Recently you gave to help us feed a village in the Middle East, where the governor was born and raised. Formerly a persecutor, after seeing the testimony of our light shining so brightly, he asked our pastors for help. (For more detail, click here to read the original request)
Of course, when I say “our shining light,” I am referring to the lives of our church members in that land. Where we once had one church, we now have more than a dozen, and that’s just in that land.
Our endeavor resulted in seventy-two adult Muslims coming to Christ, and a new house church was planted. Over the following weeks, the three-man team returned to evangelize more and teach the newborn Christians. As Paul wrote, as babes in Christ, they “desired” milk from the Word and were delighted to be instructed by the pastors as they read along with their own gifted, but illegal, Bibles.
We called the group leader Abraham, and though only twenty-nine years of age, he was already a veteran church planter and pastor. Years ago, we sent him to xxxxxxxxx, where we were beginning to evangelize and smuggle Bibles. The militia in that land caught him. They used sledgehammers to break the bones in one hand and one leg as part of the torture, wrongly assuming the pain, discouragement, and disability would silence him forever. We brought him home, hired medical professionals, and tended his wounds. As soon as he could, he picked up his Bible, walked out of the house, and went back to that country to continue his work. (How I wish I could tell you the countries so you would see where we are and rejoice that where Christ was once unknown, He is now embraced. First by one or two, then by dozens, then hundreds, followed by thousands and tens of thousands.)
After some time, we brought Abraham home to assist our upcoming leader. Metaphorically, our Moses was getting old, and Joshua was ready to lead the people. Still, just as Moses needs a Joshua, Joshua also needs a trusted, experienced, loyal, dedicated, and competent assistant. That man was Abraham. His life and ministry blessed everyone, and they enthusiasticlly watched as he did wonders for our Lord. Several years ago, the church was blessed to witness Abraham marry his bride, now twenty-four years of age. Together, they have a son who is eighteen months old.
On New Year’s Eve Day, Abraham and his team of two younger men, both dedicated to a life of service no matter the cost, entered a van with a bag containing sixteen Bibles. The plan was to return to the village, where the governor had promised us protection, and evangelize sixteen more households. But as they approached the village, the van stopped abruptly at an unexpected militia checkpoint. Everyone was forced to exit the van, and immediately our three men were accosted. They were, in fact, the purpose of the checkpoint. The militiamen abused the three with great anger, then knocked Abraham down to the ground, and the leader shot Abraham. The three bullets in his chest and one in his neck quickly ended his mortal life. Immediately, his bride was a widow and his son, an orphan. He was our last to fall in 2021, mere hours from the new year.
The militia then took the sixteen Bibles as well as the two men. Later that day, the church was able to buy back the body of their fallen pastor. The militia had intended to guard his body against rescue so dogs could eat it, and in this way, disgrace our Lord by shaming His servants. However, the thought of a few coins in their pockets persuaded them to sell his corpse so our brothers could wash it, make it presentable for his wife to view, and then take him out to our secret place and lay him to rest with his fallen comrades. When the ceremony was over, I received a call saying, “We took him to our place, kissed him goodbye, and put him in the ground.” The simple eloquence of that heartbroken sentence, from the mouth of the man who had won him to Christ and discipled him, brought me to tears.
A civil war has engulfed the land I speak of for more than fifteen years. In addition, it has hosted the armies of proxy wars of other half-dozens countries. There is no family that has not suffered loss or a community that has not been shelled. Over a million of its citizens have risked their lives and forsaken all they possess to flee to neighboring lands. And even more who have left their home but remain trapped within the borders. When General Sherman burned Georgia and secured the Union, his tactics were criticized. To that criticism, he replied, “War is Hell.” But the devastation this land and its people have endured makes Sherman look like a little boy playing with matches.
The reason these militiamen were so angry is this. As the war continues, every group tries to possess and control new territories. Battles are fought to conquer or protect territory. And the driving force in all this is the conflict between the two major denominations of Islam -- Shia and Sunni.
The Shia believe the headship of Islam is hereditary and passes from Mohammad to his blood relatives. They believe the Ayatollah is a descendant of Mohammad. Shia is the primary religion of Iran and comprises 15% of the world’s Muslims. The other and much larger denomination is Sunni. They believe that Islamic leadership is not hereditary but should be selected or elected to the position by their clerics. They rule in such lands as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc. 85% of all Muslims are Sunni. Other, smaller denominations align themselves with one of the two larger sects. One tiny sect speaks in tongues; another believes in reincarnation, while another, during worship, spins in circles until they enter a trance. Both the Shia and the Sunni consider non-aligned or wrongly aligned sects of Islam to be heretics and traitors to Islam and deserving annihilation.
In this case, the militia was Iranian; and targeted this village to convert them to become Shia Muslims. They had sent as many as one hundred men there for nearly a year to preach the Shia faith and establish it as a stronghold. Yet they had failed. Then, only a few days after our men first went there, they returned, but few would come out to hear them this time. Wondering what was causing this unusual rejection, they began to question the community and learned that our men had been there, distributing food, clean water, medicines, blankets, and Bibles. Enraged that four of Christ’s men could do in four days what a hundred of theirs they could not do in a year, they set up a checkpoint beyond the village entrance to ambush our men.
As he promised, the governor did not prevent us, but neither did he protect us, and we are dealing with him over that issue. In the meantime, the government has dispatched men to remove the militia and protect the villagers, most of whom are now Christians! Still, we have two brothers in Christ held against their will in a secret location. The militia feels that these men broke the law of Islam but are willing to pardon them for a price. That price, for the two, is $8,000. Some would say this is a bribe, but we see it as a bond or a judiciary fine. To be sure, if not paid, they will not be released – alive.
Are there other options? Yes, we could let the authorities handle it in their own way, but be assured, our men would likely be the first to perish in the attempt. Therefore, we feel the best course of action is to redeem these men, remembering that the word redeem means to “buy back what was previously yours.” If Christ could and would do that for us, at the cost of His life, surely, I can do the same for His younger brothers, who are my brothers as well.
So, we need your help to raise $8,000 quickly for these two men to be released. If you are able and willing, please use the donation form on this page.
I hear some of you asking, what is there to keep this from happening again? I cannot tell you why that is not a concern. I don’t want to give away our secrets. But let me say that we have been doing this for nearly two decades in nearly a dozen lands, and that has never happened. Procuring release comes with conditions that have historically always been honored. I am confident that this will be the rule and not the exception.
By the way, at his tiny, makeshift funeral, several men pledged their lives publicly to take Abraham’s place, to preach and to smuggle Bibles. So we lost one, but we gained three in his place. Satan either does not know or does not care that the more of us he kills, the greater our numbers grow.
Now for some good news:
Abraham’s widow is/was in need. Like her husband, she too converted from an Islamic family. However, they are still Muslim, and culture demands that she return to her family and subject herself to her father and brothers. They have already begun making plans to bring her home. They will likely beat her for converting and publically shame her, believing Allah killed her husband for his and her blasphemy, and they will ensure that the boy is raised as a Muslim. Then, they will force her to marry a Muslim man of her father’s choice. She has no voice in these decisions. For this reason, sometimes the widow will arrange for a Christian family to take her children, then commit suicide rather than being forced to marry a Muslim and be forever separated from her fellow believers.
We have a commitment from and to all our men in the Middle East and the wives that upon their death, no matter the cost, we will ensure that their wife is secure from forced marriage and their children raised by Christians. Then, as they grow older, we reveal who their real mom and dad were and how they gave their lives for Christ.
Thus, the other option is for her to disappear for at least a year or more, causing the family to give up hope of finding her. Therefore, we will have to relocate her and take care of her to do this. During that period, we will have her acquire a skill and a trade to take care of herself, and hopefully, someday, she may want to marry one of our single men.
To accomplish this for her and the child, we estimate a need of $5,650.
I am happy to say that before I made this need known, I received a call from a family that had some funds they wanted to give to the Lord’s work. With the recommendation of their pastor, they contacted me. So, as I write this letter, I am blessed to report that they have fully paid the expense of the widow and child; thus, all we need is the $8,000 for the two men. What a blessing! What a Heavenly reward!
A final prayer request: