It's incredible how the world has changed in such a short time. Is this an indication that our Lord is returning soon? If so, we should do all we can, as soon as we can, and while we still can, to give Him a most glorious welcome.
Here's what's going on:
East Africa - the cost of food assistance has increased 65 percent on average in the past year. Several national leaders have announced that they are on "the brink of disaster." In the last few weeks, famine has begun to expand. It has always been here, but until recently, the United Nations was confident that the number of starving people globally was shrinking. They declared that what they had been doing was working -- until now.
Egypt – in recent weeks, the price of bread increased 400% overnight. That's right, overnight. How would you react to that if it happened here?
Though the global inflation rate for 2022, as of the end of May, is 8.7%, many countries are experiencing a far more significant increase. For example:
• Venezuela — 1198.0%
• Sudan — 340.0%
• Lebanon — 201.0%
• Syria — 139.0%
• Suriname — 63.3%
• Zimbabwe — 60.7%
• Argentina — 51.2%
• Turkey — 36.1%
Globally - The United Nations reports that 140 million people suffer from acute hunger in just ten countries. Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Haiti, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Most of these lands are closed to American missionaries, but we have supported national preachers in all of them.
The UN says that even if they gave tens of millions of dollars to help each country, it would be only a drop in the bucket. That may be true for them, but they don't know what our Lord can do with five loaves and two fish. They don't know how, with one small cruise of oil, the widow paid all her debts and had funds left to live on. God's flow of blessing didn't stop until she ran out of pots to pour the oil into. And with all the preachers we have, you might say that we are in the pot-making business, so we will never run out of vessels useful in the Lord's service. (And for you old Hippies -- that's not the kind of pot I'm talking about.)
Their report stated that one of the problems with global food distribution is the lack of trusted agents to disperse it. Usually, it is consumed by governments, militias, and mafias. However, in our case, all the food and assistance we give – 100% of it -- is dispersed by national pastors and their church members.
This week, the Chief of the World Food Program (WFP) announced that 276 million people are struggling to find food and that 49 million people in 43 countries are 'knocking on famine's door.' This results in death and 'unmatched migration,' which ultimately destabilizes societies. Food availability will not be merely a concern, but likely the biggest concern in 2023.
We, believers, know that the future holds wars and rumors of war, famines, pestilences (fatal epidemic diseases), and earthquakes in various places. Our Master warned us of this grim future preceding His return. He compared it to the earth groaning in predelivery birth pains. Our response should not be to ignore the suffering of others because their pain does not touch us.
Even as famines spread and deepen globally, the likelihood of starvation in the United States is extremely unlikely. So, does that mean we do not need to be emotionally moved by the suffering of others? Should we not try to relieve the suffering of strangers? And what about our Christian family in other lands; are we justified to ignore their needs while we have enough, if not plenty?
We grieve with parents who have lost their children to a madman, and we should. We want to hug and help the mothers and fathers whose little child was snatched from them instantly. Like you, I cannot imagine their grief. But what of the parents who watch their child die a little more every day because they have no food to give them? Their cries turn to whimpers, their tears dry up, their hair begins to fall out, and their bones to protrude. Where there was once curiosity and excitement in life, there is now silence and malaise in their impending death. Can we not grieve for foreigners the same as for citizens? Can we not grieve for those unknown abroad as we do for those unknown at home?
Jesus said there will always be the poor. True, but stating a fact does not imply that we should do nothing to remedy it. The 5000 were not starving when he fed them; they were uncomfortably hungry at most, yet he fed them. It was not a crisis, merely a need that, in meeting it, revealed His position as the Son of God. That was His purpose, not to feed but to glorify God. The feeding was instrumental in revealing himself sent from Heaven as the Son of God.
In his final moments of extreme agony, our Lord physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually took His thoughts off himself to comfort the man beside him, with an assurance of salvation that very day. Can we not, following his example, take our attention off our financial struggles and give attention to the needs of others? If not, why not?
