In today’s update I would like to reprint an older episode as I sometimes do so that we don’t forget the great things God has done in the past in response to the prayers of God’s people. This story involves a number of House of Blessing missionaries, one of them being a man named Omar. This Omar however is not the same as the one I have been writing about for the last couple years. The Omar in this past episode was the one that was primarily responsible for the beginning of the entire work of HOB in Iraq. He and Pastor R began the work with the last five Bibles they had left after distributing the rest to already established works. As we know now, brother Omar’s work was greatly blessed by the Lord and tens of thousands were reached before he and his wife had their lives taken from them by ISIS militants. This episode was uploaded to this blog on September 23, 2015. I pray that you are blessed as I was when I reread this account.
In the Book of Acts (The Acts of the Apostles), we find story after story giving accounts of real life events as the fledgling Church began to fulfill the commission that Jesus had left them with before He ascended back to His throne in heaven. We find accounts of thousands of people transformed through the Blood of Jesus. We also find records of the tremendous healings and other supernatural events that happened as the followers of Jesus began to apply their faith. Along with the salvation of souls and the supernatural interventions from heaven, came the persecution, which started the ever-increasing flow of Christian martyrs under that great heavenly altar described in Revelation 6:9-11. Two thousand years later, it continues, and is coming to a great crescendo.
In the fourth chapter of Acts we find the account of the apostles, Peter and John, being arrested and later released. The story reads like this, starting with the first verse:
Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. However, many of those who heard the Word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand. (Acts 4:1-4)
The apostles preached with great power, being endued with power from the Holy Spirit. Peter’s first sermon resulted in about 3,000 souls turning to Messiah. In addition, a lame man had been healed and thousands became witnesses of the fact when he ran through the city, jumping up and down, affirming that it was by the Name of Jesus that he had been healed. In verse 4 we find that another 5,000 were reached, and this was counting only the men. This alarmed the religious leaders because the message they were preaching was not one that was acceptable to them. They, together with the Roman government, had crucified Jesus, and they were not about to allow anyone to lead the people to believe that He really was the Messiah. After their arrest, Peter and John were questioned and commanded not to preach in the name of Jesus. In verse 13 we find the reaction of the Jewish religious leaders to the boldness of Peter and John. This is the continuing story beginning at verse 13:
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying, “What shall we do to these men? For indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But, so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.” So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. (verses 13-18)
After they had been threatened, the apostles went back to the other believers and reported all that happened next. Beginning at verse 23 we find:
And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priest and elders had said to them. So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of your servant David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, and the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the LORD and against His Christ.’ For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to our servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. (verses 23-31)
The Great Commission is still being fulfilled today and millions are finding Jesus the Messiah as their Saviour in these last moments of the Age of Grace. Many places on this earth today, those who are proclaiming the Name of Jesus are paying with their lives. The Middle East is one of these places. Christians who are caught teaching or preaching about Jesus are oftentimes brutally murdered by ISIS or any one of the other jihadist groups operating in the Mideast.
I have received a couple phone calls from Pastor R***** since my last update. In the first call I received the news that two of the House of Blessing missionaries in Iraq had been caught and killed. During the same time period of time, four of Mofidah’s widows were caught in a bombing mission while ministering to the wounded, and were also killed. Only a couple days or so later, four more of the missionaries in Iraq were caught by ISIS and murdered, while two more of Mofidah’s widows were killed in Syria. It is always tragic news to hear of those who have lost their lives while sharing the Gospel of God’s Grace to those who have not yet heard. We know however that they are now in the presence of the very One they were ambassadors for, and they will never ever suffer again.
If you are a regular reader of these updates, you will have read about the group of approximately 100 sheikhs and head sheikhs who became believers as they happened on one of the groups being taught about the Blood of Jesus. Photos which I did not make public show the joy on the faces of the men as they were being baptized. Among the photos were also pictures of the wives and children being baptized. Besides the baptisms, they also had foot-washing ceremonies for both the men and women, in remembrance of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples as recorded in John 13:1-17.
These men, who were all leaders with congregations of their own, some of them having their own mosques, were on their way to Mecca for the yearly Islamic holy days. After becoming followers of Jesus Christ, they decided not to go on the pilgrimage and donated their permit fees to buy Bibles. In addition to this, a number of the men said they now had no use for their mosques and preferred HOB to take them and use them as Christian churches or to teach children.
House of Blessing was not sure what exactly to do with these buildings for a number of reasons; one being that it is nearly impossible to take a mosque in a Muslim nation and turn it into a Christian church–although it rarely does happen. No Islamic community would allow this. As I understand it, no decisions had been made yet; in fact, not much time had even passed before word apparently got around what had happened. ISIS was informed of the fact that a large group of sheikhs had become followers of Jesus Christ. ISIS has destroyed many Christian churches, museums, and cultural centers, sometimes even mosques in the past but the news of some mosques being donated for use as churches however has brought on a rash of attacks on mosques, over a hundred in a short period of time. Apparently about 30 of these had belonged to this group of sheikhs who are now believers in Jesus Christ.
