As I was sitting reading my Bible early this morning, I found myself very thankful that I even have a Bible to read. I look at the shelves of books I have in my study, and it is almost embarrassing when I see how many Bibles I own. But, more than anything, I am thankful. I can’t answer why I was born into a family that recognized the Bible as the true Word of God. I also can’t answer why God saw fit for me to live in a nation that has allowed me to pursue my faith in the Author of this wonderful Book that I am so thankful for. I can however answer what is required of me because of these blessings. I must do my part in fulfilling the Great Commission given in Mark 16:15-18:
“…Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, he who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe; in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
It was Jesus, the Messiah, who gave this commission, and it was given to every believer and follower of His in the entire world. Sadly, it seems that the most committed servants of Christ are those who have the least material possessions, have the least political freedom, and live in the greatest mortal danger. It is sometimes human nature that when we experience the best of times, we begin to take these things for granted, forgetting the source of our blessings and lose sight of what our short sojourn in this temporary life is all about. It is a cycle that we see played over and over throughout the pages of the Bible with the Israelites. But, as we also learn from the Scriptures, the example of the Israelites in the Old Testament was left for us to learn from so that we do not make the same mistakes. Yet, we too, as the ancient Israelites did, lose sight of what life is really all about. Those who are spiritually wise will take stock of what their true priorities in life are and ask the Master if any adjustments need to be made. We are in the last hour of this age and we are soon to stand before our KING. This is a thought that is at the top of my mind every waking hour these days. I hope it is yours as well.
When I spoke with Pastor R this week, he shared with me how the gathered believers in different locations have been celebrating the good things they have been learning from God’s Word. As we know, teaching classes have been held and hundreds have been gathered in many places and thousands of others broken up into smaller groups to make the teaching process a little easier and for a little more individual contact. Not all classes have finished, but those that have completed their course have decided that there should be a great celebration. What a blessing it would have been for those of us scattered around the world who support HOB to have witnessed this for ourselves! Whereas so many of us are at the place today where we tend to take the Word of God for granted–as well as the freedom we have to gather with the saints of God, the House of Blessing community of believers does not take it these blessings for granted. They have come, and continue to come at great price.
Through the Lord’s provision, HOB was able to purchase 1,500 Bibles just days ago. It was a great blessing to those that they were distributed to and these Bibles have become their most prized possession. During the few days that the missionaries are resting after the intense classes they have just finished, much time is being spent in searching through these new Bibles, looking for all the treasures that God has embedded within its pages.
The Bible classes that have not been completed are still continuing throughout Iraq, Iran, and Kurdistan. Many hundreds are gathered to take in the lessons being taught by the HOB teachers. Each of these will be added to the number of House of Blessing volunteer missionaries. I cannot help thinking back to one of the promises God made over five years ago when this latest project by the House of Blessing began. God said that every single Bible provided would bring fruit; in fact, much fruit. These were the words of the Spirit of God, and that is what has happened. A personal prayer of my own was also that God would replace each fallen missionary with at least 100 souls won into the Kingdom of God. As the numbers of new believers multiplied, I changed my prayer and asked the Lord for 1,000 for each missionary that paid for their faith in the Lord Jesus with their life. I have been asked at times if this is a proper prayer. Personally, I don’t think that I can “claim” such a request from God, but I can certainly request it! And, judging by the multitudes that have been reached over the last 5 ½ years, it seems that He has granted that request also! What an amazing God we serve!
Over the time I have been privileged to be connected with the House of Blessing, there have been some of the most amazing stories that we have been honored to write up. The latest real life story about Sister Fatima, her late husband Salem, and the man who took brother Salem’s life about two years ago, is one of these. And, as this update is being written, the story continues to unfold. As readers will know, Munser, the man who had taken Salem’s life, became a believer in Jesus Christ some months back and after a long search was able to find Fatima in order to try and find some reconciliation for the terrible thing he had done. With grace, mercy, and forgiveness that could only come from the Spirit of God, they have been able to build a godly relationship that was able to overcome the suffering and pain caused two years ago. Munser is now learning much from Fatima and the 2,000 souls that have been brought to the Kingdom by Munsor in the past few months will be able to be taught the Word of God as well. And, Munsor is now learning all about the amazing communion services that Fatima has been making available to the large community of believers in her area. This week, they will have communion with all 2,000 of the new believers that Munsor brought. These special services generally include a meal before communion time. As communion is celebrated, the people pray for one another, sing praises, dance in celebration and worship before the Lord into the early hours of the morning. How this is accomplished logistically, I really don’t know, but the Lord continues to make the way for them. God is good!
In all locations, reports keep coming in about the many souls reached. They come in by the hundreds every single week.
This may be a good time to offer an explanation to a question I sometimes receive. There are articles and studies that come out periodically, either from the media, the United Nations relief organizations or even from religious organizations, offering an estimate of how many Christians there are today in the Middle East. The reported numbers seem to be rather small in light of the multitudes that have become followers of Jesus the Messiah in the last five years. I don’t know the method used in providing a count of those that claim Christianity as their religious belief, but I do know that most organizations do not go into the most dangerous locations. There is much turmoil and danger due to the many opposing forces represented. Taking a look at some of the drone footage of cities like Damascus, Aleppo, and Mosul to show the tremendous amount of devastation that has happened. This however is just three major cities. Even the United Nations will go into many areas due to the extreme terrorism. The House of Blessing missionaries have however committed themselves to reaching those that no one else could get to. Many times they brought sacks of wheat into areas where the only way to get the wheat in was by mule or on the backs of very brave Christian men. As they fed or clothed the destitute, the Gospel was shared, but of course, the cost very often was at the expense of the lives of the missionaries themselves. The city of Mosul was a good example. Mosul was under siege for many months. Near the end of the siege when there were only 100,000 civilians still trapped by the ISIS militants, 85 additional HOB missionaries went in in order to embed themselves among the trapped so that they can share the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus. They knew that they likely would not live long enough to escape or be freed, but the souls of the lost were more important. All 85 of these brave missionaries lost their lives…and, they were all women!
Most of the underground believers do not report to anyone–not to relief organizations or religious denominations. They stay underground. The HOB Christian community around Damascus is a good example. The news most hear is that most all Christians have left Damascus and there are hardly any left. This is not true. There are many thousands–just within the HOB community alone. It is the same in the Aleppo / Idlib area, as well as Mosul and the Fallujah areas. Then there are scattered HOB communities of believers all over the Middle East. It is possible that HOB has one of the largest if not the largest underground Christian communities in the Middle East today.
The only reason I bring this subject up today is because some wonder if the numbers are exaggerated. They are not. Also, there are those that have questioned the validity of the miracles that have been reported over the past five years. These reports are also valid. Did not the Great Commission say that this is what would happen through the evangelism of the followers of Jesus Christ? These missionaries and new believers are just believing the very Word of God and putting it to work! We could learn from their example!
With all that said, the needs continue to be very great. With the continual incoming flow of new believers, there are never enough Bibles. There is today a critical need for 2,000 more Bibles. God is good and will bring the resources needed in this last hour. Sometimes it means that those of us in the West who have been so very blessed, need to share God’s blessings to those who are in such desperate need. That is just the way it is. The Apostle Paul had this to say about giving to the needs of the saints, especially those in need:
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. 1 Corinthians 16:1-3
Thank you all for your prayers and support. The pressure of war in the Middle East is not easing up, in spite of the reports of ISIS locations being taken. Iran and Hezbollah are taking control of these areas and things are building up for major war as I write this update. Time is short to reach those that still need to be reached before the Lord calls His Bride home! Today is the day!
Forever in His Service,