On a Sunday evening, a mighty hymn of praise rang out from a living room crowded with 50 people. The room hosts a house church in Baghdad. In the front of the room, revamped for this service, stands a small, simple wooden cross. The congregants stand up. Some raise their hands. Others look toward the ceiling and close their eyes.
The pastor of the house church is Jules V. Jules, 43, a building construction engineer by training. Jules, who has led the church for five years, tells those assembled that they can trust God and his promises in any situation. He says God is faithful even in times of persecution.
In February 2003, just before the war broke out, security forces arrested Jules and 15 other Christian men, throwing them into different prisons in Baghdad. Saddam's government prohibited group meetings in private homes and did not allow more than one church of any one denomination in a neighborhood.
Jules said he was one of seven prisoners locked in a dark, humid cell measuring seven-and-a-half by seven-and-a-half feet. After 30 days, in what he considers a miracle, he was suddenly released.
The country is still not safe for evangelists. In February an execution-style attack against American Baptist missionaries riding in a rented van killed one minister and wounded three others. They were in Iraq to help start Baghdad's first Baptist church.
Jules comes from a Presbyterian background, and the other members of this house church have Presbyterian and Catholic roots.
"It all started as a prayer group in 1995," Jules said. "We were 15 to 20 people who met every week in different homes … so the security police would not find us."
Jules said members recently signed a five-year lease on a building that can accommodate 300 to 400 people. ...1
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