As I begin this update close to the end of 2018, I felt the Holy Spirit urge me to share a few thoughts about how we ought to view the days we are living in and how we should approach them. We live in unique times and it is important that we see what God has to say to us as we navigate through today’s stormy waters.
A passage in the last chapter of the Old Testament book of Job came to mind in which God Himself had spoken to Job from the whirlwind. Listen to what Job had to say:
“I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’ I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear. But now my eye sees you. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:2-6
Now the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning…So Job died, old and full of days. Job 42:12, 17
I spent time reading back over some of the updates from the past year. To be honest, it brought mixed emotions, and it is this that reminded me of the above passage. There were wonderful stories that brought great encouragement, but then there were the tragic events. There were the accounts of hundreds, often thousands that were reached with the Gospel of Yeshua/Jesus, but then there were the hundreds killed who may not have known about the good news of salvation through Jesus’ Blood. Many saw their husbands, wives, or children killed in bombings, missile strikes, or murdered by brutal Islamic militants.
Early in the year, we heard the story of the four sheikhs, Mefliah, Radi, Taher, and Shaher who had been abducted by ISIS on January 29, 2016 and had not been seen or heard from since…until about two years later when they managed to escape the cave where they had been imprisoned. Four other head-sheikhs found them and took them in. They were all injured but very much alive. Although they were very weak physically, their spiritual condition was strong! They also had the boldness of lions and reached their “Good Samaritan’s” with the same Gospel that had kept them spiritually nurtured for the previous two years. They were then brought back to the House of Blessing community of believers in the Fallujah area and there was great joy and celebration among them all! The names of the four men who found them are Yosef, Zakaria, Abed, and Faisal. All eight are doing very well and have reached a multitude since that day early this year, 2018.
Three other men, Talaat, Hesham, and Essam had been picked to take the place of Omar, Sami, and Nader, who had been shot by terrorists. Nader had been killed instantly but Omar and Sami in time recuperated. The three who took their places, however, were kidnapped and went through unspeakable abuses and finally were shot to death in front of about 150-175 witnesses because they would not deny their faith in Jesus.
There was also another attack when a group of HOB leaders and teachers gathered to decide how to handle the thousands of new believers who desired teaching, many of them through the House of Blessing School of Ministry courses. Several militants broke into the place where they were gathered and dozens were shot to death, many others injured. There were other attacks, all tragic because of those who died or were injured, but also because most of these men had wives and children.
But there were some astonishing events, too many to mention in this short update. One of these involved Sister Mufiedah and the Widow Sisterhood. On a particular day earlier in 2018, she and the widows were treating many wounded people, most of them injured in the fighting in northern Syria. As they ministered to the injured and sick, they set aside more and more that had died. Mufiedah suddenly felt the Holy Spirit urging her to pray over one of the dead. As she did, the power of God came over her and then the dead person who then came back to life, to the shock of all who were watching! It did not end there, however. After one was raised from the dead, Mufiedah prayed for a second, a third, a fourth, and kept praying for the dead until a total of twenty had been raised from the dead! For those of us in the West, we might not even be able to imagine the reaction from the growing crowd as one, then another, and another were brought back to life! The harvest of souls because of that special day continues to this day.
Our Sister Mufiedah has been involved in an untold number of tragic events, but also scores of miraculous interventions by our God. One of these was for a pregnant woman who had been shot. The woman was near full term but her life was now seriously in jeopardy. Mufiedah soon found out that the problem was much worse than she thought. She was able to deliver the baby but found that the child had been hit in the head by the bullet. What do you do when you have a dying mother and brand new baby in the middle of the mud and blood of a war-torn area? There is no anesthesia, and no way of sterilizing anything! She and the widows did what they could. Mufiedah searched for the bullet that had hit the mother and was able to remove it. They then cauterized the wounds the same way they have been doing with the mixture that the Lord had instructed Mufiedah to use at the very beginning of the Widow Sisterhood ministry. But, there was no way that she could search for a bullet in this baby’s head! So, they treated everything they could and then they prayed for them both. Both mother and child, not only survived, but are both healthy today. What did God do about the bullet in the baby’s head? Only He knows, but does it matter? He took care of what no one else could!! We serve a great God.
