In an attempt to be spared from a life of rape and sexual enslavement at the hands of Islamic State militants, a 22-year-old Yazidi woman took matters into her own hands and set her face on fire so that she wouldn't be turned into an object of sexual jihad.
New York City Pastor Bill Devlin, who is in Kurdish Iraq providing aid and assistance to Christians and Yazidis displaced by IS (also known as ISIS or ISIL), told The Christian Post last week that he's heard a number of terrifying accounts from Yazidi families forced to flee from their homes when IS took over large swaths of territory in northern Iraq in the summer of 2014.
As IS conquered Yazidi villages, the group systematically rounded up Yazidi people and separated them by males and females. While the men and older teenage boys were generally shot and killed in masses, the jihadis collected the women and girls and hauled them away to be traded, bought and sold as sex slaves in IS-held strongholds like Raqqa, Syria.
As Devlin, who pastors the Infinity Bible Church in the Bronx, has spent the last few weeks visiting displaced Yazidi families who live in abandoned buildings in the Kurdish town of Dohuk and others who reside in the Sharya displacement camp in Dohuk, there was one woman's terrifying yet courageous story that stood out among the rest in Devlin's mind.
"I actually saw 10 families as I sat in the camp manager's office. My translator knows all the camp managers of these 20 camps that are housing the Yazidis. I saw 10 families who just had terrible, horrendous stories," Devlin explained. "The last young woman I saw, she was 22 years old.
"ISIS was coming into her city and she didn't want to be taken captive by ISIS," he continued. "So as ISIS was coming in, she grabbed a cup of kerosene and put it on her face and head and hands and then lit her face on fire. So her face melted."
Devlin explained that the woman came into the camp manager's office with a scarf covering her entire face, with the exception of her right eye peaking out.
"She comes in with the scarf on her face and I said to my translator, 'Let me see her ID card,'" the pastor described. "Then I say, 'I want to help you financially as a Christian pastor from the United States. I am here to help the Yazidi people in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ."
That was when Devlin asked the 22-year-old woman to tell him her story.
"She told me that the only way she knew to be delivered from ISIS was if she was ugly," Devlin recalled. "She melted her face by lighting it on fire after dousing it with kerosene. So, ISIS said to her, 'We are not going to take you because you are so disfigured.'"
After the woman told Devlin her story, he told his translator to ask her to take off her scarf so that he can see her smile.
"She unwrapped the scarf around her face and I looked at her horribly disfigured face that she had melted," he said. "I just had a great deal of compassion come out of my heart for her."
After their encounter, he helped the woman by giving her a few hundred dollars to help her with some basic needs.
Devlin sent CP a picture of himself with the 22-year-old Yazidi woman. But, for security reasons, that photo will not be published.
"Those are the types of the stories you see in those camps and I was just grateful to spend a day there," Devlin added.
Devlin, whose ministry is supported by 200 private investors, previously visited Iraq in April and supplied about $4,000 worth of weapons for the Nineveh Plain Protection Units to help Assyrian Christians defend and reclaim their homelands from IS.
During his current visit, Devlin gave thousands of dollars away to several displaced Yazidi and Christian families.
"When I go into the refugee camps with $10,000 and I am giving money so people can buy food, clothing and hygiene items, I can help them start a new life. That is worth its weight in gold," he told CP. "For my critics and naysayers, I say, 'Look at what God has done.' I am a nobody pastor from the boogie-down Bronx. I don't have a huge organization. I don't take government money. I don't take foundation money. I don't take corporate money. It's all private money that I raise here in the states."
Devlin often tries to recruit other American pastors to go with him over to Iraq to bless the displaced people. Even though he even offered to pay for other pastors' airfare, he has not been able to find other American pastors who are willing to put their lives on the line to go over to Iraq and show the victims of IS how much they are loved by God.
"I want the Western church to know that individually, a pastor, a church can have a significant impact in a war-torn area. That is really the overarching goal and objective," Devlin said. "People often think you need a big organization behind you, you need a lot of money, you need a security detail. I have none of that. My method is like the Apostle Paul. He just got on a ship and went."
"Pastors know what may face them. You may be killed. You may be wounded. You may be maimed. You may be kidnapped. You go without sleep and go without food. In the West, we want a nice Christian lifestyle with whip cream and a cherry on top."