You will repeatedly hear me discuss this need in the coming months and perhaps years. Some will do what they can -- when they can, to help. Others will say it is better to teach them to fish than to give them a fish. Such a quaint, modern attitude that does nothing to comfort the hungry and everything to soothe the conscious of those with abundance. To that person, I would ask, when was the last time you taught someone to fish? Why not give Jesus your fish (or fishing gear and boat) and see what He will do with it! It is good to feed a starving man, and it is better to teach him to fish, but it is best to do both. Feed as you teach because he may starve before catching his first fish.
However, there are considerations. What if there is no river or lake to fish in? What if he has no fishing pole, no line, no hook, and no bait? How then will you teach him? In such cases, the platitude merely adds our insult to their injury. Not only is he still hungry, but now he is also hopeless.
My persuasion is that we should help all we can, even if it hurts us a bit, but we should do it in a way that Christ receives the glory. And while we are helping, we should first help those who are "of the household of faith," which brings me to my purpose in writing you.
In January, you helped immensely and miraculously by providing food for 500 Afghani families that were new believers. Four thousand five hundred people who are members of our family in Christ. We asked, and you gave enough to meet their needs for January, February, and March. As a result, we felt they could plant crops, find jobs, and take care of themselves when the winter passed. You not only fed them, but you also relocated all of them to areas where they were unknown and escaped certain death. Many believers in neighboring countries took entire families into their homes. They shared their hearts, their bedding, and their food. But today, with staggering inflation, droughts, and unemployment, those families can no longer feed their own, much less provide for others, yet still, they try.
Food riots are coming:
Today, only a small percentage of these Afghani families are in dire need. Still, absolute devastation has hit in other counties where bread prices have increased from 200% to 400% over the last two weeks. Their numbers come to a total of 437 families. With an average of six to eight members in each family, totaling nearly 3,500 people who are not praying over their food, they are praying for their food. Most of these families are widowed and orphaned due to sickness, famine, and martyrdom. We have lost hundreds of men (also women and teens) over the past decade because they were known to be followers of Christ. Though I dare not tell you their countries, let it suffice to say they are in the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula, and across North Africa.
What can we do to help our church families?
These families need survival foods for the next 2-3 months, so for "the worst-case scenario," I must assume the need will last three months. These monthly packages will include their staple foods such as flour to bake bread, milk for their children (not a formula, just milk), and burgal, an Arabic cultural food similar to rice. In addition, each family will also receive two kilos of lentils which is about four and a half pounds, four cans of meat, and one hundred eggs. (That's about half an egg per person every day.) Finally, we will also provide sufficient pure water. With the summer heat already breaking records worldwide, this alone could be a lifesaver.
The price for these monthly food packages is only $3 per family, per day. And while that is a tiny and easily attainable amount for one day's ration, it grows to $90 for a month and a staggering $270 for three months. (Don’t you wish that was your grocery bill?)
Some of us could afford to "adopt" a family for the three months at that price, but most of us cannot. Unfortunately, we are not talking about one family; 437 families need to be fed for the three months requiring $117,990. The good news is that one family has already given $20,000 toward that need, bringing the balance to $97,990. (That comes to $32,663 per month for three months.) They did so because they could and were aware of the need. I don't know what you can do or will do, but you are now aware.
Christ had other concerns of far greater spiritual and eternal matters while he hung on the cross. He was forsaken by his disciples and abused by those who had, days earlier, adored him. He was lied about by the highest authorities, shamed by his exposed nakedness, and was suffering from extreme dehydration. Finally, betrayed by a disciple, he took upon himself the weight, the grief, and the penalty of our sin. He watched as his Father turned his back on him, placed himself into his Father's care, and died. It kind of makes our problems seem tiny, doesn't it? Yet, in such a moment, he turned his attention to a malefactor (definition: a homosexual convicted of murder during a homosexual encounter). A man who was also a thief (perhaps having robbed his victim after or during the murder).
I wonder, can I take my attention off my problems long enough to help one of these families? And if I can, could I also help two?
I will share how we have been feeding and “teaching them to fish” in the coming months. I know you will be encouraged by what you learn. But until then, these families need to be fed, and to do so; I need your help.
