No matter what news source you pick up, the main subject matter is the COVID-19. The novel coronavirus took very little time to circle the globe. Life as most knew it has changed drastically. This is also the case in the Middle East.
As the Islamic month of Ramadan has now officially begun, Muslims are finding themselves in a situation they’ve never experienced. Because the virus is so infectious, Saudi Arabia has closed their borders, even to the hajj, which draws Muslim worshippers in by the millions. Mosques have been closed down, even to Muslims gathering for Friday’s sermons and prayers. Unlike the yearly pilgrimage to Mecca, Ramadan will be observed, although in a much different way this year.
The House of Blessing has been affected by the coronavirus as well and has had to make adjustments accordingly. As regular readers already know, the HOB missionaries have curtailed ministering to mass groups as they are used to doing and limiting the groups to 15-20 or so at a time. Another change that has had to be made is to temporarily replace some of the main leadership with a fresh group of teachers in order to allow those who are down with the virus to have enough time to get well and recuperate. I have the names of some of the main sick teachers and those who are temporarily taking their place. I have listed them below for those who pray for these folks individually.
Mufedah has been replaced by Ibtisam
Sarah has been replaced by Narmin
Fadwa has been replaced by Kamar
Omar has been replaced by Hassan
Sami has been replaced by Yousef
Moussa has been replaced by Jamal
Please pray for the healing, not only of these six listed here but the many others throughout the HOB community of believers that have contracted the virus. There are a number who have also succumbed to the virus, many of them leaving family members behind.
Reports have already come in that Hassan, Yousef, and Jamal, along with those helping them, were able to lead 1,040 to the feet of Jesus and Ibtisim, Narmin, and Kamar and team of helpers led an additional 500 to the Lord these past few days. Praise God for what He is doing under some of the most difficult circumstances. While the harvest of souls is continuing, there were also the reports of many who died, both from the virus and also as victims of the continuing civil war.
Because of the continual news of the coronavirus, not nearly as much has been heard on the mainstream news concerning the continuing conflict in the Idlib / Aleppo and surrounding region. The conflict between the Assad regime, the anti-Assad rebels, and Turkey continues, although strategies have changed some due to the pandemic. What had been another cease-fire, fell through again. Not that anyone is surprised. Fingers are being pointed in all directions as to who actually was first to begin firing again. Inevitably, it is always the civilians who get hurt the worst–especially the children.
After over nine years of civil war in Syria, there’s not much health care infrastructure left to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Records show that only about 64% of public hospitals in the nation are considered “fully functioning.” The coronavirus was not officially announced in syria until March 22, and the virus caused Assad to pause mandatory military conscription and all non-essential business, halt public transport, impose curfews and limit travel between the regions he still has under his control. As has been noted by many, instituting lock-downs are a last-ditch attempt taken by governments to buy themselves time to shore up medical supplies and ensure that their health care system isn’t overwhelmed; as France, the U.S., and many other developed markets are currently proving. It is difficult under the best of circumstances, and comes with tremendous economic costs. Syria’s economy and healthcare system is already in terrible shape, and the nation is in no position to deal with either the medical or financial fallout from the coronavirus.
Turkey is dealing with its own problems with the coronavirus and having to try and deal with a contingency of 3.5 million very unpopular among the Turkish citizenry Syrian refugees, Erdogan, in spite of all his bravado and political manipulations, finds himself caught in a corner. If he tries to push refugees toward Europe again, as he did last month, he will anger Europeans even more than he already did the Greeks–especially with many of the refugees being infected with the virus. For the time being, he is needing to settle for mostly ignoring the refugees within his borders for the sake of his own political fortunes and Turkey’s economy.
One thing that could easily upset the applecart would be if Assad’s ally, Russia, would push him into launching another offensive to capture Idlib and secure total victory. Russia is also struggling to contain the coronavirus outbreak at home, but if the opportunity became available, Russia might very well push Assad to taking more control over the city, which would inevitably bring more refugees to Turkey and piling the domestic pressure on Turkey’s Erdogan. For Erdogan, this would be a nightmare situation.
Unfortunately, regardless of all the politics and international maneuverings, as has been said many times already, the civilians are the ones who lose the most. Millions of lives are hanging by a thread. The House of Blessing cannot solve all the problems that have been brought upon the people, but they can share the one hope that cannot be stolen away by anything. This hope comes from one source only. It comes from Jesus Christ, the only true Messiah, the One who died for the sins of the world and then was resurrected, having paid the price that no one could pay for themselves. It bought eternal forgiveness, free for those asking. And today, in Syria, like in many places around the world, millions are asking!
You and I have been entrusted with the greatest truth the world has ever known. At the very crux of history, Jesus Christ died and was resurrected—the age of resurrection had now begun. The sacrificial system had now been fulfilled and sins had been forgiven through Him, with the entire world as an audience to this story. It is a story like none other. No man-made religion has ever come close to matching it. No others have claimed resurrection to back up their teaching. The disciples became guardians of this truth and believers from that point on, including you and I, are witnesses of the radical change in human lives this resurrection continues to make. No one who encounters the risen Christ can remain the same! Having been freed from sin and the prison of shame and guilt it brings, we have the task of reaching out to others and tell them what we have seen and experienced. There is no hope for anyone in this world except through Christ’s death, resurrection, and forgiveness of sins. It is this message that is bringing in the multitudes all over the world today. Praise God!
Back to the House of Blessing…
Communion services in both Iraq and Syria continue but as explained in the last update, the numbers are limited to between 15-20 per communion c+elebration. These special celebrations are however offered at least five times a day so that no one is left out.
The work of the ministry continues in all locations where HOB is located. Adel, Abed, and 30 working with them reached 180 and brought them to the Savior. Pastor Farid and his grown children pray with 80+ each day. Sahbander and Mortadah, leaders in western Iran, have had great struggles trying to meet the needs of those in their HOB community. The coronavirus also has hit them very hard. They had had quite a number that had gotten sick and then died. They also had 35 who were miraculously healed of the virus. Then, they had another five families including 55 family members come down with the virus. This is a real trial of their faith and they need our prayers more than ever.
Pastor R is also still suffering with the virus but, so far, he hasn’t been hit as hard as so many others have. Let’s continue praying that the Lord sets him completely free. We serve a God that answers prayer.
In conclusion, we find our world being enveloped in greater chaos as time passes. We are in a season that can be called “the beginning of sorrows.” John’s Apocalypse has not begun, but it is right at the door. World news is full of news of famines, pestilences, plagues, extreme weather anomalies, violent geological events, and approaching cosmic threats, etc. The fulfillment of prophetic events are escalating, and these events should not catch God’s people unaware. Jesus told us to watch and pray and when we see these things coming to pass, we should look up for our redemption is very near! Even so come, Lord Jesus!
Forever in His Service,