As an introduction, I would like to give a quick overview of what is unfolding in the Middle East. As each day passes, the wars and rumors of wars continue to get worse. With Russia now having been in Syria for weeks and no end in sight from their continued heavy bombing raids as they attack the enemies of Syria’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad, the face of Syria is being permanently changed.
As Russia and its allies, the Syrian forces under Assad, Lebanon’s terrorist army, Hezbollah, and the Iranian armed forces, continue tearing the nation into pieces, opposing forces are gathering to challenge the might of the Russian bear. At latest reports, Saudi Arabia along with dozens of its Sunni Muslim allies are moving into position with at least 350,000 soldiers, 20,000 tanks, jet fighters, attack helicopters, and even nuclear weapons, to try and force Assad from power. Turkey has been bringing entire caravans of tanker trucks loaded with oil sold to them on the black market by ISIS after they stole it from oil processing facilities in Iraq, and is massing its troops and heavy weaponry on the northern border of Syria in order to coordinate an attack with the forces coming up from the south.
As all of this is unfolding, the tension between Russia and Turkey continues to escalate. Turkey has now threatened to close the Bosporus Strait to all Russian warships. This would be a clear violation of international law and Russia has already made it clear that it would result in a war between the two nations if Turkey follows through on this threat. For those familiar with the geography of the area, you know that there is no way for Russia to get their ships from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea except through the narrow Bosporus Strait, which passes directly through the middle of Istanbul Turkey with its metropolitan population of nearly 15 million souls.
As the differing overseas headlines unfold, there is a report coming out that the Saudi coalition is possibly going to change tactics. With the new tactics, they intend to bring their submarines into the eastern Mediterranean and neutralize the Russian warships. According to the same reports, thousands of troops have already been filtered into Lebanon, with the intent of going straight into Damascus to decapitate the Syrian dictatorial government. Saudi, UAE, and other Sunni peoples have already been told to get out of Lebanon as quickly as possible so that they don’t get caught in the chaos that is soon to ensue. There is of course much more to all this, but this is not the venue to go into detail. Is this the beginning of WW3? I think WW3 may have already begun, but in my opinion, there are some things that will unfold first. I may be wrong, but I don’t think so. WW3 however is very, very close now. Russia is now in the Mideast and they will not leave until this war unfolds. One thing we know for sure; God is in complete control! I will put my complete trust and confidence in Him, and as His children, I know He will take care of His own. God’s people have not been given a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and sound or a disciplined mind.
The Syrian people have endured an unimaginable horror for the five years of this civil war. As of February 11, 2016, the Syrian Centre of Policy Research, reports that there have been 470,000 people killed. This number varies greatly from organization to organization, but this number includes all casualties including a great many that could not be properly identified. Of course, added to this number are the millions that have already left the nation and many millions more that have been displaced from their homes. The photos that have come out of Syria are beyond shocking. Not only are there the hundreds of square miles of infrastructure destruction, but worse is the human carnage. I have seen many such photos which been sent to me from Syria.
This is the “world” our House of Blessing missionaries are ministering in. These committed missionaries have been living in the middle of refugee camps, in circumstances that most of us cannot even imagine. My reason for telling the stories of these missionaries is to bring as many as possible on board to earnestly pray for these folks and support them in whatever way God directs.
Some of the worst of the situations experienced by the HOB missionaries in Syria have been in the northern part of the country where Russia and its allies have been the most active. The city of Aleppo and its suburbs have been a focal point. Russia reportedly is most interested in gaining complete control of the corridor from Aleppo in the north to Damascus in the south, and together with its proxies, is gaining more and more control. This corridor includes the major cities of Homs, Hama, Idleb, and even the smaller towns of Daraa, on the Jordanian border, and Qunaytira which is located very near the Israeli border.
