Throughout the centuries since Jesus commissioned the Church and empowered it on the Day of Pentecost in the first century, the fallen Lucifer has done everything possible to destroy it. Jesus warned that, just as He was hated, His true followers would be hated as well. The Apostle Paul described his own circumstances to the Corinthian Church with these words:
To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now. 1 Corinthians 4:11-13
This past week, once again, the House of Blessing community of believers experienced great loss. Those of you who regularly read these Mideast Updates are aware that HOB has always put together a special missionary effort during the Islamic month of Ramadan. This has been the plan this year as well. Groups of leaders all over the Mideast have been gathering to make plans for this year’s outreach during Ramadan. One of these groups of ministry leaders in northern Iraq has been headed up by brothers Mustafa and Akram. This meeting was mainly designed for the leaders but did have others involved, possibly helping with facilitating the meeting. One of these men, a man Akram and Mustafa didn’t know well, said he was feeling sick during one of their meetings and went home. This raised no suspicions among the leaders, but as it turned out, the man betrayed the missionaries by telling a group of jihadists about the meeting. When 10 of these jihadists came with machine guns, shooting into the group of leaders, 42 missionaries were shot; 27 died immediately, and the other 15 were left wounded.
I received a phone call this morning letting me know that two of the 15 that had survived the attack have now passed away also. These two men, Mahmood and Marroof, had sustained bullet wounds near the heart and near the kidneys, and both succumbed to their wounds. Pastor R is asking for urgent prayer for the surviving 13. We are trusting the Lord to raise them back up. I don’t yet have the names of those who died but do have the name of the fifteen injured men. These are listed here: Yacob, Ayoub, Yoseph, Thamer, Jihad, Imad, Majdi, Munther, Ibrahim, Ghait, Riad, Reda, and Wassef.
In my discussion with Pastor R about the 29 who lost their lives, he described each of them as powerful men of God. They were men who had proven themselves over and over. Brothers Mustafa and Akram of course have been mentioned many times in the Updates in the last few years. These men had gone through many trials and had been witnesses of things that most of us could not imagine in our worst nightmares. They, however, also many times witnessed the power of God intervening in situations in response to the faith of His people and in answer to their earnest prayers. Mustafa and Akram stayed in and around Mosul during the very difficult siege when the deathgrip ISIS had on the huge city was gradually being broken. Instead of looking for safer places to minister, these men and the many faithful missionaries and volunteers working with them stayed and were able to reach a great number of those who were dying or knew that they probably would not survive. The House of Blessing lost a great number of their trained missionaries and volunteers at the hands of the depraved brutality of the Islamic State militants. Nearly 100 of their widows willingly joined those who were trapped in order to reach as many as they could before they passed into eternity. The Psalmist said this about the death of God’s people: Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints. Psalm 116:15
This is the story of the House of Blessing again and again. The details vary with each story but the end result has always been the same…souls. The meeting of the HOB leaders that was attacked was to plan the most effective way to reach masses of people with the love of the Messiah, Jesus, during the month of Ramadan this year. Plans like this bring about a great anger and hatred for the Christian missionaries. Islam has no tolerance for Christianity. Yet, the Muslim people see that even if there are no infidels available to slaughter (Christians being their favorite target) one sect of Islam will attack those belonging to another sect of Islam just because there is a variance in how they understand Islam. The only hope many of them have ever had has come through hearing the good news of the Gospel provided through the Blood of Jesus, the true Messiah. This simple message of the love of God for mankind has brought a great multitude of the lost into the Kingdom of God. And, they are being added by the hundreds and often thousands every single week.
Jesus had a unique way of looking at the persecution His people were to receive in the years ahead. He said this:
Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:11-12
In spite of the tragedy of the attack experienced by the leadership gathering in the Mosul area, the work of the House of Blessing continues. Sister Sarah and her 70 helpers have concentrated on slowing down the large crowds of people that are trying to escape from one area to another. Everyone is looking for some semblance of safety but that is nearly impossible to find. Sarah and her team managed to present the Gospel message to about 600 of them. They then did what they could to draw them into some of the HOB communities of believers. None of these people have anything other than a few belongings they can carry on their backs, but the missionaries do what they can to get them settled into their own tents or whatever they can put together. This enables them to begin to teach them the Word of God and get them established in their newfound faith.
