As I finish this update, the annual Muslim month of Ramadan ended five days ago. It has now been about two weeks since my last regular update, and 12 days since an urgent appeal was uploaded to this blog.
Although there is always great effort put into reaching the lost, there is always a special emphasis and great expectation for what God will do during the month of Ramadan. The House of Blessing missionaries have seen thousands of Muslims ask Jesus of Nazareth to become Lord of their lives during Ramadan. This year was no exception.
Every year has had great challenges, depending on what is going on in the Middle East. Beginning in 2014, ISIS became a major factor in Iraq, Syria, and especially this year, 2016, in the Kurdistan area. The missionary work in western Iran (ancient Elam) has had its own unique challenges, making it difficult as of late to get reports from the area.
Both in Syria and Iraq, there has been a concerted effort by a coalition of nations to break the stranglehold that ISIS has managed to have on much of Syria, and large swaths of Iraq, including the major cities of Fallujah and Mosul. Fallujah has recently been mostly liberated from ISIS, although the city is still dealing with surprise attacks. As media photos show, much of the city has been badly damaged, and many thousands of innocents have lost their lives.
There are also bombs in buildings, weapons caches, and unexploded ordinance everywhere. Buried mines or other IED’s need to be found and removed.
The city of Mosul is still not liberated from ISIS and hundreds are killed every week, including many missionaries and new believers in Jesus. It is a very difficult time and the loss in lives of HOB missionaries has been especially heavy. Yet, the greatest impact that the HOB missionaries have had has been in the areas that have been the hardest hit. Other than the good news of God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ, there is no good news in the Middle East. Every supposed cease-fire has eventually failed, if they ever really took effect at all. When we look at the photographs of all the bombed out buildings, one cannot help but wonder how anyone survived at all! The number of people running for their lives as refugees is astronomical. These people have very little, if anything at all. They are however open to the Gospel; in fact, very, very receptive.
The Kurdistan area had been one of the more stable areas, at least for the missionaries. That is no longer the case. The conflict between the Kurds, the Turks, ISIS, the Iranian military, Al Qaida, and dozens of other terrorist groups has made it harder than ever. There has been little to no information coming out of the area lately.
But, in the midst of all the chaos, once again thousands have been reached during the month of Ramadan in both Iraq and Syria. I will try and combine the information I’ve received in the last two calls from Pastor R. I do hope the reader will understand that these reports are much more than just a tally of “souls” and “martyrs”. We cannot even fathom the value of a soul. Each person that is reached is a person that has become part of the Kingdom of God. Each missionary or believer in Jesus that has been lost, is a tragic loss, yet, they are now in the presence of the One they entrusted their eternal lives to. They all committed themselves to what we find in Galatians 2:20:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Aleppo, Idlib, and surrounding areas in northern Syria:
Sister Mufiedah and her Widow Sisterhood have ministered to over thirty people who had been seriously injured during the bombings which are continuing as I write this update. I do not have an exact number, but over 50 new believers and HOB missionaries lost their lives during the last two weeks, mostly due to the incessant bombing runs and missile strikes. Many times, the missionaries just happen to be in the very location where the missiles hit. About two dozen of their children were among the dead. It was especially tragic to find a family of eight killed, all by a bomb or missile hit. HOB missionaries had to wait until after dark to get them buried.
While all this has been happening, Sister Hafezah and those helping her have been able to have their special communion services. Anywhere between 1700-1900 have been served. These special services, as regular readers will know, are celebrations of the goodness of God. People celebrate the freedom they have received by partaking of the bread and wine, representations of the Blood and Body of Christ sacrificed on the Cross at Calvary. These are also celebrations of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and the sending of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. Many are healed as they take communion, and many more are baptized with the Holy Spirit. These celebrations typically last into the wee hours of the mornings!
An exact number of those reached with the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus is not available, but there have been at least 1,500 in the Aleppo, Idlib and surrounding area. As has been the case all along, each one who is ministered to and healed by the power of God, also becomes a follower of Yeshua. God is good! With each and every update, we find the storyline of the Book of Acts continuing. The Apostles and new believers in Acts 4 got together for prayer after being threatened for sharing their beliefs in Jesus. This was their prayer:
“Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your Word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.