Be assured the families are not sitting idle; these widows and families do all they can to survive every day. But they live in a region that now has no running water, sporadic electricity during the day and none at night, curfews in the mid-afternoon, and militia roaming the streets. What can we expect them to do? They don't enjoy the pain of hunger or the grief of their memories. Ragged clothes, shoes with holes, buttons missing, and too expensive to replace; these are their living conditions. The house churches have done more than they thought they could. And when they had used all you provided, they continued to give from their lack of abundance, and the families have survived an additional two months. Now their cupboards are bare, and soon, the only food left may be the leather of their shoes. We dare not sing, "come and dine," if we are unwilling to put a plate on the table for them.
Do you recall from April 11, the story of two sisters, Abir and Rana, in a north African country who were nearly beaten to death for their faith by their brother? He was instructed by his father, working in another country, and encouraged by his mother. Their crime was praying and having possession of a Bible that we (you) provided for them and all their fellow believers. (If you don’t’ remember this story, click here for a review.)
Being rescued by their pastor and taken to the hospital, God provided sympathetic doctors to care for them. When we learned of the medical costs you provided for them. Then we arranged for them to escape their family, who wanted them back to finish the job.
There is a great deal of improvement after comas, surgeries, therapies, and medication. Both are continuing their physical therapy and have begun to be able to move better. Their bruises are almost gone from their faces and bodies, and the doctors are examining them weekly. And they are happy with the reconstruction of their faces.
Their legal situation:
After leaving the hospital unnoticed, they remain in hiding from their family. Their daily needs are being cared for by their church, but the parents still want to sue the church and incarcerate the pastor for kidnapping. With the help of an attorney, we have been able to discourage them from taking action as it will lead to their arrest for the attempted murder of their daughters. So at the moment, all is quiet.
We ask for your continued prayers for their healing and safety.
Before I get started, allow me to update you on our current Bible project. Two weeks ago, I told you that we are attempting to raise $150,000 for 25,000 Bibles. We have already received over $8,000 towards that goal. Thanks so much to all who gave and prayed. Our preachers and their congregations are so effective that it has increased the need for more Bibles, which are illegal in their countries. Because of our numerical growth, all 25,000 Bibles will be targeted -- for not a region but one single country! Please consider helping us with this need by clicking here, or mailing in a check and designating it to "Smugglers".
A Widow in Pakistan:
In Pakistan, there is a widow in great need. Her situation is so dire that I wanted to share it with you. Our Lord gave us instructions in the Book of James to take care of widows and orphans. This command is emphasized with the admonition that while we seek to take care of others, we should concentrate on helping those of our "household of faith." So, let me share her need with you.
This widow's name is Zerina Sarvar. Her husband, also a believer and faithful church member, passed away five years ago from a heart attack at the age of thirty-five, leaving her with no means of caring for their four children. Her kids range in age from ten to fourteen. To feed them, Zerina took a job working as a housekeeper while her three oldest children study in our Bible Institute and work in the ministry. (Like timothy, we train them and put them to work as early as possible.) Unfortunately, her salary is only $80 a month.
Arzo, age twelve, is her oldest daughter. She works teaching the children in Sunday School and doing outreach and evangelism with the other students and is particularly effective at door-to-door evangelizing. Her two sons, Sahil and Sajeel, ages fourteen and thirteen, are good students but are also on the church planting teams. When I was there in February, they both went along with us from house to house and village to village, helping in any way they could. All her kids are bright, energetic, happy, and eager to serve in any capacity. The youngest daughter, Eshewa, is ten years old and is learning by the example of her older siblings. She eagerly serves Christ by helping mothers with their babies, helping in the kitchen, etc.
Recently, during the heavy rains in March/April, their tiny house was destroyed. It was only a one-room house where they slept and lived while cooking on stones outside. The rains caused large cracks in the wall and roof, which have collapsed and are irreparable. As a result, they moved in with neighbors in their tiny "house" with two rooms, having a "kitchen" corner inside. Ten people are living in this confined space. Pastor Shaukat tells us this widow needs and deserves our help. He is asking us to provide the funds for building materials so he and the men in the church can build them a new house.
Here are some incredible details that might lead you to help them.