Sisters Mufiedah and Fatwa, along with the Widow Sisterhood, continue ministering to the crowds that continue to gather around them and the 20 who were recently raised from the dead. Those that were raised have been very open with their testimonies of what happened to them. Each one has their own story to tell, and what a story it must be! The testimonies apparently are touching the hearts of the people judging by the hundreds that give their lives into the hands of the Messiah afterward. This past week, 540 were reached in just this way. After the 540 gave their lives to the Messiah Jesus, another 220 followed their example!
In other areas, the HOB communities of believers have either been resting up for the soon to begin Ramadan, or are still finishing their own HOB School of Ministry Bible course. Thousands have completed the course in the past few months but there remain a great number waiting their turn to take the classes. The hunger is very great! What an opportunity we have to help them provide the Bibles and teaching materials that they continue copy for these classes.
I asked Pastor R how many HOB trained missionaries he has at this time and he said there are approximately 2,200, besides all the volunteers. When I asked him how the plans for Ramadan are coming he said that they do not have the finances for the Ramadan project this year. But, he said that there is plenty to do anyway. The waiting list for the School of Ministry course is now at over 8,500. What an amazing thing God is doing in the Middle East today! The “last days harvest” promised in the Scriptures is happening. In fact, it has been going on for some time now! The Bible speaks of the promised early and latter rains. The early rains happened, beginning with the Day of Pentecost and the first century Church Christians. It is now well underway with the last generation of Christians.
In conclusion, what I have reported on above is only the tip of the iceberg. God is doing amazing things all over the Mideast today. Some of the work the missionaries are doing is not always the most pleasant. Many tents continue needing to be reset and rebuilt as they are brought down by wind and weather. Pastor R’s own 12 special disciples are still trying to get the dead buried. The corpses of many dozens of men, women, and children continue to litter the ground. These 12 have already buried hundreds by hand. Now, HOB is quickly trying to make arrangements to bury the dead from the attack. Pastor R said he is trying to put funds together to help the families of those that were killed. They almost all had wives and children. Mustafa himself was married and had four children. Akram was also married and had six children. Pastor R is doing what he can to give each of the families at least a little bit of help until they can get themselves adjusted to the loss of their husbands and fathers. The surviving 13 from the attack are in the hospital now and their bullet wounds are being tended to, but there will of course be a hospital bill coming when they are released. But, we serve a big God!
As I was speaking with Pastor R on the phone, he was about to go into a meeting with over 250 more of the leaders. He said he needed to encourage them because Satan was trying to paralyze the missionaries with fear. While meeting with one group after another, he continues to pray for many hundreds of people that line up to receive prayer from him. Today’s line was over 450 people deep! Let’s pray for the Lord to give him continued strength and power to minister to the great needs before him. God will answer.
I ask the Lord to help each reader to be able to get a good understanding of the reality of the challenges to ministry in the Mideast but also the tremendous things God is doing. I am afraid that many Christians in the West have become wrapped up in the busyness of western lifestyle and maybe even a form of religiosity…so much so that we can’t recognize the critical times we are living in today. Very few even recognize the great outpouring of God’s Spirit around the world. That is because it is so rare here in the West. Let’s become part of what God is really doing on this earth today, and I believe God will make it so contagious that we catch it, even in the materialistic and over-entertained West! Let’s take the opportunity God is presenting us to become a part of His great move in these last moments of the Age!
Forever in His Service,
For those that would like to help with the work of the ministry of the House of Blessing, please use the PayPal button provided on this blog site. All funds go to HOB and 100% of the funds are used for the work of the ministry. HOB has no paid staff. Everyone lives totally by faith. All at the House of Blessing are trusting God for an enormous outpouring of finances so that the task God has given HOB can be completed, as God has called them to do. THANK YOU!