manage financially.
In September we were able to buy diapers for four months by setting up the next purchase date in January instead of December. That is good news … But we still need $28,000 to buy a three-month supply of diapers in January.
Please pray that provision will be made not only for the shipment of diapers in January but for all of 2020 as well. There is a huge need for adult special needs diapers for the elderly and those with severe disabilities. Please pray for all those we assist in Iraq and other nations with the Diapers for Refugees program.
Why so many? Why is there such a horrific need for adult special needs diapers in Iraq?
One of the reasons for the need is physical injuries suffered during 18 years of continuous war in Iraq.
I have previously I told the story of Intesar (38), a paralyzed mother of two who receives adult diapers from our Diapers for Refugees program. She was paralyzed when hit by crossfire between American troops and Islamic State terrorists.
But cases like hers do not explain the large number of young people born with neurological disorders and other issues the last 10 to 15 years that cause them to need diapers the rest of their lives.
I am beginning to understand the cause and it is not going to go away.
Many of those born with neurological problems have high levels of uranium and thorium in their bodies. Some close to American bases have radiation levels in their teeth 28 times greater than normal. A lot of the ammunition we used in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan was made out of depleted uranium.
“Depleted” sounds safe, but there is no such thing as uranium that is not radioactive. Even the raw ore coming from the ground is radioactive.
But there is a bigger issue. Chemically, uranium causes the same problems that lead does.
Uranium mines are not safe and mining companies take steps to protect workers. Safeguards are mandated by the Federal government. The state of Virginia has the largest reserves of uranium in the nation and will not allow mining because of the dangers.
A mining association report says thaturanium ore “…has chemical toxicity similar to lead, so occupational hygiene precautions are taken similar to those in a lead smelter.”
In other words, the uranium can cause the same neurological damage as lead even if it was not radioactive, which it is. Yes, it is a small amount of radiation. The problem is the length of exposure. Children near American bases and in areas where there was heavy combat are showing the signs of neurological damage.
I am not judging the kind of ammunition our military forces use in Iraq or elsewhere. I am no expert on what is effective. All I know is that we need a lot more diapers for special needs children.
In the middle of preparations for the Christmas for Refugees program I can’t work on the special needs’ diapers program … but I promise you I will beginning in January. This problem is not going to go away.
There are many elderly who did not receive proper medical care during the last two decades who now require diapers. There are many middle-age and young who were injured in bombings and shot by the Islamic State. Then there are the younger ones that break my heart because they will never have normal lives.
The suffering of these younger Iraqi Christians is not abstract for me. My wife Nancy and I have been in their homes. We have prayed with them and we have promised them help. I intend, with the help of the Lord, to keep my promise to them.
Diapers often increase the overall quality of life for elderly and special needs Christian refugees.
Special needs adult diapers: I received the first request for adult diapers in 2018. Our team had been so centered on the babies and toddlers and their needs that the idea of adult diapers had never been considered.
I did not think there would be a big demand for the adult diapers. I was wrong!
The percentage of older adults with special needs for diapers is far higher than in the United States because of the lack of medical care during war time. Infections that could have been cured caused damage that could never be undone.
Until I talked to some of those receiving the adult diapers, I did not understand how much lives were changed for the better by them. In many cases it is a matter of being able to sleep through the night. There were tears in the eyes of one man who told me how his life was changed by having the diapers. He told me he could sleep on a mattress for the first time in years!
The budget for the adult diapers just keeps growing and we are not even dealing with a large population. We are only supplying the needs of the Christian community on the Nineveh Plain. Our entire operation in Iraq is within 200 square miles. Our ministry partners in Jordan have been asking for assistance with the adult diapers as well. Again, the problems were mostly caused by lack of medical care. In Jordan the medical care was not available because of money. All the Iraqi and Syrian Christians are there illegally as refugees, and are not allowed to work. Most of those have no homes to go back to.
I do not want this ministry in the situation where we are able to do something one time and then never again. Promises should not be made if they that cannot be kept. We have been able to begin a small Diapers for Refugees program in Jordan targeting mostly elderly with special needs. The budget for 2019 is set, but we will try to do more in 2020.
While many Christian refugee families are unable to fully provide for their children, the government and other global organizations do not provide support.
Babies still need diapers: It is just not right to ask a young married couple to not have children because they are refugees through no fault of their own, but that is exactly what the United Nations and USAID expects. The United Nations, USAID and the EU hand out condoms and birth control pills.
If the young families are expected to hold off having children until the society in Iraq and Syria is back to “normal” economically, then they will never have children. It will take Iraq at least 50 years to recover from the 2003 invasion; the uprising against the US occupation and then the war with the Islamic State.
Although it is no longer in the news, there is still fighting going on in Iraq. There are still pockets of the Islamic State (ISIS) and al-Qaeda.
Rayan xxxxxxxxxxxxxx(36) is a displaced Christian father of a one-year old daughter named Rebeca. He has been displaced from Bartella with his family since 2014 due to ISIS taking over their home, causing them to flee and take refuge in the city of Erbil. Rayan was one of the first people to return back home because of his love for his own village and his grandparents land. When he returned to see if his house was still livable, he was shocked to see the house totally burned into rubble. When asked about his living situation and his job, he smiled and said, “I work as an electrical employee. Some days I get payments, and some days I do not. Most people don’t have enough funds to rebuild their houses. If relatives and neighbors call me to help them in fixing electrical cables in their houses, I will get money on those days. Otherwise, I am still without money and I sometimes can’t feed my family. The wages don’t exceed $8 per day for 8 hours of working, which covers just a part of living costs for my family. We are dependent on your regular distribution of diapers and it greatly helps us as a family in saving some money to put towards our living situation. Actually, my wife was concerned two days ago because we used our last diaper and we do not have money to buy a new sack, but I told her I trust in our Lord that he will send your team to deliver diapers. I would have had to buy diapers instead of rice if there was any delay. Praise the Lord your team came at the same day. It is very encouraging what the Lord is doing to stand alongside us. Unfortunately, we are feeling like strangers in our home village due to the persecution we had faced by ISIS. Now, most of the citizens in Bartella are from Muslim background and many Christian citizens immigrated to foreign countries”.
