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Devastation yields to hope in Kurdistan

God works despite closed doors for OneWay missionary

Five months after losing his wife and ministry partner to cancer, OneWay missionary JP Lindsey returned to Kurdistan, the country where he and Sarah dreamed of serving together. Not only does JP’s life look different without his wife, but the area where they planned to serve together has been decimated.

While JP and Sarah fought cancer in the U.S., Iran launched drone attacks on Kurdish refugees. The refugees whom Sarah and JP served have scattered, and the only residents left in the camp are a few couples who serve with the paramilitary.

With JP’s mission field no longer existing as it was, he isn’t sure what he is supposed to do next.

While in Kurdistan, JP wrestled with the fact that God has closed so many doors. “There was nothing to do from a ministry standpoint,” JP explains. “And obviously, when I was there, I was missing Sarah. It was so much a part of what we thought we would do together as husband and wife and ministry team partners.”

Ahmed was a member of the Kurdish paramilitary Peshmerga (literally, "to stand in front of death").

Still, God is working both in a nation destroyed by invaders and in JP’s life. In Kurdistan, JP and Sarah had many gospel conversations with their translator, a Kurdish fighter we'll call Ahmed*. Ahmed heard and translated the gospel many times but was resistant to it. Over time, JP began to doubt that Ahmed would ever believe.

Four years later, JP met Ahmed again. “As soon as I saw him,” JP said, “I knew that something had changed. I could just see it in his eyes … The first thing he said was, ‘I see now, Jesus was always there.’”

Sarah and JP in Kurdistan

The mission field in Kurdistan challenged JP and Sarah as student missionaries. They spent hot days praying while wandering a refugee camp where few people spoke English and none were believers.

“We drank a lot of tea in people's homes,” JP recalls. “They became dear to us.” The Lindseys began teaching English and even celebrated Sarah’s 21st birthday there.

JP and Sarah returned to Kurdistan the following year to find two new believers. They rejoiced with their new brother and sister, took communion and worshiped together. JP returned once more that year to find a church of about 12 believers.

“We were really excited by seeing what God was doing in the camp and we felt like we were just waiting for our turn to get there,” JP explains. “It made the cancer all the more confusing to us.”

After Sarah passed, his desire to return to Kurdistan only increased, but since the church was scattered, JP didn’t know what would be there for him.

JP returns

By the time JP returned to Kurdistan in May 2023, the camp where he met Ahmed, taught English and enjoyed tea with friends was mostly nonexistent. Drone attacks by the Iranian government destroyed homes, a school and many lives.

“It was very difficult for me to just see all that trauma and really not have the words or any way to address it,” he said. “I wanted to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I wanted to help in some way. But it didn't seem like there was any open door for me.”

But in April, JP learned that Ahmed had given his life to Christ, just as he and Sarah had prayed for. JP was eager to meet him again. Ahmed told JP that he had been impressed with the Christian missionaries. After meeting with other Christians and praying, he had surrendered his life to Christ.

After giving his life to Christ, Saman left the paramilitary. He uses his skills as a musician to glorify God with his church.

JP was also able to visit Ahmed's church, which he described as similar to the Church in Acts.

“I’m so thankful that my brother [Ahmed] has such a body that he can be a part of, especially in [a nearby country] and Kurdistan, which have been so dark for so long,” JP says. “To see such a vibrant church was really, really encouraging.”

After becoming a believer, Ahmed quit the paramilitary. When JP asked Ahmed what he was going to do next, he responded, “I don't know, but I trust God.” The same is true of JP as he plans his future in ministry.

JP leaves Kurdistan in the Lord’s hands, looking elsewhere for open doors. For the summer, he will join Heart Bible for the Nations missionaries in Greece, practicing Farsi as he meets with Afghani refugees there. He trusts that God will continue to guide his steps.

*Name changed for security

JP told a young soldier the story of Jairus from Mark 5. When he got to the part where Jairus’s servants tell him that his daughter is dead, she gasped and almost began to cry.

“She was so into the story,” JP said. “I had to tell her ‘just keep listening.’ She was so engaged. She never heard anything like that before.”

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