The entire budget to build this family a new house is only $3,272. It will be equal to or a bit better than what they previously had and will be built of better materials to survive future rains. In addition, they will have an indoor "kitchen" like their neighbors (but better) and electricity and running water. We are even giving them their own bathroom. (Usually, these communities have an outdoor bathroom that five to twelve families share.)
We can do all this for $3,272. Isn't' that incredible! What a blessing for them and what a testimony to the Muslims living around them to see how Christians take care of their own. Matthew 5:16 says, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see YOUR good works, and glorify your FATHER who is in Heaven." This is an opportunity for us to do so without straining our resources.
You may wonder how we can do this for such a low price. That is the blessing and advantage for us, working in developing countries, where our dollars are multiplied in value. It is incredible that the cost of a dining room set or living room set here -- can build an entire house there. But, like Jesus feeding the 5000 from a single child's serving of bread and fish, we can take a little and do a lot. But consider this, had the lad, when asked by the disciples, not been willing to give Jesus all he had – what then? The willingness of that young boy will prevent us from ever knowing the outcome.
As His disciples today, we are always thankful for you, who willingly, sacrificially, and eagerly give us your "bread and fish" for the benefit of others. You must undoubtedly have abundant rewards waiting for you in Glory.
Please click here to help this widow and her family, select "Special Projects" and then select "Pakistan Widow House". Otherwise you can mail in a check and designate it to "Pakistan Widow House".
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In North Africa
The two sisters in North Africa were released from the hospital today. They have gone to live with a family in their church who will take care of them. Theirs is a secure location, and next week will start their physical therapy. Both sisters are burdened with various casts on their legs, feet, arms, hands, etc. As you can imagine, they are in a great deal of pain. In addition, we have purchased a blender because one of the girls has her mouth wired shut and can only eat liquids for the next many weeks.
Pray for the situation. We had learned that before their brother attacked them, he called his father, and the father told him to do so. And it was his mother that initiated and encouraged the beating. For this reason, the girls do not want to return home, but the family is threatening to take our local church, which rescued them and is hiding them, to court. We have reminded them that if they do, their son will be charged with two counts of attempted murder, among other charges, and will spend many years in prison or worse. Please pray for wisdom and that they will decide to let their daughters live apart from them legally.
While the situation may require it in the future, at least for the moment, we have the necessary funds to continue with their healing, therapy, and living expenses. If that changes, I’ll let you know.
Several months back, we asked you to help us relocate our two churches in Afghanistan. We had to move both congregations to new locations, far removed from their hometown where they were unknown. Moving them, renting apartments, restocking their food, clothing, etc., cost tens of thousands of dollars, but God provided it all through you.
Today they informed us that since moving, they have led 17 young adults to Christ and, in another location, 13 others. They have grown stronger in the Faith through their trials and are a shining example to the churches throughout the Middle East and Central Asia.
We need to send 25,000 more Bibles to a single country in the Middle East where an incredible harvest is being reaped. Each Bible costs us $6 to print, bind and deliver to that land. Thus, we need to raise $150,000 quickly. Can you help? The success stories you read about above resulted from us smuggling Bibles into Islamic lands where they are forbidden. With such results, this is no time to slow down. You can donate online by clicking here and selecting "Smugglers". If you prefer to send a check, please email us and let us know the amount so we can expect it and make a note on your check that it is for "Smugglers".
As of this morning, the need has been met. Praise God! We give our thanks to Him and to you, His people, for meeting this need. In Glory, you will delight to meet these two sisters whom you have given life to and all those they will bring to Christ!
There is no doubt that other expenses will arrive. We learned yesterday that the doctors have had to put multiple pins in the hand of the one girl, and the other has had her jaw wired shut for it to heal. As a result, she will be on liquid foods only for six weeks. Then, of course, we cannot return them to their home, and it will be illegal for them to be on their own at those ages, so we will have to find a place to secure them and provide for their needs for a time.
Please pray for their healing, safety, and safety of all our churches from Morocco to Pakistan. And pray that we will continue to reach millions of Muslims for the glory of Christ.
