“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
On August the 6th, 2021, those who have been touched by the Olive Tree Center stood boldly before an international audience, showing the world what it looks like to embody the joy of Christ. The Hope Restored Concert at the Olive Tree Center in Madaba, Jordan was a smash hit. It was a triumph over the tribulations that the refugees at the center have experienced over the last seven years, observing the anniversary of when ISIS invaded the Nineveh Plain. There is no stopping these beautiful people, as God has continued to shape their lives even in their darkest hours. These are Christians who have truly persevered in the faith, in the face of many trials.
In her opening remarks, Um Rama, an instrumental leader at the Olive Tree Center, had this to say:
“I thank God for the presence of the Olive Tree Center in Madaba, and all of those who support the center, because it is a blessing for Iraqi families who come here. The doors are always open for grace and for blessing.”
EXPRESSIONS OF JOY AND PRAISE
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!”
We had the privilege of seeing our brothers and sisters in Christ talk about how their lives were transformed and healed by God through the Olive Tree Center in the midst of great suffering, and to witness their brilliant creativity through musical performances, poetry, and dance. The Praise Team lifted their voices in a joyful noise, singing stanzas from Amazing Grace and a traditional Iraqi Christian hymn. We heard from the Hope Group about the positivity that the center is able to facilitate in the lives of the refugees, and from one of the English classes about the many obstacles that they, and other Iraqi Christians like them, have overcome.
We had the opportunity to partake in unique expressions of Iraqi culture, such as the singing of the Iraqi national anthem by the children at the center, and the traditional dabke dances performed by both the center’s youth and the center’s young adults. The guitar students, who began this season of classes without any prior knowledge of the instrument, performed a traditional Iraqi song about longing for their homeland. Those who spoke also had the opportunity to demonstrate the success of the English language classes being taught at the center.
At the Hope Restored event, we had the opportunity to hear many heartbreaking testimonies from refugees about “The Black Day,” (August 6th, 2014). Young Stavro, aged six at the time that ISIS invaded his homeland, had this to say:
“A part of us died that day. We had to flee our city overnight, because if we stayed, we would have starved or died. We walked many miles to get away, with so many dead people, burned houses, and bodies. We asked our parents when we could return to our joys, our schools, and normal life, but we had no answer. We didn’t know how we would survive, but we believed God was with us. We came to Madaba, [and I] fell in love with this city, [where] we prayed that the war would end and for all nations to know God.”
LONGING FOR THE BEAUTY OF QARAQOSH
With this, we heard original poetry read by Riveen, written by her father in law, renowned Iraqi poet Benam Attalla, which spoke of the beauty of and the longing for their homeland, Bakhdida (Qaraqosh), Iraq:
“We will not leave
Our eyes will always see the best
Bakhdida is a green branch
Its leaves will not wither
Embroided on the side of the most beautiful time.”
Haneen delivered a powerful poem about her experience fleeing ISIS, in which she said in her native tongue that she not only forgives the ISIS insurgents that caused her suffering, but that she loves them as Christ loves us. She credits the difficulties she has faced with drawing her into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ:
“Joseph’s brothers wanted evil in him, but God brought out of their evil a good for the whole world. Finally, at the beginning of the suffering, I used to say, may God forgive them, but today I say thank you to ISIS the terrorists, because without their brutality and their control over our areas, many of nominal Christians would not have returned to their Creator and become true believers in him.
“The first of them is me, as without that catastrophe that befell us, it would have been very possible that I would not know Christ personally, would not be here to share with you my testimony and would not be Haneen who is standing in front of you today.
“In the end I will say, thank you ISIS. I love you as I love myself but will never cherish your actions nor your beliefs. As God loves us and distinguishes us from our sins, this is precisely how I feel for you.”
WATCH THE OLIVE TREE CENTER CONCERT TODAY
You won’t want to miss out on this amazing event, and now you won’t have to. The Olive Tree Center: Hope Restored Concert is available to view in its entirety on the America FRRME Youtube channel.
May this concert bless you as it blessed us!