Intesar xxxxxxxxxxxxxx (38), is a paralyzed mother of two and is currently among the many displaced Christians from Qaraqosh, this is her story.
“In 2005 I went to clinic at Mosul to receive a treatment …unfortunately, when I finished my visit and was on the way to my home village (Qaraqosh), I was shot by an unknown gunman during confrontations between US military troops and terrorists. This shot has changed me from being a normal woman to a paralyzed woman.” Intesar stops talking for a while as her eyes fill with tears while she describes the crisis that she was going through. When asked about her living conditions when ISIS occupied Qaraqosh, she replied “we were forced to flee away from Qaraqosh and were displaced from it in June 2014, at that time we went to Erbil. Then in August 2014 ISIS started to attack Qaraqosh with mortar fire, some people were killed, and then everyone started to escape from there seeking refuge in Erbil. It was so crowded, tragic to see such view. We left everything behind and went to an unknown future, after waiting for so long in the main checkpoint of Erbil. We finally managed to get in the city, at that time we were sleeping in the streets and gardens. It was so hard for us. Now, we rent a small house because ISIS burned our entire house after collecting our furniture and putting it in the middle of the house to ensure that the fire would increase rapidly and destroy the house totally. They destroyed all our beautiful memories with it. We don’t have adequate money to rebuild our house. My husband is just a daily worker and we lost all our belongings and savings during the war with ISIS. So many of us are fighting just to live. These helpful diapers are one of my much needed items that will help me survive. Your team is doing an affective role in presenting services that the government cannot or does not provide any support for disabled people with their families. You indicate that you do love me through your visit. God bless you all for your faithful loving service to our Lord”.
Two million diapers in 2019: More help is needed for Christian families on the Biblically important Nineveh Plain — not less.
There is no running water in many of the Christian towns on the Nineveh Plain.
Two full years after liberation, areas of Qaraqosh still look like this. Note that the power lines actually are not connected to anything.
Their water came from the dam on the Tigris river near the major Iraqi city of Mosul. That was the largest Iraqi city held by the Islamic State and it took more than a year for the Iraqi Army and Shia militias to take the city back from the Sunni jihadists of the Islamic State even with nearly constant bombing by The United States and other Western air forces.
The electric power plants were destroyed in the bombing. The water treatment plants were destroyed in the bombing. The water pumping stations were destroyed in the bombings. Most of the power lines came down and the water pipelines were hit as well.
When I was in Iraq this past December, there were still craters in roads. While many of the bridges that were bombed by the Western Coalition to stop Islamic State movements have been rebuilt, there are still some bridges that are down making transporting water difficult.
It gets worse: As I have mentioned previously in newsletters the water from wells on the Nineveh Plain is as salty as the sea. The well water is not drinkable. Cloth diapers cannot be washed in well water as the salt will stay in the diapers and irritate babies, causing diaper rash. The whole purpose of our Diapers for Refugees program is to reduce or stop completely the problem of severe diaper rash that can cause bacterial infections.
During 2018 the need for diapers increased as families moved away from aid centers and tried to move back to their looted homes.
As more families move back to Bartella, Qaraqosh, and other towns on the Nineveh Plain they receive less aid than they could have gotten in the larger city of Erbil.
Keep in mind that every Christian home was looted. The washing machines are gone as are the stoves, air conditioners, furniture and even the clothes and dishes.
Because of the images many Americans have of those living in the Middle East, I have to emphasize over and over again that these Christian families were almost all well educated and middle class.
The Christian families did not live in tents or huts, like the image many have set in their minds. Many of these homes were anywhere from 1,500 to 4,000 sq. ft. and had tiled floors with full modern baths and kitchens. That is all gone, every bit of it.
I have been in these homes … before and after. I have enjoyed dinner in more than one Christian Arab home in the Middle East. I have met Christian men and women who are doctors, lawyers, and businessmen. Some were millionaires before the invasion.
I have also seen the jihadist writings on the walls of destroyed homes. I have visited the shops and even factories that were owned by Christians that now lie empty or in ruins.
There was a huge metal door and window factory at the entrance to Qaraqosh that now lies in ruins. All of the equipment was stolen and carted off to Turkey.
Currently the biggest industry in Iraq is demolition and the reprocessing of scrap metal and cement. Those are not great paying jobs.
And sadly, I must report that most of the wealthy Christians, those that were millionaires fled to Europe during the occupation by the Islamic State. They don’t plan on coming back. Without the wealthy the rebuilding process will be even slower.
Every dollar counts in a situation like this: This is why the Diapers for Refugees program is so important. Every dollar’s worth of diapers we can furnish to families in need is one more dollar they have to rebuild their shattered lives, one more dollar to help buy dishes or linens or a mattress to sleep on.
These are the reasons I want to keep the Diapers for Refugees program alive in 2019.