(If you missed the original need you can read it here)
I am in the lengthy process of writing a book of stories regarding the persecution of our people in the Islamic world. Its purpose is to be a historical compilation of the stories we have brought you over the years and those that were too secretive and graphic to share. The following story, which happened on April 5, will be among them in greater detail.
Do you know any young girls in your church or family ages 17 and 19? If so, this story will relate to you and touch your heart.
In a particular north African Islamist country, there live two sisters, Rana (age 17) and Abir (age 19). They have lived a normal life, still in their parent's home, expecting that soon they would be married, hopefully as the first wife of a Muslim man and not the second, third or fourth. Their father left some years back to work in another country. Their oldest brother serves as head of the house. As a devout Muslim, he took his position and responsibilities very seriously. The girls were raised to obey the illogical and incomprehensible laws of Islam, which highly restrict women's educational, social, and individual rights. They could not understand why some sins are minor and others big and the measure of good deeds required of them. What concerned them most was the questions of who God is and how they can have a relationship with Him. They were accustomed to wearing veils and never venturing outside their home without a male relative accompanying them.
Abir had enrolled in college with her brother's permission and had many questions about the rules of Islam and the lifestyle of the prophet Muhammad. In college, she became friends with a young lady who is a member of one of our house churches. The young lady began to witness to her and let her read from the Bible.
Then, about eighteen months ago, Abir accepted the grace of God through His Son Jesus and willingly, though secretly, gave herself to Him. Understanding the faith, joy, and hope of eternal life and what it meant to have a personal relationship with Christ, she began to witness to her sister, despite her fear of doing so. Every day they would read the Bible together in secret, and soon, Rana also accepted Christ. From that day on, they prayed for the salvation of their mother and brother.
Immediately their attitudes and lifestyles changed. Rather than watching television, the mother told her son that they go into their room and read from a book each evening, then close their eyes and mumble words. Their brother began to investigate their daily lives but could find nothing that would explain such activity. Everything changed on that day and led to the events of last Tuesday.
Ramadan began on April 2 this year. As followers of Christ, the girls did not want to participate and tried to explain to their mother why they did not want to fast. Still, their mother became angry because fasting throughout the month is an annual requirement of Islam. Tuesday evening, when her son came home, she reported to him their suspicious behavior. The brother entered their room, rebuking them, and began searching through their belongings. He found their hidden Bible and started hitting his sisters with a wooden stick. As they tried to shield themselves, he started ripping apart the pages of their Bible. Then, in a fit of rage, he threw down the wooden stick, tied their wrists to the bedposts, and began beating them with an iron pipe. He continuously yelled at them, saying they had forsaken Allah and his prophet Muhammad.
The beatings quickly became so severe that the mother ran into the room and attempted to stop him. Still, she was unable, so she called her neighbors to help, and they pulled him out of the room. They were startled how these two girls had denied Islam, but more so at how severely their brother had beaten them.
The girls were left in their home for several days with no medical care. Then word came to our pastor, who informed us of the incident. The church people had given all they had to care for them, but it was not enough. We instructed him to take the girls to the hospital. But, the administrators refused entry because of the circumstances of the wounds and because they were Christians. Having no other option, we admitted them into a private hospital. Abir was in a coma all this time, which she came out of today (Saturday).
Abir awoke from her coma to find she had a broken jaw, many broken teeth, and broken bones in her arms, left leg, and right foot.
Rana's left shoulder was broken, and her lower spine fractured. In addition, her right arm is broken, as is her hip and left femur, just below the ball that connects to the hip.
Both young teenagers walked into the fiery furnace. But, for whatever reason, though Christ was in it with them, He allowed them to crawl through the valley of the shadow of death and come out on the other side badly wounded. (Recall, the three Hebrews who went into the fire acknowledged that they did not know if their God would deliver them but were confident, He could if He chose to. Either way, they would not deny Him.)
The sisters lay unconscious for hours, and Abir for days, having no medical treatment and no pain medication. Finally, when Rana awoke, she lay in severe pain, uncertain if Abir was still alive. They were beaten and broken by their brother and abandoned by their mother; their only hope of rescue was their house church. When the help of the members was quickly exhausted without sufficiency, the church could do nothing more but call on us.
