This week’s update is in two parts, the second part being a story that comes directly from people in Mosul who are experiencing the reality of the civil war battleground that is both Iraq and Syria today. This story will be on line in a couple days. Many people hear little or no news about what is actually happening in the Middle East. These updates share what the House of Blessing missionaries are facing on a daily basis.
As many of you may know, the battle for the city of Mosul in northern Iraq began in mid-October, 2016. The photos included in this update will give you an idea of the stark reality of what has happened there, although the full scope is impossible to convey with two or three photos. The photo above is a before and after photo. It is not pretty! This great city had a population of 2 million in 2004, undoubtedly much higher ten years later. On June 10, 2014, the Islamic State (ISIS or Daesh) violently took control of the city. Because no help arrived from anywhere, at least 500,000 people fled the city by car or on foot in the first two days of the conflict. What happened after that was quite literally “hell on earth” for those who remained in the city.
I will resist the urge to go into detail regarding the horrid long weeks and months that followed the attacks of June 10, 2014, but we in the West can probably not even imagine what three years under the absolute control of the so-called Islamic State militants was really like. The updates on this blog since that time detail the approximate numbers of souls reached with the Gospel of the Messiah Jesus, as well as the numbers of Christian deaths in the communities all over the Middle East. The “numbers” represent individual people whom Jesus died for! They are people who had families, husbands, wives, children, and grandchildren. If the actual details were shared in this blog, it would read like a horror story. Yet, the gates of hell have not prevailed against the true Church in the Middle East.
It has been my task to paint a picture that I’m afraid only a few really see. These stories tell of people who were faced with the worst that the enemy of our souls, the fallen Lucifer, could throw at them. But, in the midst of all the chaos, the misery, the pain, the carnage and death, the House of Blessing missionaries chose to stay embedded in the catastrophe that millions of other human souls were trying to flee. They chose to stay because they felt the eternal lives of the masses of dying and lost souls around them were more important than their own lives. Isn’t that the call of the Spirit of God on all His true Church? I believe it is! Jesus put it this way:
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends…”
The city of Mosul (the approximate location of the ancient city of Ninevah where God sent the prophet Jonah), is now mostly rubble. At least one million of the former residents are now gone. Those on the ground say that the reported statistics of the dead are highly underestimated. But, this is the case all over the Mideast since the beginning of the so-called Arab Spring in 2011. Mosul is also not the only city in the Middle East that has been nearly totally destroyed. Cities all over the area look much like the city of Mosul looks today, post ISIS, including Fallujah, Aleppo, Damascus, Idlib, Homs, Raqqa, and many more. The city of Mosul would require many billions of dollars to rebuild, but that is not the concern now of most people who have survived. They would just like to…survive!
NOTE: Photos from the Middle East inserted in these updates are not necessarily following the narrative in the blog, but are from my photo files and used as examples of the true circumstances on the ground.
The Christian community in Mosul has been decimated. They took the worst of the attacks, but the general population also has had to face the horror of the twisted demonic theology of ISIS. In the middle of it all are the HOB missionaries who believe if they could only reach ONE, they will have succeeded in fulfilling the Great Commission that Jesus left us all with.
After ISIS finally lost control of the Old City in Mosul, HOB leaders Akram and Mustafa went to find any surviving missionaries of those who had been trapped there. They knew they were taking the chance of losing their own lives in the process because not all of the ISIS militants were gone. They reported finding mutilated bodies everywhere, left unburied for days and weeks, now exposed to animals, rodents, and even snakes. During the heat of the summer, one cannot even imagine the unbearable stench. Akram and Mustafa, while searching among the bodies for fellow missionaries, were alerted that a group of 12 ISIS jihadists were looking for survivors to finish off. They laid as if dead, not moving for nearly 7 hours in spite of the terrible smell. When the area seemed clear of jihadists, they attempted to leave and either the militants had completely left the area or God simply blinded them to the two Christian men as they walked away from the area. Sadly, none of the 85 House of Blessing missionary women that had been used as human shields there in Mosul, survived. Mustafa and Akram were able to identify only four or five of these brave women, and that, only by the clothing they were wearing. Understandably, this was a very hard experience for these two brothers!
