For many years, IAFR Canada team member Insaf Safou has visited Iraq, where she has shared God’s love and practical support with people who have experienced forced displacement. Insaf originally came from Iraq.
Her family’s story includes a time living as refugees in Turkey, before finally arriving in Canada. Wherever Insaf has happened to live, and whatever her circumstances at any point in her life, God has always used her to bring hope and help to her neighbours – both next door and around the world.
IAFR is currently working in Iraq by supporting a sewing project for refugee women. Hopeful Hands is a social enterprise that Insaf started alongside a local church in Erbil. This program provides sewing machines, patterns, materials, oversight and instruction for women, in order for them to create beautiful and practical items that are sold to pay for the program and for their salaries. Hopeful Hands has provided critically needed income and community for more than 100 displaced women during the last few years. IAFR is excited to be working with our partners in Beirut to expand this initiative into Lebanon.
The initial plan was for Insaf to visit Beirut during 2020 to lay the foundation of the Lebanon sewing program alongside a team from the Beirut Nazarene Church. However, as is the case with so many initiatives and in so many lives, the realities of COVID-19 restrictions have set in. These realities, in combination with the economic and social adversities that have befallen Beirut during the last year, have resulted in the visit and the program being delayed.
During a recent zoom meeting, as an icebreaker, participants were shown a number of photos and asked to choose the one that described how they felt at that particular moment in time. Insaf’s choice was a comfortable looking easy chair, which happened to be painted like Van Gogh’s famous Starry Night. It is a chair that invites both rest and dreams.
As Insaf herself describes, “The chair is me in my home for the last year… eating, hot water, food, family… I’m sitting on my beautiful, colourful chair now – my comfort zone – the best place for everyone right now. But my heart is not satisfied. I want to leave my comfort zone and run to the people.”
Insaf’s heart remains among the people to whom God called her.
In that same exercise, participants were asked to choose a second picture that represented where they wish they could be, or the reality they hoped for themselves. This time Insaf chose a slightly ominous, though beautiful photo of a long dark road leading into the unknown.
“I want to be on the road.” Insaf says.
As Insaf waits for both the practical and political necessities, as well as God’s “yes” in her heart to go to Lebanon and help start the sewing project, she remains focused on the ministry to which she is called. Part of this ministry is an Arabic-speaking Bible Study she organizes:
I started a mission group called Heart for Middle East. We meet every week on Zoom. There are deep-in-Spirit, mature missionaries from Iraq, Lebanon, and Turkey in the group, people I met when I was there. We share updates and needs and pray for each other. A Bible teacher from Northern Ireland provides some teaching once a month. We are disconnected in body, but in spirit we are one and well connected. Thank God for Zoom and the internet. When I asked them to pray so I could go on mission, one of them replied, ‘Don’t underestimate what you are doing right now. It is impacting our lives. You are feeding us.’
Please pray for our partner churches in Iraq and Lebanon who are helping forcibly displaced people. Pray for the sewing social-enterprise program that is active in Iraq, but still waiting to begin in Lebanon. Pray for God’s timing for Insaf to join with the church in Lebanon to help initiate this program, and as always, to share God’s love and presence with those she meets.
The COVID-19 restrictions have slowed or permanently stopped many important initiatives around the world, including some projects of IAFR Canada. Pray for both those on the ground and those who work for helping organizations, that during this time we would be able to receive and experience the deep peace and profound realities expressed in Psalm 46:10, the particular verse God gave Insaf a year ago…
“Be still and know that I am God.”
Our vision is to help people survive and recover from forced displacement. We do this together with the church, both globally, and locally in Canada.