Jesus said if you give a cup of what in his name, it is equivalent to giving it to him. So, what more excellent reason could we have for recuperating and healing the wounds of two persecuted children than knowing it is as if we are healing his wounds?
Though reality may again exceed our expectations, we estimate a need of $26,985 to heal and dismiss the two sisters from the hospital. The Deceiver has taken his wrath out on these helpless young girls. The congregation is hiding but is not scattered. What a testimony for us to bear their burden and pay their bills (Galatians 6:2). In that land it will not be known where the funds come from, only that the Lord Jesus provided them through His people, and Christ will be glorified for it.
Now, will you please help us pay the bill?
Is that a typo? Not at all. Jesus fed the 5,000, but we got close with 4,500 (500 families), and ours is not a one-time meal but food for two months. Our Magnificent Lord said we would do greater things than He did, and our Lord allowed us together to do so. With Him, all things are possible!
In late January, I wrote you about the suffering and starvation of a region in central Asia where we have many house churches whose combined total is 500 families. An average of nine per family adds up to 4,500 people, without food, without blankest, and without gas to cook or heat their tiny apartments. Yet, you gave abundantly as if the need was your own, doing for others what you would want someone to do for you and your family. Here is a summary of what we purchased for the 500 families on the brink of starvation in central Asia.
Each family was given:
For your pleasure and better understanding, I requested that we receive a report from one family so that you can read a testimony of what your giving accomplished. So here is what one of our pastors sent us:
One of the five hundred families we helped had neighbors who lived near them. This family consists of five children and their parents. The father works five days weekly far away and returns for two days to spend time with his family. They are a Muslim family and are under the care of a religious man (Imam) who helped him to find work.
The desperate wife received no help from the Imam. So, she began to ask her neighbors to help her and her children, to keep them warm and fed, but no one could because everyone was going hungry and cold. But, when she knocked on the door of our Christian family, the wife told her, "bring your children, and come stay with us, and I trust my God will provide for all our needs." So, she brought her children and stayed with them for twelve days. In the house, there were eleven children and three adults.
The Christians shared with them what we had given for their family. At every meal, the Muslim woman watched them pray before eating and saw how they read their Bible and prayed before going to sleep. This was one of the Bibles you smuggled into our country for us. On the third day, this Muslim lady asked about the book, why they read it every night, and why they pray differently from the memorized Muslim prayers. Of course, these new Believers shared with her the answer to all her questions, and she became under great desires to have a relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ. Then, on the eighth day, she came to the knowledge of salvation and accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as her savior. Now they are working to reach her husband for Christ.
There are reasons for our suffering.
There has been a "perfect storm" of conditions that prompted this need:
Meeting the needs of others, especially your Christian family, as the book of James teaches us, is an ongoing need, especially now with the situation in Ukraine. Although it may seem overwhelming to us, hearing of so many needs in so many places, this is, in reality, a constant. Our Lord will sort it out by leading some to help with one need and others to help the others. Our responsibility is to let you know the needs and let those who suffer know that they are neither forgotten nor abandoned. After all, it could be us in need, waiting for affluent Believers elsewhere to relieve our suffering.
One last word…
What we raised was to carry these families through the remaining winter months of February and March. Now that Spring is here, there is hope that seed can be planted and a harvest comes, alleviating their suffering. Then all they have to be concerned with is losing their lives for the cause of Christ. But, until that is evident, they still need our help. So many of you are giving to other needy causes, but if the Lord should direct you to help these Believers in Afghanistan and their neighboring lands, please do so.
Spoken by one of our national pastors/church planters in the Middle East when he received some limited rations.
Attention readers: This story will take up to ten minutes to read. I know you are busy and would prefer short announcements. But this is one of those cases that I feel you need details to understand the need, so I have written it in segments for your benefit. So please give me ten minutes. Your understanding and knowledge will benefit from doing so.
Imagine how hungry you must be to eat garbage. This condition describes 55% of the population of Afghanistan alone, more than 23 million people. But it also describes the situation in a neighboring country. But what makes that so strange is -- that it is the same country that recently allowed thousands of fleeing Afghanis to enter, seeking refuge. So, let's not talk countries; let's talk regions.
