I stood in the rubble of a farmhouse in Northern Iraq. The Yazidi man, Khider, dressed in his traditional garb with a bushy mustache, described his family’s experience during the past year and a half.
“We were farmers, growing vegetables to sell in the market,” he said. “We had a simple life. Our family is from here, and we have stayed on our farm even when Saddam Hussein forced others to move to the collective village a couple of kilometers away.”
He pointed to the rugged crags of a mountain range that disappeared into the mist of the morning. A fresh coat of snow was just visible below the clouds. His family had been surprised by ISIS fighters that swept into the area in August 2014, killing Yazidi men and enslaving women and children. Surrounded in the plains, the Yazidi villagers fled into the mountain for their safety. Many of Khider’s neighbors lived in a network of caves in the mountain for more than a year. Some were still living there when we visited.
ISIS forces eventually were driven back from the areas around the mountain. Within the past couple of months, some brave families such as Khider’s ventured down to their abandoned villages to start rebuilding their lives. They found absolute destruction.
In Khider’s village, all of the homes except for one had been flattened. Houses that weren’t destroyed because of airstrikes or artillery fire were burned and booby-trapped by ISIS fighters before they fled. Fields were mined. Khider showed us some shrapnel from one roadside bomb, which had been detonated in his field when the Kurdish military forces took over.
I was on a mission to deliver items to families such as Khider’s that were resettling. These families have few resources. They are desperate. Hundreds of villagers emerged from the rubble of their homes and villages to receive the supplies we had to deliver.
The one house in Khider’s village that still was intact housed eight large Yazidi families. He took us on a tour of his home, which had been destroyed. We walked over the roof, which was just a slab of broken cement covering a pile of rubble.
But Khider was most interested in talking about the future. He talked about his plans for the next year, his summer crops, the village school, and families returning. He wants to rebuild, but his family needs a tent to live in while they worked on their house. He wants to re-farm, but he needs to make sure there aren’t still explosives buried in the fields.
As our team drove down the dirt road that led away from his village, he stood with a cluster of the village men waving. I imagined the work ahead of them, the planting of their fields and the reconstruction. I prayed silently for Him, thanking God for the opportunity to meet Khider and the people in his village and asking that He would open the door for more opportunities to serve these communities as they seek to rebuild their lives.