This Iraqi Christian refugee family prayed and were rescued from drowning

Saad takes out his phone. 'I have photos,' he says. Normally, when someone shows you the photos on their phone, they are of their children, grandchildren, pets or holiday.

Not so with Saad. In these photos, he's pictured with his two young daughters on a small boat on the Mediterranean. They're all wearing life jackets. The girls are looking a bit tired. But the sun is shining and it's a lovely day.

Only it isn't. Saad (38) and his two daughters were being trafficked across the Mediterranean. It was their second attempt. The first time, the boat that arrived looked too small and Saad 'didn't dare risk it'. This is a man who had just fled ISIS in Iraq. So it must have been bad.

It could be a tourist boat – but things were about to go very wrong.

Saad GolanIt could be a tourist boat – but things were about to go very wrong.

The second time, he and the girls went aboard. Their journey began on August 6, 2014, in Iraq. This was the day that ISIS came to the city of Mosul. An estimated 500,000 people fled. Saad and his daughters were among them.

Talk to enough Iraqi refugees and you'll hear this date over and over again. At the time, fleeing Yazidis stuck on a mountain got all the headlines in the UK. But in the US, The New Yorker reported 'a humanitarian crisis that could turn into a genocide'.

For Christians it certainly was, and the Mosul area was largely ethnically Christian.

'We were forced to leave,' says Saad. 'If we stayed, there would be so much trouble and we would be forced to convert to Islam.' They left on foot, carrying nothing.

It costs money to be trafficked in a too-small boat. So Saad's wife, Fida, stayed in the city of Irbil. She was a teacher and could earn a salary which she split, sending some on to Saad and the children, to help them flee, and keeping some behind to look after herself and Saad's grandmother.

They'd made one, unsuccessful attempt, to travel as a family to neighbouring Turkey. But, the cost of staying alive had forced them back to war-torn Iraq. That was when the decision was made for Saad and the girls to travel and for Fida to fund the enterprise.

After two hours in the small boat in the dark of a Mediterranean night, things started to go wrong. The engine stopped.

'The water started coming inside the boat,' says Saad. 'We were wearing life jackets but we didn't have hope. People were trying to bail out the water, but it wasn't working. We thought we would die here. I had internet connection, so I called Fida.'

That phone call is etched on Fida's memory. 'He called me and told me to take care of his grandmother, to forgive him and say hi to everyone,' she says. 'I told him, "God will be with you. God will save you."

'I started praying for them and asking God to save and help them. Then I put their pictures on Facebook and people started praying for them. I lost the phone connection with them. I was only praying to God.'

By then Saad and the children were in the Mediterranean. 'At this moment God made a miracle for me,' says Saad, a former taxi driver who now works illegally as a cleaner. 'I heard him telling me that I shouldn't be scared, he was with me.

'I didn't care about what I heard. I thought, "What do you mean you are with me, when I am in this bad situation?"

'After an hour, the police came and rescued us.'

He rang Fida to say they were alive.

In 2015, some 1 million refugees crossed into Europe. The vast majority of them arrived by sea. The majority were Syrian, like Saad.

Today, the family live in a small town in Jordan. The children go to school. The whole family are members of a nearby church. Fida has trained with Bible Society as one of its trauma counsellors. She works with fellow refugees, helping them to be able to address some of the horrors that have happened to them, through biblical texts.

Fida has trained with Bible Society as a counsellor.

Already trained in psychology before arriving in Jordan, she says, 'The word of God works better than any other kind of healing. It is powerful. There is hope from the Bible's words which gives strength.'

For this couple, their faith is vital and the Bible life-changing. Fida says that her favourite verse in the Bible comes from Matthew 28:29: 'I will be with you always, even to the end of the world'.

'I believe in this,' she says simply. 'I know that God answered my prayers, especially when my husband and daughters were in the middle of the ocean. Even when we left our city he protected us. Nobody abused us. He even helped us when we came here. We found a place to stay and schools for the girls. He has fulfilled all our needs.'

The family is safe in Jordan.

Saad's reflections are different. 'When I heard Jesus' voice saying, "I am with you",' he says, 'it encouraged me for a moment. But I thought it was impossible for me to be saved when I was in the ocean.

'Thank God that he gave me the chance to live again with my daughters and tell people that Jesus is still making miracles.' And with that, he drinks a quick cup of mint tea, hugs the girls and heads back to his illegal job and an uncertain future.

  • Because of the numbers of people fleeing wars in Iraq and Syria, one in three people living in Jordan today is a refugee
  • Of the native population, just three per cent are Christians in a largely Muslim country
  • The Bible Society of Jordan works with and through the local churches, both to support and encourage Jordanian Christians and to support refugees. This is through practical aid and healing ministries
  • In the church where Saad and Fida now worship, an estimated 75 per cent of the congregation is made up of refugees

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