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:
We have received word regarding your help in feeding a village of people in the Middle East. You will recall that the Governor, a man who previously persecuted our people, asked if these same persecuted people would help to feed the people of his village. It is incredible a governor would have to ask for help in the first place, and it demonstrates the dire situation in his country. But even more so, to ask for help from Christians. It was, of course, American believers who gave the money, but it was channeled through Believers in his land who provided the food. In this way, God gets the glory. We cannot let people know that American Believers are the funding source.)
If you need a reminder of what this was all about, click here to see the original request from a few weeks ago.
Our Director for the Middle East and North Africa sent the following email:
"I just arrived in *********, safe and sound, and am ready to preach over the next four days, all day, to the house churches and meet with some pastors that have been referred to me. But I wanted to send you this short note about feeding the Governor's family and neighbors in his hometown.
We prepared the basic necessities of daily life and were only hindered by the Coronavirus, spreading rapidly and the severe cold weather. However, we were able to take care of 125 families, which was 1,365 individuals. We gave each family milk, oil, burgal (an Arabic grain similar to rice), cans of meat, bread, and 5,000 liters of water. We also gave each family 600 liters of oil to warm their houses and blankets. Besides this, the Governor fulfilled his promise to allow us to distribute Bibles and evangelize. We distributed 1,737. As we distributed the food and started preaching, many neighbors came to listen to us, and so we gave 400 additional Bibles to those families.
By our Lord's grace, many of them were surprised to see a group from a church come to serve Muslim families. First, we were able to show them the love, mercy, and care of Christ; then, we shared the gospel of Christ with them and explained the reason for our Savior to come to the earth. In the four days that we were in their village, more than 3,681 people came to listen to us under the Governor's protection. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough Bibles to give everyone who attended, but by the grace of God, we saw 72 individuals accept the Lord as their Savior.
I'll tell you that this area will surprise us very soon. We are planning to revisit all those families again and explain the gospel to the rest of the families in the village. And we plan to provide Bibles to give to each family as we visit."
In my initial letter to you, I expressed that we intended to win souls and plant a new house church. That was accomplished. The reality is, it will take a huge house to hold all the new believers. As with most of our churches, they will have to attend by schedule so that everyone can be taught. Many of our house churches have seven services a day. Those who attend one may never meet those who attend the others. Because of some things happening in this country, and the fact that God has given us favor in the eyes of the government, before long, who knows – they may even let us build a Baptist church in their village. (Sorry, but that's all I can say for now.)
Those who received help were so grateful that they sat and listened for days to the preaching about our loving Father and His son Jesus, who brought them the bread and water of life they have lived for thousands of years with no knowledge of. Like water poured out on a desert, the gospel was consumed by their thirsty souls, and a new body of believers has been formed.
We asked for $10,000, and you ultimately gave $10,004. The extra $4 was used to buy one of the Bibles that was distributed. Once again, you made a difference. We asked -- you gave -- and now Christ is reaping the glory! Thank you for praying and giving and for making our beautiful Lord so appealing to those who had only heard wrong about Him.
It is an unbelievable story that I’m about to reveal to you. A miracle? Yes, but well beyond. We read of miracles in the Bible with astonishment, but I suspect Moses and Joshua and Elijah and Elisha must be tempted with jealousy when they hear about this one.
Millions have been displaced or disappeared in a certain Middle Eastern country, where war has ravaged the people for over a decade. Mass graves have become common, and widows and orphans have increased at least a thousand percent. All the deficits that follow such terror have also increased; water is scarce, and what is on hand is not fit to drink. Food is in short supply, causing thousands to be malnourished and even starve. Health care is virtually non-existent, and doctors have no medicine to treat illnesses and few supplies for necessary surgeries.
This has become a land that exemplifies the expression, “hell on earth.”
But there are Believers there, former Muslims who have been adopted into our Father’s family. You and I have helped them in the past, so many times for so many reasons. They, too, have endured what their fellow citizens have, but they have also been hunted and slain by the thousands. Their suffering is multiplied because of their outspoken faith in Jesus Christ as they witness, preach, distribute Bibles, and openly glorify Christ.
