I find it amazing that we are almost at the end of 2019. Looking back through the website archives, to see that the subject matter of the Update at the end of November 2018 included four major events, one year ago.
Here at the end of November, the House of Blessing missionaries all across the mideast are doing their best to prepare for the coming winter weather and the challenges it brings every year, especially in the refugee camps. Over the past years the Mideast Updates have repeatedly told of the hundreds of tents that either collapse from snow, or are inundated by floodwaters, or are blown down by the wind. Inevitably the HOB missionaries, which are now quite experienced at doing so, will spend untold hours helping the refugees reset or rebuild their tents when they come down. This always provides the opportunity to share the love of Jesus with them as well.
These past days, over 300 of the HOB missionaries went through some of the northern camps and collected as many extra items of clothing they could find. Pastor R told me that those who had doubles of any items of clothing, like coats, donated them to those that don’t have any at all. At the end of their collection, they were able to fill an entire flatbed truck trailer with used clothing to distribute to those that desperately need it. Sickness and death by exposure is all too common among those trying to survive the winter weather, especially the little ones and the elderly.
The House of Blessing was also able to purchase and distribute another truck trailer load of wheat among the refugees. As is always the case, feeding those in need opens the door wide to share the Good News of the Gospel with the people, and the response is always widespread. The prophet Joel gave this description of the masses when describing the end of the age:
Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. Joel 3:14
As the House of Blessing is getting ready for the winter months, conflict continues to break out in numerous areas, and threats of a widespread mideast war continue daily. As the Syrian regime captured another village from insurgents in Idlib, more civilians were killed or injured including a number of children. In the city of Aleppo, at least seven civilians were killed this past Thursday by shelling that came from rebel-held areas in the country’s northwest. The shelling came a day after Syrian government troops bombed a displaced people’s camp in the nearby rebel-held areas, killing at least 15 people, including two women and six children. The attack caused fires in several tents while surface-to-surface missiles struck an area in the camp close to a maternity hospital. The bloodshed in the northwest also comes as Syrian troops are involved in fighting with Turkey-backed fighters in the country’s northeast.
The bloodshed described there is only a sampling of the events of the past few days. All of this carnage continues after Syrian troops launched a four-month offensive earlier this year against the country’s last opposition stronghold in Idlib, which is dominated by al-Qaida-linked militants. This major offensive drove hundreds of thousands of civilians from their homes.
In eastern Syria, I read the report of something that happens much more often than it is ever reported. One of the mines that had been left behind in the village of Taybeh since the days of the Islamic State group killed a child and wounded 17 others in a school field. Another blast in the village in Deir el-Zour Province killed five children and wounded others. Mines left behind by the extremist group have killed or maimed scores of people over the past months.
With the many injuries, reported or not reported, Sister Mufiedah and the Widow Sisterhood are kept very busy doing what they can for the injured. There is never enough medical staff available and hospitals and clinics that are still operational have become too few for the population. The Widow Sisterhood ministered to the needs of at least 120 women, 80 men, and 40 children in the past days. Medication is badly needed as are all other medical supplies. The HOB missionaries do with what they can scrape together. Anesthesia is something that is not available and so removing shrapnel, bullets, or other foreign bodies is always a traumatic experience. Since the wounded are treated where sterile environments are non-existent, wounds continue to be cauterized in order to protect victims from infection as much as possible.
In the last update I shared the story of a man named Mahmoud who, along with 20 others were sent to either capture or kill Brother Omar. Mahmound had received a serious leg injury and, as one of the HOB missionaries, Sister Rabha, began to help him, he suddenly pulled a knife and mortally wounded her. As she was dying, she begged the other missionaries who came to help not to harm him. She then described the glory of seeing into heaven and a vision of her Savior. Before the day was over, Mahmoud was introduced to Rabha’s Savior and was led in the sinner’s prayer. As had happened with the Apostle Paul 2,000 years ago, he was transformed from being a killer of Christians to a follower of the Christian’s Messiah. Three of his friends that were with him also became followers of Christ on the same day. That was Part One of the story…
After Mahmoud was treated for his leg wound, and after spending a few days with the missionaries, he made plans to go to see the man (whose name I was not given) who had sent him to capture Omar and had offered him $50,000 to bring him in dead or alive. Mahmoud, his friends, Sami and three HOB missionaries then left to see him. When they arrived at his house, they found that he had been on a trip and, while gone, had stepped on a mine. He was brought back with a mangled leg and other serious injuries. He had called for a doctor and demanded that the doctor do whatever it takes to save him and his leg. When the doctor said there was no hope of saving the leg or him, the man threatened the doctor’s life but the doctor said no matter how much he would like to help him, there were no hospitals around nor was there medication available that would be sufficient to save him.
At that point, Mahmoud approached him about Omar, asking him why he wanted Omar dead. Omar was not an evil man. He also told him that he himself had become injured and in his own rage and bloodlust ended up killing an innocent woman. About that time, the man’s friends and four wives began to shout Mahmoud down until they were told to let Mahmoud talk.
Mahmoud then began to share with him about God’s love and how the Messiah died to pay for the sins of the world. The man then said, “I have killed so many people, how could God ever forgive someone like me?” Mahmoud and Sami talked with him for a while, while assuring him that God will forgive if he just humbles himself and asks. He then slept for a while as they prayed for him. When he awoke, they shared a bit more with him and then led him in the sinner’s prayer. Before long, the eight men and four women there with him, and even the doctor, became followers of Jesus Christ! Soon afterward, the man died. Now he, just as the thief on the cross next to Jesus who recognized Him as the Messiah, is in heaven’s paradise!
Mahmoud is now out looking for the rest of the men who had been hired to capture or kill Omar. Omar, on the other hand, is out ministering as he always does, trusting the Lord with his life. Prayers for his safety are in order!
The work of the HOB missionaries continues all across the Mideast. Crowds, large and small, gather for communion. Others are feeding people. Still others are ministering to their injuries. And then there are those who rebuild the tents, and those who bury the dead. All share the love of God by telling the story of Jesus Christ and the power of His Blood to forgive all sin.
And…the lost are found and meet their Messiah!
Please continue to pray for all of the House of Blessing leaders, teachers, missionaries, volunteers, and the entire HOB community of believers scattered all across the Mideast. Please especially keep Pastor R in your prayers that our heavenly Father will keep him well and protected.
For those that would like to donate to the work of the House of Blessing, please find the convenient PayPal button on this website. The need is very great. All funds go to the work of HOB. Thank You!
Forever in His Service,