Day by day, patient by patient, staff at the Samaritan’s Purse Emergency Field Hospital outside Mosul are confronted by the depravity of man.
ISIS captured Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, with astounding and brutal swiftness in June 2014—forcing many thousands to flee, including the area’s Christian population. Iraqi government and coalition forces began their battle to retake Mosul in October 2016. In January they gained control of the eastern side of the city, while ISIS continued to launch attacks from across the Tigris River in the west. An offensive to retake western Mosul began in February. Iraqi forces now control major parts of the city, while other areas remain occupied by ISIS.
As ISIS has lost most of its stranglehold in northern Iraq, the group has become increasingly desperate, spewing its deadly venom in all directions within the narrow streets of the old city of Mosul. Car bombs, sniper fire, drone-dropped grenades. Bullets in the backs of babies. Gushing blood stopped only by a well-placed finger. Amputations. Death.
But just as a candle shines brightest in complete darkness, the love of Christ is bringing healing and hope here to people who’ve seen the worst others can do.
The materials to build the hospital were flown into Iraq and unloaded on Christmas Day.
Within about two weeks, it was fully operational—with an emergency room, operating room, intensive care unit, recovery area, a well and water system, living quarters for men and women, a dining hall and blast walls. About 80 medical personnel—Disaster Assistance Response Team members from different states and even several countries—are working there at any given time, plus dozens of expatriate and local support staff.
Lise Grande, U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, spoke at the hospital dedication in January and said that it has been difficult to find organizations willing to provide frontline trauma care. “You built this hospital in record time,” Grande told those at the ceremony. “Most of all, we want to thank you for saving people. Because Samaritan’s Purse is here, thousands … of people will survive.”
Franklin Graham traveled to Iraq to dedicate the facility and commended the medical team for the expert care they are providing to severely injured patients in the state-of-the-art facility. But the specialized treatment patients receive is just the beginning of the ministry that hospital staff provides to them.
“[They] pray for [patients], talk to them, hold their hands and smile,” Franklin said. “For most of these people, it might be the only glimpse of Jesus Christ they will ever see, and I want them to leave here with that impression.”
Due to its proximity to the front lines of the Mosul conflict, the hospital is saving lives that would likely have been lost in transport to the nearest permanent medical facilities, up to two hours away. On March 17, the hospital received its 1,000th patient.
“That is more Level-1 traumas in a matter of months than large hospitals in the United States would see in a year,” said Dr. Elliott Tenpenny, emergency medical specialist for Samaritan’s Purse.
In addition to civilians, the hospital treats Iraqi soldiers and security forces, as well as enemy combatants. Once they have recovered, those suspected of fighting for ISIS are handed over to the Iraqi government.
Now back in the U.S. after serving at the field hospital, Dr. Tenpenny notes the tremendous witness of this facility as it operates on the outskirts of a war zone.
“I want people here to understand the contrast that is being witnessed there between the suffering, chaos and war, and the love of Christ that is being shown.” He explained that sympathizers to the enemy forces have been taught all their lives that Christians are evil. As they’re treated at the field hospital, Tenpenny said, “They’re seeing something that doesn’t fit—that what they’ve been taught must be wrong.”