A Samaritan's Purse evangelical humanitarian aid worker has shared some horrifying details about the unfortunate civilian casualties of children that have occurred in the ongoing battle to liberate Iraq's second largest city from the grips of the Islamic State.
Franklin Graham, the president of Samaritan's Purse and the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, took to his Facebook page on Monday morning to share a report he received from one of the staff members who recently finished serving a stint at the Samaritan's Purse field hospital located just miles outside of the war-torn city of Mosul.
The aid group opened the field hospital in January, which is believed to be the closest medical facility to the frontlines of the Iraqi-led coalition's battle against IS (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Deash). The hospital is staffed by doctors, nurses and other medical professionals from the region as well as others who have traveled from all over the world to bring aid and care for the people most seriously wounded in the fight.
"My first day at the emergency field hospital just east of Mosul, Iraq was very much like my last day. Mortar strikes on civilians, children bloody and broken, black bags to hold the dead," the doctor recounted in the report. "The slow, solemn walk, cradling a 10-year-old in my arms, counting the steps to the morgue. Laying someone's son down on cold gravel, reading his name one last time on the death certificate taped to the body bag."
The 10-year-old boy, who was referred to as Patient No. 855, died at approximately 6:17 in the evening, the staff member recalled.
"I'll never forget the sounds of his dying. The rattling and the gurgling. I'll never forget the songs we sung over him, the prayers strangled by grief and sorrow," the staff member detailed. "The tear stained cheeks and our righteous anger. I'll never forget the faraway look on his precious face. I'll never forget his face. What was left of it."
Each medical professional who travels to Mosul to work in the Samaritan's Purse field hospital serves there for a minimum of three weeks. However, many of the medical professionals there will end up being there for months, according to Dr. Elliot Tenpenny, the hospital director.
"Many of us were strangers a week before, two days before. Strangers taking care of other strangers. One set from the West, a land of peace and prosperity, one set from northern Iraq, a region ravaged by terrorism and war," the staff member wrote. "And now here we all were, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, translators, construction workers, administrators, and HR reps. One and all hearts turned inside out and taking care of the dying while other new friends fight for the living in mobile operating theaters a few hundred feet away."
The unnamed staff member asserted that his or her last day serving in Mosul may have been the worst, considering the hospital staff had to tend to as many as nine children who were severely injured that day.
"The toddler with ribs exposed from mortar wounds. [Nine] children in one day," the staff member stated. "But there were other days, other nights when I thought my heart might die. The toddlers with their feet shot off. The whole families targeted by drone strikes. The burnt and blackened restaurant patrons, victims of a suicide bomber. One night in particular, I carried five children to the morgue. It leaves you breathless, concussed. The mortar of sorrow, a direct shot to the soul."
"I'm processing, I'm free bleeding my heart and thoughts here so I don't explode and because I don't have the luxury of denial," the report continues. "I cannot separate my belief in a good and sovereign God and the suffering of innocence. If there is no reconciling the two than I am lost. We all are. Especially Christians, fools to be pitied of all men."
Graham also posted a picture that the staff member sent that showed a 50-caliber bullet that was removed from the body of a pre-teen boy.
"An ISIS sniper shot him because [there's] an ideology of fear. They target the weak, not just because the weak are a low-hanging fruit, but because most of us are weak," the staff member contended. "Most of us are trying to live our simple lives in peace. ISIS needs capitulation. They need submission. A sniper bullet in the side of a child reminds us the world is not at peace and things are not simple. It reminds us that suffering isn't a concept, that no abstraction paralyzed this young man. It reminds us that we are fragile and vulnerable. It reminds us that to walk the way of love our hearts will be obliterated by suffering."
Despite all the agony and despair, the staff member pointed out the fact that the Bible teaches Christians that "suffering produces hope."
"Suffering produces hope in the same way bomb blasts produce the broken bodies of children. It is the inevitability, the cause and the effect of universal laws. But only one will remain. Hope will swallow grief one day because Love will conquer all," the staff member wrote. "But Hope is inevitable in us only when we trust, against our own instincts, in the goodness of God and allow ourselves to be taken deep into our own human frailty, far past vulnerability to the point of despair. And in that wasteland of our utter uselessness, in that wilderness of our unraveling, God is there, He is faithful, He alone, as He has always been, is holding the universe together and simultaneously holds us in the palm of His hand."
The Samaritan's Purse hospital is not only helping to save the lives of wounded coalition soldiers and civilians, but it has also worked to save the lives of IS fighters, Graham wrote in a Facebook post in February.
"Our medical teams take them in, perform surgery, bind up their wounds, and give everyone the same compassionate, Christian care — helping them in Jesus' Name," Graham wrote.
The liberation effort of Mosul began in October and continues in West Mosul, as IS has been pushed out of other parts of the city.