Most who read the Mideast Updates have a pretty good understanding of God’s grace and forgiveness made available through the Blood of Jesus Christ. Something that is difficult for some to comprehend, however, is how far the grace of God reaches. This is often especially true for believers who have never fallen into a lifestyle of sin and guilt to the degree that many others have. In today’s update you will hear a story just passed to me describing the length, width, and depth of God’s love and forgiveness. I would like to share an appropriate Scripture first.
1 Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? 5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting…”
13…then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake…
20…Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. 21 Then all who heard were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?” 22But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwell in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 9:1-5; 13-16; 20-22)
Saul, who was a high-ranking Pharisee before his life was transformed and he became Paul the Apostle, was consumed with zeal for a task which he thought was God’s call on his life. He was to round up as many of the followers of Jesus of Nazareth as he could find. The Jewish priesthood considered them heretics and Saul traveled from place to place in order to capture them, bind them, and bring them back to Jerusalem in order to stand trial. Many of these received the death sentence. But, then there was God.
Now, today’s story…
A few days ago, as Omar, Sami, and other were ministering to crowds of people, a man named Majd approached Omar and asked him to tell him about Jesus and what Jesus’ teachings were all about. Omar spent a considerable amount of time with him and finally Majd said he would like to become a follower of Jesus also. Would Omar show him how? But, before Majd would let Omar go any further, he expressed with great sadness that he was not sure that God would forgive him for the terrible things he did in his past. When Omar asked him about it, he said that he had been an ISIS (Daesh) militant and that he had killed many people, including HOB missionaries!
Well, this was not something all that new to Omar. Others have come to him with the same background. He looked Majd in the eyes and told him that if he truly humbled himself before God and repented from his heart, God would forgive, but it had to truly be from his heart. Within minutes Omar helped him pray the sinner’s prayer. Majd then said he needed to go see his father but that he would be back.
A day or two later, Majd was back saying that his father had requested that Omar come to see him. After praying about it, Omar followed Majd to his father’s home. Majd’s father introduced himself as Suleiman. He then proceeded to tell Omar that Majd had told him how he became a believer and follower of the Messiah, Jesus. He then said that he too had been an ISIS militant and, just as his son, had killed many, many people. As he spoke of his past he pulled a long knife out, a pistol, and a machine gun, laying them all on a table in front of Omar. He told Omar that he had been extremely miserable and sleepless, saying “I have done such evil!” He then told how he also had murdered HOB missionaries. He felt he deserved to die for what he had done and told Omar he could kill him any way he chose, pick the weapon and he would not be stopped. Omar shook his head and told Suleiman that he was not a killer; he was instead a preacher of God’s love, grace, and forgiveness.
After being quiet for a couple minutes, Suleiman said that he too would like to become a follower of Jesus–if there was any way God could forgive him for the terrible things he had done. Omar gave Suleiman the same answer that he had given Majd a days before. Suleiman was quiet again for a moment and then, as he looked up at Omar again he said, “I have three more grown sons here. We were all ISIS militants and are all guilty of having done the greatest of evil in the last few years. But we misunderstood who Christians really were and we were misinformed about who Jesus Christ is. We thought we were killing infidels at the command of Allah but instead we are very guilty of having done monstrous things. We really did not understand who Jesus Christ is. All of us would like to give our lives to Jesus and become followers of Him as you and the rest of the HOB missionaries are, and as Majd has.
So, Omar and the brothers who had come with him prayed with Suleiman and his other three sons, Mustafa, Refaat, and Aref. All five men, regardless of their past, have now become part of the House of Blessing community of believers. After they had all prayed the sinner’s prayer, Omar and Sami took them to a place where they could baptize them. After the baptism, the men spent some more time talking about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Suleiman told Omar and Sami that he knew others like himself who he was going to share with about who Jesus Christ really is! And, God will open those doors. As Omar and his men prepared to leave, he gave a Bible to Suleiman and his four sons. HOB missionaries will see to it that the five men become grounded in their new faith. Praise God!
As I mentioned early in this update, there are many believers who might find it hard to believe men with such a past could make that kind of a radical change. That is why I used the story of Saul the Pharisee whom God set straight and commissioned as Paul the Apostle. It is God who calls people to Himself and it is God who changes their hearts. If we tried to change someone’s heart, we would fail miserably. When God does it, the heart is truly transformed!
The reason I mentioned these men by name is so that you, the reader, will lift their names before the Lord in prayer. They will need prayer support! Once again, their names are Suleiman, Majd, Mustafa, Refaat, and Aref. Thank you.
As I said earlier, this is the short version of the story. There are always a great many more details that are part of the larger story. It is not an easy thing for men with such a background and having lived the brutal lifestyle expected of them. They now are being brought together with a community that has lost many family members and other loved ones to militants just like them. Yet, God teaches us to forgive. God always provides us with the ability to follow through on what it is He expects of us.
As to the rest of the work of the missionaries, it continues just as it has. Many hundreds are reached with the Good News of the Gospel every single week. Many hundreds of tents continue to be reset or rebuilt after collapsing from the weather. Well over a hundred of the deceased are being buried, food continues to be dispersed as it is available and the special oregano mixture and tea is made available to as many as possible. And, because these are ingredients given to brother Omar to share with the sick, God’s hand is in it and the House of Blessing is seeing a great many people gradually overcome their diseases instead of succumbing to them.
Radi and Youssef continue to pray for 170-200 people every day and God continues to touch their souls and heal their bodies.
Please continue to pray for the House of Blessing. The needs continue to be very great but God is greater than the needs and continues to multiply the supplies as they are made available. There is of course also always a need for more Bibles. Believers in the Mideast continue, as they have been for years now, to share one Bible among family members.
Thank you all for your support and prayers for the House of Blessing!
Forever in His Service,