One of the most important principles of the Christian life is “forgiveness”. When the disciple Peter asked Jesus how many times he would be required to forgive someone—thinking seven times was more than generous—Jesus told him he might need to forgive a person seventy times seven! That is almost unimaginable for most of us, but God’s view on most things is much different than ours. God is very willing to forgive us as well, as long as we humble ourselves before Him and honestly ask for His forgiveness. Isaiah 1:18 puts it this way:
“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD, “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
Are there times when forgiveness is more difficult than at other times? Of course! Are there times when it is much easier to mouth the words, “I forgive you” and it is to feel it from the heart? It is indeed! Sometimes, it seems near impossible. We are human. Yet, that is what God asks of us. He doesn’t expect us to be able to change the hurt within us, and He knows we can’t automatically forget what has happened, but He does expect us to make the decision to forgive and then leave the healing of the hurt within us to Him.
A portion of today’s update has, once again, to do with just that…forgiveness.
Even though the Muslim month of Ramadan has finished and many of the HOB missionaries are taking a few days of rest, many of the missionaries are still continuing to share the Good News of Jesus just as before. They are still going from tent to tent, taking whatever they have to share with the people, including the Oregano tea mixture which has proven so effective against the Corona Virus and the yearly flu. They also take Bibles if they still have some as well as their teaching materials to share and leave behind for the people to read and study.
It was a few days after the finish of Ramadan that Suleiman and another of the former militants with him happened to come across eight badly injured ISIS fighters. These men immediately asked for help and so Suleiman stopped to talk with them. It turned out that one of the militants knew Suleiman from the past. When they asked for his help he said, “You want me to help you but you are all still living very evil lives and you intend to continue doing the same! He then proceeded to give his own testimony to the injured men about how he and his own grown sons (who had also been ISIS militants) had been found by Jesus Christ and invited Him to be their Lord and Savior. He shared with them how this decision had totally changed his outlook on life and how he then found it most natural to want to serve the very One who had saved them. Suleiman then asked them what would happen if he helped them? Would they repent and ask Jesus Christ for forgiveness as well, and allow Him to be their Lord as he had?
After talking with them, they did in fact pray the sinner’s prayer and became followers of Jesus. As desperate as their situation was, two of the eight men did not survive and the other six needed a powerful miracle if they were going to make it. We, however, serve an all-powerful miracle working God! As the story was told, the Lord spoke to Suleiman, instructing him to take the men under his wing and help them out–just as he had already done with quite a few others since becoming Christ’s disciple. As I heard last, these six men are still alive and recuperating. They are also being taught from the Bible as well as being trained in how to live the life of a Jesus-follower. Praise God!
One of the difficulties when it comes to integrating former militants—people who have done monstrous things—into the House of Blessing community of believers is that often, these very men have abused, tortured, raped, and killed family members belonging to the HOB community. Forgiveness in such situations is not quite like forgiving someone for saying bad things about you or stealing something out of your house. These grievances are of a heart-wrenching seriousness because often enormous suffering and pain has been caused. But, the Christian community has seen people who have been guilty of living some of the most evil lifestyles come to Jesus in true humility and repentance. And, not only does God forgive, so does the community of believers—even those that have been hurt the worst. As the passage in Isaiah says at the beginning of this update; the deepest stain of sin is washed clean by the Blood of Jesus and made white as snow! Praise God for His mercy and unmerited favor!!
Pastor R told me that there is continuing action by Islamic extremists in many areas but the power of the Gospel is continuing to bring in the harvest of the lost, regardless.
One of the things that has come about since the end of Ramadan is that the House of Blessing School of Ministry has once again begun to train some of the new believers for the work of evangelism and discipling. Four classes have been started so far with 25 students in each class. Each class of 25 has one teacher and two assistants. These classes are located in Aleppo and Idlib and will run for about 2-3 months. Each day of schooling is very intensive and usually runs about 8-10 hours a day. After hours always includes much memorization of Scripture passages. The House of Blessing is committing themselves to supply each student two meals a day while taking classes. I have the names of the teachers and their assistants below. Please hold these men before the Lord in prayer, as well as their students. This is a very dangerous commitment to take on inside the world of Islam. There have been many deadly attacks over the past years of classes just like these which have just resumed. Please pray that the enemies of Christ are blind to those attending.
Teacher #1: Hisham; Assistants: Amar and Wissam
Teacher #2: Sayeed; Assistants: Zakaria and Yasser
Teacher #3: Assam; Assistants: Tayseer and Emmad
Teacher #4: Hytaam; Assistants: Majdi and Ibrahim
In conclusion, among the few who have reported in to update Pastor R how the evangelism is going, approximate numbers were provided by Omar and his group, Mufiedah and her group of women, Ibrahim and his group, Adel and his volunteers, and Sahbanber, Mortadah and their helpers. These groups were able to spend ½ – 1 hour in each tent and as a result approximately 500 entire families were reached. At least 150-200 people also experienced healing after drinking the Oregano tea mix provided by the missionaries. Praise God!
Pastor R continues to appreciate all your prayers. He still struggles with health issues, but praise God he has been able to continue meeting with his leadership as well as pray for many people as they come to see him.
As we continue our race to the end of the age, let’s be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in all things. The Bible tells us that God is not willing that any perish but the Bible makes it clear there is an end to the Age of Grace and time is quickly running out. Many of us have family members and friends that have no idea how near the end of the age really is. Pray for them fervently and share God’s love with them as the Holy Spirit gives opportunity. Jesus is coming! SOON!
Forever in His Service,