In addition to the devastating attacks by the Russian military machine, there have been the attacks by multiple homicide bombers, which have added greatly to the misery and carnage. One might write most of this off by saying ‘this is war, what do you expect?’ The way we may look at it from the other side of the world is one thing, but the way the Christian missionaries and those they are caring for in the middle of all this chaos see it, is another. The missionaries have some idea of the overall picture but what they are most concerned with is the individual souls they are surrounded by. Every single individual that is still alive is a soul that sooner or later is going to pass into eternity–either to heaven or hell. If they can share a crust of bread with someone and keep them alive for another hour, maybe that will be enough time to be able to introduce them to the only hope there is for mankind, Jesus Christ! If a shattered person still has breath passing through their lips, there may still be some minutes left to try and give them emergency help physically–maybe even see the hand of God heal them, and most importantly, introduce them to the One who died for them!
Several times now, HOB has managed to rent a tractor with which they have buried as many as they could. This last week, they buried about 270 bodies (mostly new believers) that were decomposing. There is always a danger of cholera when bodies are not buried quickly. Another factor was the fact that many of the children were beginning to have nightmares due to the decomposing corpses everywhere.
At the same time that bodies were being buried, others of the HOB missionaries ministered to as many of the victims as they could. As I reported in the last update, the situation has gotten so critical that people are dying of starvation and exposure–including quite a number of the missionaries and new believers. It is a real tragedy. It seems that there is little to no help in many of these areas from the United Nations. Pastor R has tried to convince the missionaries to get out of the area until some help comes in, but they had continually refused to leave the people for their own sakes. This last week, however, somewhere around 40,000-50,000 refugees in Mufiedah’s camp tried to escape to a better location. Mufiedah decided to move with them but a day or so later, she and a number of her band of widows began to travel from the Aleppo area down to the suburbs of Damascus because of the intense bombings there and the large number of people being killed and injured. At last count, Mufiedah had 81 widows of “The Widow Sisterhood.” Quite a number had been killed, but others had also been raised up to take the place of at least some of them. At this time, I don’t know how many stayed in the north or how many have started on the trip down to the Damascus area. They all need our prayers for protection. They will be traveling on foot for days through one war zone after the another. There really are no safe areas. Join us in prayer that the Lord would send a band of angels to watch over them and keep them invisible from the thousands of jihadists they have to try and avoid.
I do have more good news to share about what God is doing in Iraq. For those that have read past updates, you will know of the many classes being taught in Iraq, Iran, and Kurdistan. There are 250 men in Iraq, 45 in Kurdistan, and another 35 in Iran that are graduating this week from the intensive Bible course taught by the House of Blessing School of Ministry teachers. These will now have a basic knowledge of the Christian faith and its Biblical doctrines. It is absolutely a miracle to see hundreds of former Muslims so anxious to learn what the Bible has to say that they will faithfully take such an intense course. These will now become missionaries themselves!
The miracle however is growing exponentially! There are several thousand more on a waiting list to take this same course! So, HOB is finding itself having to raise up many more teachers! God, however, is never caught off-guard. Since He is the Lord of the harvest, He will also see to it that the harvest is taken care of. We just need to cooperate with Him by praying that the laborers will become available. God will provide them. These are people that God will raise from the inside because getting people in or out of the dangerous areas where the missionaries are working is almost impossible. Along with the great news of these graduates and the thousands waiting to take the classes, missionaries and new believers continue being martyred. I received reports of several that were lost in the last few days in Fallujah and Ramadi.
While praying for HOB, I ran across a familiar passage in 2 Corinthians that I would like to include in this update. It is found in the fourth chapter:
But we have this treasure (the treasure of God’s righteousness through Jesus Christ) in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed–always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh, so then death is working in us, but life in you…Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, b7ut at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 4:7-12, 16-18, 5:1-7)
Please join us in prayer for all of the House of Blessing missionaries and the huge multitude of people who have joined in this harvest. The situation, especially in Syria, is grave. The weather is an added problem. The wind and incessant rain in the last few days has blown many tents down and there is water and mud everywhere. There is such a need for wheat, medicine, and other basic necessities. Then, there is always the need for Bibles. Only our God is big enough to meet the colossal need. This part of the harvest is nearing its completion. God has given us the privilege of having a small part in it. What an honor it is!
Pastor R also needs special prayer. He has a bad cold and does not sound good. This is dangerous for him in his condition. He is also quite weak. Let’s pray for the Lord to heal him!
May the Lord bless and keep you all until He calls us HOME!
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