The Christian community in Mosul experienced a great loss, also losing at least 320 of the new believers in the final week of the battle for the Old City of Mosul. Yet, during the same period of time, at least 200 souls were reached who became new believers in Jesus Christ. Praise God!
It seems that the terrorists are never completely rooted out in any area. In Fallujah, Adel and those working with him were able to pray the sinner’s prayer with about 60 new believers, but sadly, two more HOB missionaries were murdered because of their faith in Jesus.
In northern Syria, the work of evangelism also continues, in spite of the conflict that never really ceases. Mufiedah and Fadwa are continuously ministering healing and sharing the gift of forgiveness offered by Jesus to dozens of wounded and hurting people. This last week they ministered to 30 who are being healed of their terrible injuries and have also prayed the sinner’s prayer and are now part of the community of believers. God is good!
One of the men that Mufiedah treated had a very sad story to tell, like so many others in this brutal part of the world today. During one of the bombings, this man was outside the house where his wife and five children were when it was hit by artillery. He ran inside to find that they were all dead. Coming back out of the house, ISIS militants saw him and he ran for his life. He was, however, shot at and one of the bullets hit him. He managed to slip out of sight, and, unable to move from where he was for fear of being seen, he tore a piece of cloth to use as a way of slowing the bleeding until the militants gave up looking for him. When he came out of hiding, he searched for Mufiedah and the Widow Sisterhood whom he had heard about. When he found Mufiedah, she removed the bullet and cauterized the wound as she has been doing for several years since God imparted this gift to her. She also led the man to the feet of Jesus and he is also now one of the new believers in the northern part of Syria. This is just one story of so many. It won’t be until we are all gathered in the presence of our Messiah that we will finally hear the stories of all the others who have found the Lord in these last moments of this age.
In spite of the many that were reached with the Gospel of Jesus in northern Syria this last week, still another 11 of the new converts lost their lives. They have joined the ranks of the many others who became martyrs for their faith in Jesus Christ.
The mass communion services this last week slowed down some due to battles in various areas, but still many hundreds in some areas, and smaller groups in others, gathered to celebrate communion together as the Lord has instructed in His Word.
In the metropolitan area of Damascus, brothers Omar, Same, and Nadar are discipling at least 1,500 of the new believers that were reached during Ramadan this year. They are doing all they can with the limited Bibles available, by adding mass copies of teaching materials that they have been using, and believing God to meet the needs as only He can. There has been much loss of life among the House of Blessing missionaries and Christian volunteers, so they are following through on their intensive training so as to replenish the ranks of the HOB missionaries.
Among the many miracles is the life of Sister Sarah. She continues in sharing the love and comfort of Jesus with people that have experienced the very worst, like the man in the story from northern Syria above. As she gives her testimony, the Holy Spirit moves on the people and large numbers decide to put their faith in this Messiah who has proven His love for them by providing the final sacrifice for sin nearly 2,000 years ago.
Other teams of HOB evangelists and missionaries are scattered all over the Mideast. Reports coming in from Kurdistan and Iran tell of new believers there as well. Then there are the twelve HOB leaders that Pastor R specially trained himself. They were blessed with another 120 that became followers of Jesus Christ.
Everywhere the HOB missionaries are, people are anxious to get a Bible. Most have never even seen one. All of the missionaries try to have some Bibles on hand, some medicine, food if possible (mainly sacks of wheat for bread), and some copies of teachings to share. Food is almost non-existent in many areas, as is clean water. Many people also have no place to shelter. One can imagine that in a city like Mosul, little infrastructure is left. The missionaries help as best they can, but most times, the best they can do is to share the Good News of Jesus. This offers a hope they have never experienced.
Pastor R has been taken to groups of believers all around the southern Damascus area and has had the opportunity to encourage and pray with them. Just this last week, he prayed for over 4,000 people. The size of the underground church in the Middle East truly is amazing.
In closing, like always, I ask for faithful believers to pray for the House of Blessing. Time is running out. We are at the end of the age. We are very near the beginning of the Day of the Lord. Whatever we are going to do for the Kingdom of God in these last moments, we need to do it now. The door is about to close. The times of the Gentiles is coming to an end.
Thank you to all who have been supporting and praying. God has answered prayer and will continue to do so. He is good!
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Forever in His Service,