Throughout church history, the message of the crucifixion of Christ and His subsequent resurrection, has been both a source of great joy for multitudes around the world who have received God’s free gift of forgiveness of sin, but also of 2,000 years of persecution from those who reject Jesus Christ as the true Savior of mankind.
Today’s Mideast Update includes another account of the persecutions endured by God’s faithful missionaries. It resembles many other accounts of persecution we’ve read about, including the account of the first century Church apostles and their clash with the religious rejecters of Jesus Christ as Messiah.
We find that Peter’s first sermon on the Day of Pentecost was received by about 3,000 souls who accepted the resurrected Messiah Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Just days later at least another 2,000 were added to that number, and Acts 4:4 says this was just a tally of the men. Behind the scenes however, we learn from Acts 4:1, while the apostles were speaking with the people, the chief priests, the captains of the Temple police, and some of the Sadducees were very disturbed that Peter and John were saying that Jesus had risen from the dead. They proceeded to arrest them and put them in jail. The next day, the two apostles were brought in before Annas, Caiaphas, and many of the high priest’s relatives. They were amazed at the boldness of the two men and also noted that they were uneducated non-professionals but had obviously been greatly impacted by this Jesus they testified about. They were questioned and then threatened, being told not to speak in that Name again. Their response, after being released, was to meet with the brethren and pray for increased boldness and Holy Spirit power to continue proclaiming the Good News. God answered and shook the entire building and all in it by the power of His Spirit.
We find in Acts 5:12 that apostles were meeting regularly at the Temple in an area known as Solomon’s Hall. There, notable miracles were happening, to the point that people were bringing sick people in from all over, lining the streets with them, hoping that at least Peter’s shadow would fall across them as he walked by. In verse 16 we are told that all the sick were healed and the demon-possessed were set free. Verse 17-18 we find that this caused the High Priest and all those around him went into such a violent jealousy and rage that they again arrested the men and once again threw them in jail. In verse 19, an angel freed the men from jail and they were told to go over to the Temple and continue preaching!
In the morning, the High Priest and his entourage arrived at the Temple in order to convene with his council and decide what to do with the apostles. When he sent the Temple police to retrieve the men from the common jail, they were missing. The police found the jail doors locked securely and guards still in position, yet, the men had disappeared into thin air! It did not take long until they found them preaching to the crowds on the Temple grounds.
The Temple police immediately brought them before the High Priest and his council, reminding them that they had been ordered not to preach again, using the name of Jesus. In Acts 5:29 Peter and the apostles answered them and said,
We must obey God rather than men. The God of our ancestors brought Jesus back to life again after you had killed him by hanging Him on a cross. Then, with mighty power, God exalted Him to be a Prince and Savior, so that the ;people of Israel would have an opportunity for repentance, and for their sins to be forgiven. And we are witnesses of these things. And sp is the Holy Spirit. Who is given by God to all who obey Him. Acts 5:29-32
Verse 33 tells us this so enraged them, they decided to kill them until Gamaliel, a well liked member of the council cautioned them about mistreating these men (verse 36). The end result of the deliberations of the council was to have the men beaten and let them go, with a severe threat if they continued to preach in that Name!
We know of course, that these men rejoiced at the privilege of being seen worthy to suffer for the cause of Christ. They then continued just as they had been. And of course, the story continues right on through the Book of Acts.
I have wondered for many years if the Book of Acts (of the Apostles) is still in process of being written. I realize that Luke wrote the 28 chapters we have in our Bibles today, but the history of the Church has continued now for two millennia. And the stories continue.
Now for the latest episode in the lives of HOB missionaries, Omar and Sami…
As it was told to me by Pastor R, Omar and Sami were doing what they always do, talking to people about Jesus. They did not notice that a group of Hezbollah militants walked up and forced them to go to an undisclosed location where they could do what they wanted to without interference. Omar and Sami were then told that they had been observed talking to people about Jesus and they had one chance to repent of speaking in this name or they would have to bear the consequences. They would have to deny their faith in Jesus and agree that the Qur’an was the only true holy book and Muhammad was the only true prophet.
Omar and Sami however have been solid in their faith for quite a long time and they made it clear that this is not something they could ever agree to. When the militants saw that the men would not bend, they tied them up and proceeded to mercilessly beat them. After they had been badly beaten, they were given a little break and also another opportunity to deny Christ. When they refused, the beatings began all over again.
When night time came, Omar and Sami—both being badly injured and exhausted—began to doze off to sleep. As soon as they did, cold water was thrown into their faces and they were not allowed to sleep. This continued for three straight days. Not only did the beatings continue and sleep was not allowed the men, they were also denied any food or water for the duration of the time.
On the third day, there was some type of shooting in the vicinity and seven of the militants left to investigate. The three remaining militants were left to guard them. As the seven left, the leader told the remaining three to continue as they had been for the rest of the day but if Omar and Sami didn’t give in, they were to just kill them.
As the day wore on, the missionaries did much praying in the spirit, asking for God’s will in the matter. As the day wore on, Omar and Sami noticed that two of the three militants began to show a bit of softness toward them. These two began to try and convince the third man to let them go but he refused and would soon have killed them. The first two then grabbed the third man, securely tied him up and put a gag into his mouth so he could not yell and left him where he was.
The two who released Omar and Sami then asked how there could possibly be any forgiveness for them because of the wicked things they had done. How could anyone forgive all the terrible things they had done in their past and plagued their consciences? In spite of being so badly beaten, starved, and sleep deprived, they shared the love of Jesus with these two Hezbollah militants and brought them to a place of recognizing Jesus Christ as the true Savior of the world!
In reminiscing about the difficult experience, Omar and Sami said that they had no fear because in all reality, they had already died to themselves when they asked Jesus to be their Lord and Master. That is a place that all of us as true believers need to be at in the days we find ourselves in.
Although thousands of House of Blessing missionaries have been martyred for their testimony, God chose to leave Omar and Sami on this earth for a bit longer. Praise God!
In spite of their injuries, Omar and Sami are back out on the mission field. Joining back up with Mussa and the others in their team, they were able to reach 120 entire families with the Good News of the Gospel. Sisters Mufiedah, Fadwa, and their group of widows reached an additional 160 families. Ibrahim and his men added another 80 families, Adel, Akram, and Mahmoud an additional 70 families, and Sahbanbar and Mortidah 31 families.
Communion celebrations continue as they have been, meeting in groups of 25-30 at a time, five times every day. These special times of communion are still being done in small groups because there are so many people sick with the virus, the flu, or any number of other illnesses. God has been faithful however and the missionaries have been kept pretty clear of sickness or disease. Praise God!
Many people are wondering how Sarah is and so I asked Pastor R about her. He said she is healing physically but it will take a while for her to be able to put the trauma of the abuse she suffered behind her. She has some very good women with her to help her through the process. And of course, God, our Creator, is the Great Physician.
Pastor R continues praying for 170-180 people a day. He also holds meetings with 25 of the main leaders of the House of Blessing a couple times per week. He continues to need our prayers for his physical well-being.
In conclusion, I want to thank all of you for your prayers for the House of Blessing and for all of your gifts. Wintertime is at the door and there will be a great need for wintertime supplies such as blankets, food, and many other things. Our God is sufficient!
Forever In His Service,’