One of the very latest stories has to do with HOB’s new Pastor Farid. As regular readers know, this man had been a Muslim head-sheikh, a very well respected man who was well educated and had been a sheikh for many years. One thing rather unusual for a man in his position is that he was blind. After he had become a believer and completed the HOB School of Ministry, doing very well and graduating with others, he decided to go back to his mosque to give his testimony. We know the story; he created much interest but was also taken out and beaten to the point of death. Thinking that he was dead or wouldn’t survive, he was dragged out to the garbage pit and left for dead. God sent an angel, healing Farid–not only his body from the terrible abuse, but also his blind eyes! The angel also told him that he was given a special gift of healing that he would be able to use to heal many people and reach many, many souls. This is exactly what has happened, and is continuing. His own seven children who were born blind have been healed of their blindness and people are coming to hear him by the multitudes. Just this past week, a group of over 200 women who had all sorts of ailments came to see him. He taught them the Word of God and then prayed for all. God mercifully healed every single last one of the women, with many people praising God and giving Him glory!
I must also mention Pastor R and his feet which had become gangrenous. God did a marvelous healing there as well, and we have the photos as proof. There were many other spectacular miracles through the months. These stories are just a sampling of what happened this past year.
Then there were the many Bible students that completed their HOB School of Ministry classes and have now joined the ranks of the HOB missionaries as reinforcements to replace those who have been lost and to help teach more classes. The waiting list to take the courses is a very long list. Amazing!
The House of Blessing, through the gifts of readers, has been able to purchase thousands of Bibles, mattresses, blankets, winter clothing, medicines, and quite a number of truckloads of wheat to distribute. Through these gifts of love, from people such as yourselves and also the HOB missionaries themselves, hundreds of thousands of refugees were able to receive at least some food. The HOB leaders know they can’t feed all the refugees; the UN can’t even do that, but if they can feed some of these folks a little, they will have the opportunity to tell them about Jesus. That’s the goal, and God has honored it. It won’t be until we are in eternity that we will know how many were reached this way.
The love the HOB missionaries have shown has taken many forms. As tens of thousands of refugees ran from one location to another looking for some semblance of temporary safety, hundreds of the missionaries moved from one location of tragedy, war, and disaster to another, embedding themselves in order to hopefully get them placed among HOB communities of believers. These were locations like Daara, Idlib, Aleppo, Eastern Ghouta, and scores more. HOB placed themselves right in the middle of the crossfire in many battles, checking for any of the fallen who were still breathing. Hundreds over time have been reached with the Gospel of the Messiah within their last breaths of life! This is what they do, day after day after day!
Part of the ministry of HOB has been burying the dead, believers and unbelievers as well. These burials are essential in order to avoid diseases. Many hundreds have been buried by HOB missionaries. If they couldn’t rent a tractor to dig mass graves, they did it by hand. It is not a ministry that brings accolades from men, but God sees these things much differently.
Today, due to the terrible storms that have raged in the region, especially in the northern provinces, there are HOB tent rebuilding crews everywhere. Once again, it is a way to minister with the love of Jesus…and, it works! The latest reports I received told of 120 tents in one location, 320 in another, over 500 in another. The storms affected HOB in Syria, Iraq, Kurdistan, and even western Iran. As tents are rebuilt, some supplies are made available, some wheat for bread, and a friendly face with the love, people become open to the story of Jesus and His Blood that forgives! The response from the people is nothing less than staggering. The Lord of the Harvest is bringing the souls in, as the workers make themselves available!
As I have this update ready for uploading to the website, I received another short call from Pastor R. Brothers Omar and Sami reported that the storms hitting right now are so vicious and the amount of rain coming down so hard and fast that it is virtually impossible to get tents back up in place. There are rivers of water running right through the tent cities. The refugee camps within the storm area are totally at the mercy of the weather. He also told me of another seven new converts that just perished as a result of what is happening. He asked for special prayer. The weather is predicted to last at least through Friday.
Across the Mideast, the House of Blessing has lost a number of folks to the flu, which is particularly vicious this year. The exposure to the elements is also a contributing factor. So, while the harvest is being brought in, many are also being buried. If they are believers, we know where they are now. They will never suffer again; and they will be waiting to meet the rest of us when the Lord gathers all His saints together in that great gathering in God’s presence! I did learn that Pastor R personally has signs of the flu now as well. Please pray!
This last two weeks, with gifts sent in from supporters, HOB was able to distribute two full flatbed truckloads of wheat sacks and many other supplies. We continue to pray that many souls will be touched and reached before the door to the ark closes. The time is very short.
Much could be said about the increasing volume of the drums of war, but I will save that for a different time. Suffice it to say that a major war has been brewing for some time now but it seems that gasoline is being thrown onto the fire and it is soon to turn into a wildfire. The HOB missionaries know it and are prepared to give their all, if it is called for.
This brings me to the conclusion and back to our passage in Job 42. How many times do we second guess God? Man often blames God for a lot of things that man in his smallness has no understanding of. We are finite and our view of anything at all is pretty limited, at best. Job went through some very difficult trials and we certainly shouldn’t be his critic, but God is able to do so with justice. Job, who lived as a contemporary of Abraham, knew nothing of the ancient past; nor could he see the future. God sees the past, present, and future all at once. Job had no way of knowing that God was going to use his story to teach people for the next several thousand years. God did not tell him! And here we are, reading his story in 2018 AD.
What Job learned is that his view of God was way too small. He only knew God by what he had heard about God. After having the experiences recorded in the book named after him, he learned to know God personally and intimately. The more he knew God, the more he came to realize that he himself knew almost nothing. He came to learn that God is always in control of all things, and even when he thought that God was unfair in His dealings, he learned that there is a whole lot more going on in the universe than his own life and those in his limited circle of friends and family!
Does this mean that God expected Job to celebrate and enjoy the tragedies that befell him? Of course not. That would be rather morbid. The lesson for us is that we must trust Him completely, without reservation. If we don’t think we can totally trust God—the One who created us—the same One who even makes sure we have the correct mixture of nitrogen and oxygen in our air so we can breathe, who would we trust in His place? Jesus once asked his disciples if they were going to leave Him along with the crowds who rejected Him in John 6. They answered saying, “to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life!” (John 6:68).
As a mere human, it distresses me greatly to hear stories or see photos of the terrible things that people do to each other, especially in the name of religion. It hurts me to see how it hurts the innocents. Do I understand all of the particulars of everything I see? No, none of us do. We see injustice, inequity, selfishness, cruelty, and wickedness everywhere, and we could ask God, “Why do You let that go on?”
We do know at least some of the answer. The truth is that we live in a fallen world and it is not headed toward a golden age, even if humans were to learn to get along with one another. God had to step in and rescue mankind. He did it by donning the skin of a man and allowing depraved men to brutalize Him and then finally kill Him. He, the perfect Lamb of God; the King of Righteousness, the King of Justice, the Righteous Judge of all the Earth, is coming back—not as a suffering Messiah this time. He is coming back as the glorious Messiah, to reign as KING of Kings and LORD of Lords, God on earth! Would I like Him to come today? Absolutely! But His timing will prove perfect–even though I might want to do things differently. Problem is…I am not God and I would really mess everything up. This is what Job learned, and this is what we also must accept. Trust God and Obey Him, just as the old church hymn says.
When we walk with the Lord, in the light of his word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and Obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
Forever in His Service,
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