Franklin Graham has revealed that while visiting the charred remains of a church that had been burned and destroyed by ISIS, he found the pages of a Bible bearing a timely verse.
In a Facebook post shared on Sunday, Graham, the leader of the humanitarian organization Samaritan's Purse, revealed that he, along with his team, recently visited the city of Qaraqosh, in Iraq. The city used to be home to some 50,000 Christians; however, many of them were forced to flee when ISIS overtook the city in 2014. Today, just a handful of Christians remain.
The day before Easter Sunday, Graham visited a church that had been burned and destroyed by ISIS and met with the pastor. What he found in the rubble was incredible.
"[In] the ashes and debris, we discovered one of our Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes that had been given to a child there at some point," he said. "I couldn't help but wonder where the child who received this box is today."
The evangelist also discovered the charred pages from a Bible: "I picked up a section that contained John 20:27 - 'Then he [Jesus] said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe'," Graham reflected. "He's still saying that to the world today-this Easter Sunday-Believe!"
Billy Graham's son urged Christians to join him in praying for the pastors in Qaraqosh whose congregations are dispersed all over the world.
"As shepherds they want to be able to help their flocks," he said. "They want to be able to care for them and protect them, but until there's a political settlement there's no way this is going to happen."
On Easter Sunday, Graham revealed he brought the message at the Christian & Missionary Alliance Church in Erbil.
"Many members of this congregation have been persecuted. Some have had to flee their homes and towns in order to survive when ISIS took control of surrounding areas, and they haven't been able to return," he said.
"In spite of the tremendous difficulties, they have hope in Jesus Christ," he continued. "I told them, "Today we celebrate Easter, when our Lord rose from the grave. He is alive-He is not dead. He's alive, and the only hope in this world is for God to change hearts, and the only way hearts can be changed is through Jesus Christ."
Iraqi forces pushed the group out of Qaraqosh in October, part of a six-month offensive to retake Mosul. An April report from the Telegraph details the devastation Christians encountered upon returning home: "The initial jubilation at Isil's defeat was short-lived. Families returning to celebrate after more than two years in exile were shocked by what they found," it reads "Almost every house was either burned or looted. Churches had been ransacked and anything the Islamists considered idolatrous desecrated. Five months later and Qaraqosh remains a ghost town. Just one food stall has reopened on what had once been its busiest thoroughfare."
Nevertheless, Reuters reports that Christians are slowly trickling back to the ransacked town. Many are simultaneously "beset by anxiety for their security" and "hopeful they can live in friendship with Muslims of all persuasions," says the outlet.
Army and police have reportedly tried to ease Christians' fears by stationing soldiers in front of churches, and even helping Christian volunteers to set up a massive cross at the town's entrance. On Palm Sunday, soldiers escorted a procession in preparation for Easter, provided chairs for worshippers during Mass, and even joined in singing "Hallelujah" with worshipers.