Iraqi Christian Family Receives Key to First Home; Then Immediately Forced to Flee Islamic State

October 26, 2015 by Janelle P

Zhila*, 28, and her family had to flee from the Islamic State (IS) on the very day they received the key to their first home. While her life is very difficult now, she has felt God’s presence throughout her journey. Jesus even appeared to her in dreams to warn her of the coming crisis.

They packed their boxes with so much care. There were boxes for glasses, dishes and kitchen supplies. They chose the couch they liked and decided on a color for the curtains. After living for several years with her in-laws, Zhila remembers her excitement on the day she and her husband Yousef* moved into their first home.

Her eyes fill with tears as she begins sharing what happened next: “We didn’t have the chance to spend even one night in our own house.”

Their move-in day was the same day IS entered Qaraqosh. It was a day filled with fear.

Hurrying outside with her husband and two daughters, Zhila watched as hundreds of people began to flee. They were rushing to get out, some of them falling. After the initial shock of the horrifying sight, Zhila received another shock when she realized this was not the first time she had witnessed this. She remembered a dream from several years prior in which these same events had taken place.

It was the night after she had read a passage from the book of Revelation[1] that Zhila first had the dream. She was still living in Mosul at the time. “What does this mean?” she had asked God. Zhila’s tears begin to flow more freely when she recalls her dream. “I saw my city in chaos; people were fleeing their homes and it was such a scary sight. I asked the Lord to have mercy on the people.”

She cried out to God, saying, “Oh Lord, what is going on?” It was then that Jesus appeared. She could hardly find words to describe His beauty. “It was like he was shining,” she utters.

Jesus began speaking to Zhila. “He told me that I shouldn’t be afraid, but he also warned me that this was just the beginning of the crisis.”

Zhila remembers the dream that day on the doorstep of the house she would never really live in. But she remembers Jesus’ words: “Do not worry, I will be with you.” They were some of the last to leave Qaraqosh. Zhila’s two young daughters, ages 3 and 1 at the time, took the back seat of the car while Zhila and Yousef sat in front.

The trip was nerve racking. IS was approaching. Everyone was trying to flee to Erbil as quickly as possible. Then, in the middle of nowhere, the empty fuel light began to blink. Her husband began cursing. Their daughters began to cry. They were hungry and thirsty and it was over 100 degrees outside. Zhila, however, remained calm. “Do not curse the Lord. Stop it right now,” she told her husband.

Answered Prayer

While Yousef continued driving, Zhila did not stop praying. Finally, they reached a fuel station. Yousef walked out and requested fuel, but the employee shook his head. He was unable to give him fuel because Yousef didn’t have the right coupon. The employee would be punished if he gave out fuel from the station without a coupon.

Desperately, Yousef walked back to the car. Zhila saw in the way that Yousef was walking that he had been unsuccessful. Had her prayers been in vain? But then, behind Yousef, a gasoline truck appeared from the dust. Excitedly she began pointing at the truck to get the attention of her husband; this gasoline didn’t require a coupon. He looked over his shoulder to see the employee gesturing at him to get back. Zhila silently thanked God for providing for her family. With the tank full, they arrived in Erbil. Emptyhanded but safe.

It has been more than one year since then and Zhila and Yousef share a house with two other families. IS took every single thing from their home in Qaraqosh. “It was as if we were furnishing IS,” Zhila said sadly.

Life isn’t easy as a refugee, but Zhila has learned one thing from this experience — God is with her even in the most difficult of circumstances.

*Names changed for security reasons

Open Doors is helping Christians who have been displaced by IS. To help feed a family for $50 a month, go to

[1] (Revelation 2:16)

“Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”

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