Just prior to my writing today’s update, I happened to turn to Acts 8-9, where we find the story of the Apostle Paul’s conversion from being a persecutor of Christians to himself becoming a follower of Jesus Christ. The feared Pharisee militant Saul became the beloved Apostle Paul. The first four verses of Acts 8, starting with Saul having just approving of the stoning of Stephen, read like this:
1 Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. 4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.
Much of the storyline reminds me of many of the stories that I have been given over the past eight years; stories that were then written and sent out as Mideast Updates. Here in these four verses we have the story of Saul, who in his religious fervor, went after the Christians with a fury because he thought they were worshipping a false Messiah. Although Saul brought much fear and great problems for the Christians of his day, he could not stop the Great Commission from being carried out. He only managed to scatter the Christian Church and unknowingly spread the Good News of the Gospel all over the known world at that time. This is what has happened with the House of Blessing Christian community since March, 2012.
Later in the story of Saul’s conversion to Paul, we find Jesus having this to say about him to Ananias, the prophet:
15 “Go, for he is a chosen of Mine to bear My name before the Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” Acts 9:15-16
Many of the people reached with the Gospel by the HOB missionaries since 2012 were clearly enemies of Christianity. This includes soldiers, militia members, Muslim sheikhs, and even quite a number of ISIS militants, who were then baptized in water along with their entire families. The miracle God did when He changed the heart of Saul, turning him into Paul the apostle, is still happening today, 2,000 years later. But, as it was in the early Church, many from the 21st century Church have given their lives for the cause of Christ.
In the previous update I wrote about funds that were raised—mainly from what was left behind by missionaries and new believers who had died of the coronavirus. These funds were used by HOB to purchase a truckload of wheat sacks, 1,000 Bibles and clean water, among other necessities. After distributing wheat until they ran out, Bibles were distributed to as many family units as they could.
Omar, Sami, and Mussa, along with about 300 HOB workers were able to pray with about 1,200 people who decided to accept Jesus as Lord. Among this group of people were about 280 who were infected with the coronavirus. About 70 of them lost their battle with the virus but went to be with Jesus. HOB then assumed the task of getting the deceased buried. Because the virus is so infectious in the refugee camps, the bodies are required to be buried at least two kilometers outside the camp. This is not an easy task as each corpse has to be transported by whatever means can be found, often by mule.
Mufiedah, Sarah, and Fadwa working together with 120 HOB women led about 400 women to Jesus in addition to the others reached. 32 of these also were infected with the virus, with 18 of them not surviving. These also had to be carried outside of the camp and buried.
During the same time, Adel, Abed, and the 25 HOB missionaries working with them brought another 160 to the feet of Jesus. These also prayed the sinner’s prayer. Once again, as with the other groups, there were those infected with the virus. Of the 19 infected, 8 died and were buried.
I don’t have numbers for all the areas where the HOB communities of believers are located, but it can be assumed that much the same was the case all across the Middle East. One of the hard hit regions of course was in western Iran where Sahbander and Mortadah’s HOB community is located. They reported 58 more with the coronavirus. 25 of these did not survive and were buried.
In other areas, just as has been their practice since the beginning of the pandemic, those meeting for special communion services met at least five times a day with no more than about 15-20 in each group. No matter what hardship these folks are enduring, their joy in their walk with the Lord has not been robbed. All are grateful for God’s mercy, His grace and forgiveness, and are most anxious for the return of Jesus, our Messiah.
This is how the House of Blessing did the work of the ministry during Ramadan, 2020. It was different than in any past years, but God honored their commitment and love for Him and the lost souls of this world.
In all areas, the work of preaching, teaching, and prayer for the masses of people continues from day to day. Pastor R sounded in good spirits and his voice was as strong as the first time I spoke with him over eight years ago. God is good!
As always, the House of Blessing has asked me to let you all know how much your prayer and financial support means to them. The Lord has chosen to connect us all at such a time as this. God is good! As believers we have much reason to be encouraged, no matter what chaos our world is slipping into….and it certainly is! The Lord warned us that things would deteriorate like this, especially right at the very end of the age—just as we are witnessing today. 2020 is proving to be a year like none we have ever experienced before, and this is only June. Things will now only become more intense. This is because time is running out and the devil knows he has little time left! Jesus told us watch, pray, and keep our eyes trained upon Him, the Author and Finisher of our faith!
Forever in His Service,