Their love for others and their stubbornness to stand with Christ have caught the attention of their Lord’s enemies, and as a result, some of the persecutors have come to Christ while others have watched in amazement as they show love to their persecutors. That is where this miracle has its roots.
Because of their testimony:
A governor, who has long been both a persecutor and a prosecutor, has come to us with a request. He comes from a small town in his province that has been badly affected by their crisis. Family, neighbors, and friends of a lifetime are suffering badly, and he has no means to help them. Yet, observing our churches for years and seeing their grace and hospitality, his eyes have seen the Light of their testimony, and he has humbled himself to ask for help.
Proverbs 25:21 says, “If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink.”
A thousand years later, in Romans 12:20, Paul quoted this verse in his letter to the Roman church encouraging them, “If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirsts, give him drink.”
This governor has asked our house churches, whom he has persecuted, to now be generous to the people of his hometown and give them food, fuel, and clean water. Our people have responded by saying they will do all he has asked, but he must also allow them to share the gospel with the families and give each one a Bible. They desire to do as Paul instructed in the next verse, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
I have often asked you to give so we can care for our people in this region, and more specifically, in this country. You have fed them, bound their wounds, and buried their dead. But this is the first time I have ever asked if you will give so their enemies will be fed. We are here, and they are there. Only God will know where the funds come from; therefore, it is God who will receive the glory for your gift. But the food, water, fuel, clothing, etc., will be delivered by the hands of preachers and Believers who will deliver these items with a smile and a word of comfort; but more importantly, with a Gospel witness and a family Bible.
Do we have a church there in that town? No. Not yet. But you can be assured that as these seeds are planted, a harvest will be the result, and already we have the laborers standing by to reap the harvest. So, your gift will plant a church in the hometown of the governor. (BTW: No promises, but I imagine the persecution in his province will be diminished when the persecuted are the ones feeding his people?)
Felix, the governor, sent Paul away, saying, I’ll call you back when I am ready to hear more. Festus, the governor, his replacement, told Paul, you have almost persuaded me. In both instances, the seed fell on thorny ground. But now we have a governor near the same land, who is not calling our pastors to stand before him condemned, but coming to them, asking for help, and authorizing the gospel preaching in his hometown. A miracle? Yes, and far, far beyond that.
Historically and Culturally (expand your knowledge):
Typically, a village is inhabited by a “tribe” as most people living there (unlike a large city) can trace their ancestry back to the same “father.” Thus, they are all related, distantly. So, what he is asking is that we save not only his people but his tribe. Everyone in the Middle East belongs to a tribe, and often, when the leader of the tribe converts, the extended family feels it is acceptable for them to consider conversion. So much respect and confidence are given to the leader that the members of the tribe follow his lead as a child in American would follow his father’s will. We find this same custom in Acts when Paul witnessed to the jailer in Philippi and told him that he and his household would be saved.
Now, their request:
Our pastors have estimated that because about a hundred families live there, with five to fifteen per family, they will need $10,000 to meet the need. (That is their estimated total) As per the governor’s request, they have, by faith, promised aid to arrive before Christmas. What a wonderful Christmas gift this will be for our Savior. Our infant Lord was born in a similar small town, not far away. He came to His own to be sure, but the angles declared that night, His coming is also good news (gospel) “to all people.”
You can give online above, or mail in a check and designate it to "Governors Town".
Let me say that this is but a slice in a much larger miracle in that land. Other things are happening that reach higher than a governor, but I cannot publicly share that information—yet.
With all our requests and all your giving over the years, you may feel like we are chipping away at one mighty oak in a forest of thousands. But, in reality, we have nearly cleared the forest and left behind thousands of pioneers who have built Christian homes and fortresses with the timber they have felled. They have cleared the forest, but you provided the axes.
Here, in this one small town, we have a tree with deep, ancient roots in Islam. But as Solomon purchased trees from Lebanon to build a house for the Lord, I am asking you for one more supply of axes so our workers can fell this tree. It will fall as others have before it. Listen for the shout -- “Timber!”