We share here another story from the harvest fields in the Middle East. We believe that Father has a purpose in our hearing how some of our brothers and sisters in the Lord experience His love and His presence. Perhaps we will have a deeper grasp of that love and presence. Perhaps we will come to see how we too can apply the simple formula of faith that supports and sustains their lives.
“This is love for God: to obey his commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. 1 John 5:1-5
Fallujah, Iraq has been under ISIS control since January 2014. In the first week of June 2016, the Iraqi army engaged ISIS there. Civilians who had been under ISIS control were released, apparently in order to provide “human shields” to slow down the Iraqi army which had nearly encircled the city. Reuters reported that the UN estimated that there had been about 50,000 civilians trapped in Fallujah. However, refugee NGOs (non-governmental organizations) say that only 18,000 of those have reached their camps in the past two weeks.
Among those civilians who did escape were seven women who, along with their husbands, had previously found Yeshua through the ministry of Brother Omar and his wife. The women knew about Fatimah and managed to get to her location in the midst of the increased fighting. Their story begins here:
Since receiving Christ as their Messiah over a year ago, these seven couples had been sharing about God’s love and forgiveness to all who would hear. However approximately 7 months ago, ISIS soldiers restrained them for their belief in Yeshua, forced them into a mosque and demanded that they deny Yeshua and return to Islam. The harder these 14 believers were pushed to recant their commitment to Yeshua, the stronger they stood, telling their captors that they could not and would not deny the peace and forgiveness they had finally received to return to the darkness they had left behind. They were threatened with torture, but their response was the same.
The second day after their capture, the threats of torture continued and their treatment became violent. Still, the couples reaffirmed their commitment to Yeshua and again rejected returning to the religion of hate after they had experienced true love and forgiveness from God.
The ISIS captors then built a fire in front of the couples and began heating metal prods. They used these prods to burn the husbands again and again. On seeing their husbands tortured, the women began to weaken, but their husbands refused to listen to their wives’ cries.
They would not give in.
Then one of the captors claimed they had another method planned to make the couples repent for becoming Christians.
Still, the seven husbands would not give in.
That is when the captors brought in another 20 men and threatened the women. These husbands were forced to watch as their wives were abused in indescribable ways.
Even still they did not give in.
So, these seven men were killed.
Then, broken physically and emotionally, the seven wives weakened, and finally gave in to speak allegiance to Allah. Their lives were spared, but they were forced to become sex slaves for any of their captors for the last 7 months.
Now, on making their way to Fatima’s location as thousands of civilians fled from Fallujah, these women were desperate to know if God could forgive them for having given in to their captors. Their spiritual anguish at having denied their love for Yeshua was worse than any of the torture they had endured. To add to their anguish, each of these women had become pregnant during their abuse and were now about 6 months into their pregnancies. They found it impossible to forgive their captors and just wanted to be rid of their illegitimate seed. They were dealing with terrible feelings of guilt over having been so horribly defiled and because they allowed themselves to give in under torture.
Fatimah ministered to each of these women individually, guiding them through the process of forgiveness and then asking God for His unfailing forgiveness for their denial of Him and His Son. During a gathering of about 300 believers at Fatimah’s location, the seven widows were prayed for as they lay prostrate and the mercy and faithfulness of God ministered love, forgiveness, and great peace to each of them again. Each of them determined that they would keep and protect the life in their womb, knowing that what the devil intends for evil can be turned to good by God. And the other women present at the gathering committed to helping them birth and raise their children.
These are just the bare facts of this story as told to Pastor R and then to us. These bare facts cannot begin to describe the physical and emotional impact of these experiences. Words do not adequately convey the physical and emotional pain and horror. We can only begin to comprehend their impact to the degree that we have experienced anything similar. But, what we can all experience and KNOW, is that the Word of God is true. And His Word empowers us who believe so that we can perform what he commands. “And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”
Add the names of these men and their wives to the list of Overcomers:
The men: Kamal, Mousa, Belal, Jaafer, Kchder, Mounzer, Muhssen
The widows: Rawan, Kifiayeh, Miadah, Naeemehj, Haleemeha, Nahil, Elham
As we were hearing of these seven couples, an almost identical story was unfolding in the outskirts of Fallujah. A group of 20 couples who had been reached over 2 years ago by Brother Omar, was similarly tortured by ISIS captors. The husbands were murdered after refusing to deny Christ. The wives were beaten, stripped, humiliated and repeatedly abused. As with the other seven wives, these finally gave in to their abusers and denied Christ, but continued to be enslaved to the evil that is ISIS.
Again, as civilians escaped from the area, these 20 women began to walk the 30 km (about 18 miles) to Fatimah’s location. All were very weak and one of the women died along the way. The other 19, upon reaching Fatimah’s location, were filled with doubt that God could or would forgive them. Imagine their great sense of loss and hopelessness after denying Christ, feeling they had lost all hope of regaining His wondrous grace, love, and forgiveness. Returning to the harshness and wrath of Islam was devastating.
Their question to Fatimah was: Can God ever forgive us? Will He take us back after we so obviously denied him? Can He also forgive us for the defilement we endured?
And again, His love covered over the multitude of sins.
If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:1-2
These 19 women were re-baptized in water and told that nothing would be required of them except to concentrate on their communion with God. He would begin to heal them physically, mentally, emotionally, as well as spiritually. Their names are: Suha, Zainab, Nhlaa, Suhaylia, Hamdah, Thoriaeh, Sameyha, Fadwa, Nahla, Miadah, Naheel, Zebadiah, Zaheyiah, Rahmeh, Khadijah, Rawan, Narimeen, Suhaa, and Hanna.
All 26 of these women, our sisters in Christ, need our prayers and our love:
This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. And this is His command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 1 John 3:11, 23
All to His Glory,
Please watch for the regular MIDEAST UPDATE, coming out tomorrow.
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