As most everyone knows, the situation in Fallujah has been very difficult for a very long time. ISIS, having been in control of the city since 2014, was finally pushed out of the city with American airpower cover, but is still hitting the Iraqi army with surprise ambushes. The city has been heavily damaged and thousands have lost their lives. Many have literally also starved to death due to all supplies having been cut off.
Having the Iraqi military mainly in control does not mean that all abuses of the people have stopped, especially for the Christian missionaries. Many of the Iraqi soldiers treat the HOB missionaries with the same disdain and hatred as ISIS did. But, the work of the Kingdom goes on.
In the Fallujah and surrounding areas, there are a large number of small groups that meet for fellowship, teaching, and worship of the soon coming Messiah, Yeshua. During the month of Ramadan, there have been at least 2,000 new believer names added to the Lamb’s Book of Life! Each single soul is an absolute miracle!
Sister Fatimah also continues ministering to those that meet with her. Her communion services became much more limited in number for some time, but she has been able to share communion with over 1,200 in the last few days of Ramadan. Again, as in other places, many are healed just by taking communion, and virtually all are baptized with the power of the Holy Spirit. As in Syria, these celebrations last way into the early hours of the morning, as the believers cannot get enough of the powerful presence of God in. There is nothing like the refreshing and anointing that is received when the Spirit of God visits His people!
The urgent need that was shared for a special group of 26 widows that desperately needed a place of recovery, has been partially met. A special ministry home was rented for a month or two where these badly abused and injured women could be ministered to, not just spiritually, but also physically, mentally, and emotionally. They had gone through things most of us cannot even imagine during their months of captivity in the hands of the ISIS jihadists. When Fatimah received the news of the first installment of funds to get this project started, those with her celebrated for hours, thanking God for His care and goodness, thanking him for those of the family of God who were willing to share with them. We are trusting that God will meet the rest of that need. He is the Lord of the harvest.
I was given details of what kind of schedule these women have. They spend one hour first thing in the morning, being led in praise and worship. They then receive about eight hours of teaching every single day. Two meals are supplied per day and they receive special cake twice a week. Each day is ended with a communion service. This is their schedule seven days of the week. Fatimah expects to keep these women in this home for at least one month, more likely however, two months. They have full-time care and help from professionals in the medical and psychological fields. The total cost will be about $7800.00. Over half of this has come in so far. Thank you everyone!
As has already been mentioned, Mosul is not yet freed from ISIS. This is a very large city and has also really been badly damaged, with tens of thousands having been killed in the last two years. Again, it is a horror story that most of us in the West cannot even fathom. But, as promised by Yeshua, the gates of hell have not prevailed against the true Church…not even in Mosul, Iraq!
Estimates have it that somewhere over 1,400 have given their lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in Mosul during the month of Ramadan. God is good! This has however been a very difficult area for the House of Blessing missionaries. Just in the last two weeks at least 40 of the missionaries lost their lives. I don’t have a number for the additional new believers who also perished. Yet, more are added daily to the Lamb’s Book of Life!
Pastor R continues praying for people by the hundreds. At the same time, he continues to direct the efforts of HOB and its hundreds of missionaries scattered all over the Middle East. Pastor R continues being moved in order to try and keep him safe in the outlying areas of Damascus. He also continues teaching and mentoring new missionaries as he is able to do so.
Sister Sarah, whose story many of you have read, also continues traveling from location to location. She shares her story again and again, many times having hundreds of people listening to her tell her story of the tremendous love of God and her vision. People are reached every time she tells her story!
The HOB missionaries have one main goal…souls. This is what they live for. Many of them, like brother Adel, Haleb, and so many others, quite often minister until 5:00 A.M. They then get a little sleep and are back at it again. The results are astounding! The people in the Mideast are desperate for answers. The only real answers come from the Word of God! Listen to what the prophet Isaiah said by inspiration of the Holy Spirit:
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)
The least we as the family of God can do, is to keep them lifted up in prayer. Real, earnest, heart-felt prayer. We should also support them as God directs. There is always a very great need for Bibles. Daytime, for the work of the ministry, is nearly over now. Night is coming! The Kingdom of God is at hand! Whatever we intend to do in the Name of the One who loved us enough to die on that cruel Roman cross, needs to be done now. Tomorrow may be too late! The Messiah is about to call His Bride, the true Church, HOME!
In His Service,