Recently, this region has faced a multi-year drought, resulting in fewer and fewer crops being produced. That, coupled with the Taliban's overthrow of the government, has caused 98% of the people to lack sufficient food to eat.
Such a scenario is easy to read about, then move on with your daily life, but what if it were you or your family? Suppose you are the father or mother who has nothing to feed your children. Winter is here, and you have no heating oil. You have lost your job, and besides, the markets are empty. You have had what you needed to survive all your life, perhaps even thrive. But this is your new reality; in 2021, a dog on the street ate better than your family does today. Your only hope is to survive until conditions improve.
Alexander the Great passed through this region on his way to India two and a half millennia ago. Later, when he began his return to Babylon, he recorded many sea-side villages which subsisted on fish alone. Other villages, further inland, ate rats and grass. They were almost entirely naked because they had nothing to produce or trade for clothing. Even his soldiers, wearied by years of travel and blood lust, carrying their meager possessions on their backs, commented on the poverty they saw. Those hardened soldiers wept and shared what they had with the people. Such conditions are now returning. But, I wonder, will his pagan legions have more compassion than the affluent legions of Christ?
If ever there was a time when the gospel reached that land, it is lost in history. The closest witness we know of was Thomas, who evangelized in lower India, a thousand miles away. But today, we are harvesting our Lord's fields with great bounty.
This region boasts no army has ever conquered it. And while that is not entirely correct, it has remained isolated to the rest of the world. Today, few armies would feel there is anything there worth conquering, other than the rare earth metals beneath the surface. The economy is devasted, health conditions are more severe than ever, and many say it is the worst winter in their lifetime. Food is more and more scarce. And now, the conditions are no better across the border where they recently sought relief.
Let me tell you a few of the stories I have heard this week.
A handicapped Brother:
One of our young men, now about twenty-two years of age, was arrested in the summer of 2020. During the torture, the beatings badly damaged nerves in his neck, and since that time, he has endured pain in his neck, back, and one of his legs. At times the pain renders him virtually paralyzed and unable to stand. This winter's chill, perhaps the worst on record, had debilitated him. He cannot work because he cannot walk or stand. His is not a permanent situation, but it is his current situation until warmth returns in the Spring. He is not unwilling to work; he is not lazy; he is disabled for his testimony for Christ.
In this region, inflation has caused the currency to lose most of its value. As a result, prices on food and other essentials have risen so high they are unattainable to the average family. Most families there now have no money for heating oil or even firewood. These are the same families who welcomed our fleeing families from Afghanistan two months ago into their homes. Unfortunately, they can no longer provide for them because they can no longer feed their own families. Still, they are infant brothers in Christ, so they share what they have, though it is little to nothing.
Two months ago, the funds to buy a loaf of bread, today buys only a slice; and it is hard, crusted, and moldy. I was told they soak the bread in water to soften it so so they can eat it. Others who can work for daily wages are hindered by the seasonal jobs, waiting for the harvest. Unfortunately, the cold has destroyed much of the crops leaving no income and no hope for future work.
How then do they survive?
Young men and ladies secretly offer their kidneys for sale to feed their families. In the past, you could sell your kidney for $10,000 to $15,000. Today they are only paid $3,000. No special care is given to those who sell their kidneys. There is often no pain medication and no post-op attention. After all, if they perish, the doctor won't have to pay for the kidney. Those who survive must walk home and recuperate without pain relief or medication for infections.
Others have resorted to scavenging garbage on the streets and city dumps. When serving as a young pastor, I remember doing the same to feed my wife and two small children. I would catch a ride to the farmer's market because I had no income to buy food or fuel for my car. As a result, I couldn't purchase the vegetables they sold there. Still, I was allowed to sift through their piles of rotten tomatoes and potatoes, fifteen feet high, decomposing in the sun. I would pick out all I could find that were salvageable, then take them home where my wife and I would carve away the mold and eat what was left. I had never felt such shame, and thankfully, my situation soon changed.
The Lord used this circumstance in my life to give me a burden to help poor preachers worldwide and eventually gave birth to founding Final Frontiers and Touch a Life. I know what they are going through; only, for them, there is no farmer's market and no piles of discarded vegetables. They are hungry, and their only hope is that their Father will feed them.
