After having received three separate calls from Syria this last week, I spent some time reminiscing over the story that has unfolded over the last 32 months. It has truly been a saga of tremendous effort, sacrifice, triumph, tragedy, and new life for hundreds of thousands who had no hope. As I was thinking back over the events and phone calls I have received in this time period, I found myself leafing through the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. There are many Scripture passages that are applicable to this update today, but one in particular is found in Acts 14:21-28. It reads in the NKJV:
And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”
So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they believed. And after they had passed through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. Now when they had preached the Word in Perga, they went down to Attalia.
From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed. Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. So they stayed there a long time with the disciples.
As I thought back to phone call after phone call, especially many of the powerful prayer times shared together with 10,000 miles between us, I could not help but praise and thank God for the amazing thing He has done. I stood in front of a detailed map of the Middle East that I have on one wall of my office and found that it has a much different significance to me today than it did before that day in late March 2012 at the Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus in Jerusalem, when God, in answer to a very specific prayer offered by my wife and myself before traveling from the United States, arranged a divine appointment which led to our involvement with House of Blessing, City of Jesus, Jerusalem, Israel.
As I write this article, House of Blessing has 520 volunteer missionaries whom Pastor R**** has personally trained, plus the large group of well over 100 widows whom we have affectionately named the “Widow Sisterhood.” These missionaries are scattered all over the Middle East. H.O.B. now has missionaries throughout Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Iran, and Kurdistan, with the base of operations still located in Jerusalem. Another 500+ missionaries have paid the ultimate price since April 2012, martyred for not denying their faith and because they were willing to share it with a people who have never heard of the God that loves sinners and provided the ultimate divine sacrifice to pay the debt for sin that only God could pay. What a miracle it has been in the lives of the many hundreds of thousands who have been washed by the Blood of the Lamb of God these last 32 months. Many thousands of Bibles have been printed into Arabic, paid for by donors from all parts of the globe and distributed among the people. Hundreds are being taught every week, and many thousands are finding their Messiah every month!
Over time, I have had the privilege of speaking with some of the missionaries by phone. I had a wonderful opportunity once again yesterday to speak with another of these men, now a dedicated believer in Jesus Christ. This man, whom I will not name today, was a head sheikh for over 30 years, until 23 months ago when God sovereignly arranged for his path to cross with Pastor R**** and the H.O.B. missionaries. After he heard the good news of God’s great love for him, and the fact that forgiveness of his sins was available to him just for the asking, he did exactly that, not only becoming a believer in Christ Jesus, but also learning the importance of making Him LORD in his life. As I spoke with him this week, he was absolutely overjoyed because of the freedom and love He has felt from His Lord and Master. I paraphrase his comments to share with you here: ‘I did not know for all those many years about anything but Islam. Through Pastor R****, I learned about Jesus Christ and so am now a Christian. I will never go back; I will serve God for the rest of my life and share His love with as many people as I can!’
Even though this former Muslim head sheikh spoke in broken English, the springs of living water pouring from his soul were obvious and genuine! It was a great honor to speak with this man, who is now a brother in the Lord!
Something that has astounded me over the months is the sacrificial giving of these people who live in the midst of worse turmoil and chaos than most of us can even imagine. I think back to the story of Miriam, a widow in her 40s, wanting nothing more than to sell her humble abode in order to purchase more Bibles that were so badly needed. Miriam said that she felt she could live in a tent just like the refugees that she spent her time ministering to. Then, after her life was brutally taken from her by five Hezbollah terrorists, Miriam’s tent became Pastor R****’s “home” for a time.
There have been others as well. Some of the former sheikhs and mullahs sold properties and gave the proceeds toward the purchase of Bibles. Some gave their lives. This is what happened to the former head sheikh, Nabil, who was murdered by ten men, including his own son who wanted to give the death blow, stabbing him after he had already been viciously beaten. Nabil’s widow then was caught and faced her own death sentence before 400 witnesses and the same son. In her case, through an astounding miracle of God, her life was spared and she became the Holy Spirit anointed leader of the “Widow Sisterhood”.
Within this last month, a widow approached Pastor R**** about her own property. Due to her husband’s death, she was living with her immediate relatives, but was living in very difficult circumstances. Her male relatives were beating and mistreating her in many ways. She had a piece of property that was worth $40,000 in American dollars and wanted to sell it and join the Widow Sisterhood in their walk of faith. Her brother offered to purchase the property but would only offer her $20,000. After praying about it and seeking advice, she decided to accept the offer. She then completed the transaction, selling the property and making the money available for Bibles and the needs of the widows and orphans of the hundreds of HOB’s Christian martyrs.
There are many more stories that could be told, but I will not do so in this update. I will say that Pastor R**** has been meeting with some smaller groups of people, for special instruction in the Gifts of the Spirit and also for times of prayer. A new group of 150 students will begin their intensive 45 day instruction in HOB’s School of Ministry.
I received an e-mail this last weekend with about 77 photos. Most of these are current but there are also some that are several months old. These photos show hundreds of orphans and of course some of the mothers who are now widows, not necessarily belonging to the group of widows that Mafidah, Nabil’s widow is overseeing. The widows have found a number of abandoned buildings in areas that had been vacated due to the danger of jihadist’s attacks. Some of these areas are now safer than before and so the buildings are being put to good use by the missionaries. The widows and children have cleaned useful buildings and are using them to provide schooling for as many children as gather together. While the children are being given school lessons, they are also being taught stories from the Bible so that they can also learn about Jesus. The Lord has given Mafidah’s widows such favor, that they collect a crowd wherever they go. God has really blessed them in some of the most dangerous places, especially for women. The sick continue to be healed, the injured restored, and many have been raised from the dead. As God’s Word says in the book of Hebrews, “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.”
At this time of year, most of the world is celebrating the birth of the Messiah Jesus, not recognized by Islam. Pastor R****, however, would like to bless the many martyrs’ families. Winter time has come and many of the people do not have mattresses to sleep on, nor do they have the clothing or blankets needed for the wet and cold months ahead. If the Lord gives you a desire to help with this need, please use the address below for any financial gift and it will be forwarded to them promptly.
Some of the undated photos received recently:
Thank you for reading and I pray that God blesses each reader.
The address for donations is:
H.O.B. City Of Jesus Ministry; 3206 SW 45th Street; Redmond, OR 97756