For the believers, it is hard to decide if this is good news or bad news. The bottom line is that God is in complete control. He is the LORD of the harvest and will preserve what He decides needs to be preserved and let be destroyed what He has no purpose for. What has proven to be the safest way for the believers to gather in the Mideast, is in scattered small groups. Please note photos and news story at bottom of this update.
I asked Pastor R how the newly saved shiekhs are doing. He responded that each one is growing in their knowledge of the Lord. They have expressed great interest in learning from the Bible. At the present time they are learning all about the Blood of Jesus, and it excites them. Each of these sheikhs are anxious to reach as many of their own family members as they possibly can, as well as their friends, neighbors, and of course their congregations. They really need people who will earnestly stand behind them before the Lord in prayer. Great miracles are happening in response to the prayers of God’s saints.
HOB continues using teaching materials from the past, making as many copies as they can and getting them into the hands of all the missionaries. Bibles are also being purchased as the funds come available. HOB has also increased their reach into the lives of the refugees by providing as much wheat, medicine, and other supplies as they possibly can. As the people receive the necessities of life from the missionaries, the door opens wide to share the love of God with them…a love they have never heard of or experienced before.
It is at this point I want to share the story of an astounding miracle that just happened within the last couple days in northern Syria.
As Sister Mofidah, who along with the rest of her army of brave widows, we have affectionately called “The Widow Sisterhood”, was working with the war-injured people, she saw a pregnant woman being shot. This woman was hit in the stomach and looked like she would not survive. Mofidah, afraid that she might slip into eternity before having a chance to find the true Messiah, explained in as few words as possible, the love of God for her and about the Blood of Jesus that had been spilled to pay for her sins. After explaining the way of Salvation through Jesus’ Blood to her, she asked her if she wanted her sins forgiven. The woman enthusiastically said “yes”, and so Mofidah helped her pray. Her prayer was directed to the only One who could truthfully say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through Me.”
As Mofidah and the woman finished praying, the Holy Spirit instructed Mofidah to search for the bullet. Desperate times demand desperate measures and so Mofidah proceeded. Truth be told, Mofidah has become quite familiar with having to deal with many very desperate situations in the last couple years. When there are wounded people around you by the dozens, or often by the hundreds, you have very unsanitary conditions, and no anesthesia, you do what you can to save lives…and souls. In the case of this band of widows, God has given them a unique method of dealing with some of the very worst of injuries, and with astounding results. Compound fractures, bullet wounds, shrapnel wounds, and even gangrene are common for the women to deal with. But, in this case, a pregnant woman had been shot in the stomach!
I can only give you details that I know. I will say this though, there was no lack of witnesses, as has been the case so often ever since God gifted Mofidah and her widows the way He has. As Mofidah searched for the bullet (or bullets), she found that the near term child had been hit with a bullet, and it was lodged in the baby’s head. The child was miraculously still alive. The Lord intervened, helping Mofidah to remove the baby from the mother, and this time, not by the natural route. It is obvious that she could not go searching for the bullet lodged in the child’s head. All Mofidah could do was use the same means and method that she has been using for many months now–for both the mother and the child. As she did, the child cried out and its lungs began to work. Once again, the loving Father intervened by healing both the mother and child. Did God heal the child by removing the bullet supernaturally, or did God heal the child with the bullet still lodged somewhere in the child’s head? I don’t know, nor does it really matter. Not only did they both survive, but they were healed on that same filthy, bloody field! All glory and honor belong to the One who created us all! It was GOD who kept the bullet (or bullets) from killing either the woman or her unborn child. It was GOD who saw to it that it happened within the eyesight of His maidservant, Mofidah. And, it was GOD who guided Mofidah in what to do and when. Then, it was GOD who healed both the mother and her child in front of all that were watching! Hallelujah!!
Do you find this story hard to believe? I understand. Here are a couple questions though. Is it any harder to believe than Elisha causing an axe head to float on top of the water? Is it any harder believing this current story than believing the story of the dead man who was thrown into Elisha’s grave and then suddenly came back to life again? Is it harder than seeing blind eyes see, deaf ears hear, a mute tongue being able to speak? Is it harder to believe this story than believing the accounts of the dead being raised back to life? We serve a God who honors the prayer of faith. Our God also honors those who will dare to obey Him–no matter how crazy His instructions may seem at the time!
I hardly know how to close this update because I know the things that have been seen and heard will only increase until the moment when we hear that great Trump of GOD calling us home. I am looking forward to that day. Maranatha!
Forever in His Service,
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(The news article below was current at the time of the writing of this update)
News Article from Mideast