A child that perished -- this past Monday:
In another town, a family of four took two refugee children to stay with them. Having no beds, they would all sleep on the floor, huddled in the corner of the room, using their body warmth for heat. They have no beds as these are poor people. This week, the host family woke abruptly, hearing the scream of one of the children. There is an open window on the opposite side of the room from where they slept. It is open because the pane is missing, and there is no money available to replace it. For some reason, their eight-year-old daughter moved to sleep under the open window during the night. During the night, she froze to death.
As the other three children began to awake, one of them went to wake this little girl and found her stiff, lifeless body.
When I heard this, I thought, "If only I had known, I could have given funds for food, a blanket, oil for a heater, or even replaced the windowpane." And I know hundreds of you reading this are thinking the same. If only we had known. Well, now we do.
In all these cases (and there are scores), they are Jewish Believers who have chosen to follow Jesus as their Messiah, or Muslims who have risked their lives to follow Him.
A Historical/Biblical Comparison:
Realize something, please. When Paul visited and wrote to the house churches in the New Testament, he instructed them to lay aside offerings every week, on the first day of the week. The purpose, in context, was not to support the local church (though that is necessary); because they met in a house, and all the pastors were most likely bi-vocational. Their tithes went to care for those in need, widows, orphans, the imprisoned, the poor, and yes, preachers and pastors. But the offerings he spoke about were to give food and relief to the Believers in Jerusalem – Jewish Believers. A coming famine had been prophesied, and Paul wanted the Gentile churches to set aside funds so he could take relief to them when it arrived. His reasoning was the gospel (spiritual food) came to the Gentiles through them (the Jews), so was it fitting for relief (physical food) to flow back from the Gentiles to them. He honored those who gave, and he rebuked those that did not. He praised those who gave abundantly despite their poverty and chided those who could give but did not and scolded those who promised to give much but gave only a little.
I am not a Paul, but I do try to be a Barnabas, one who brings comfort to the Believers in need. Elisha caught the mantel of Elijah and doubled the miracles he performed. And if there be any mantel for me to catch, I have long hoped it would be that of Barnabas. I want to help the brethren, and the fact that you are reading this, indicates you feel the same way. So here is another way, another opportunity for us to help.
Here's what we need to do:
We have 500 families living in four different cities/towns/villages under extreme circumstances. (Praise God our work has been so fruitful!) We don't know how long, but we expect them to find seasonal jobs and take care of themselves once the winter is over. So, we are probably looking at February and March. (There are others, of course, as our numbers of converted families are now in the thousands, but these 500 families are the most desperate.)
Our director has told me that a family can scrape by on $57 a month per family. (A family will range in size from seven to nine people, so we are looking to help up to 4,500 Believers at the cost of $57,000.
Though a large amount, it is only $6.33 per person per month or 21¢ per person per day.) This amount will provide them with food, some blankets, and the ability to buy heating oil if available and, if not, some firewood. Of course, it won't pay for gourmet foods, soft drinks, or candy, but it will give them essential and healthy foods, especially for their children. Who knows, they may even be able to enjoy a cup of hot tea or coffee before going to sleep.
Some good news (-- it's about time, huh):
We were thrilled by those who gave for the release of our two preachers with such generosity. That was a clear sign that you felt their pain, made it yours, and acted to free them as you would want others to do if it were you who had been captured. Yours was faith and works. That is the "pure and undefiled religion" that James encouraged us to practice. And for doing so, I honor you.
Because of your generosity, we ultimately received $14,557 more than that need required. I had hoped those funds might sit in the bank for a few weeks, indicating that there was no crisis to avert. Still, after learning of this need, we sent those funds to provide immediate relief to these 500 families suffering from hunger and cold.
Thus, since you have already provided $14,557 (26% of the need), we have an estimated need remaining of only $42,443.
I want you to know that Nolin and I will also give for this need. What a marvelous opportunity to bless these brothers and sisters -- and their children. I hope you feel that way too.
Thank you for your time. I’ll write again with updates as the need is met.
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: