Freedom for Middle East missionaries imprisoned for evangelizing; healing and salvation for fellow prisoners!

Report: Bibles for Mideast and an Assembly of Loving God (ALG)  church in the Middle East

Pastor Zakkir of Bibles for Mideast labored long, hard and secretively in one of the most restrictive countries in the Middle East, as we reported last year in our story From Islamic enforcer and Christian killer to underground church leader: a modern-day Muslim Saul.

After his dramatic conversion, he had been pastoring an underground ALG (Assembly of Living God) church and taking care of a number of persecuted Christians who had converted from Islam. He lived with and was training seven young men in how to effectively evangelize in the Middle East.
 
About seven months ago, he and his team headed out to evangelize and distribute gospel tracts and bibles in a particularly dangerous area. They shared with many Muslims in the region and on returning home, sat down to intercede for the salvation of those they'd reached out to. 

As they prayed, a group of policemen and angry locals barged in on them, brandishing guns. They brutally attacked Zakkir and the team, burned their bibles and gospel literature along with their clothes and other items. While the men who’d accompanied the police aimed to kill the Christians, fortunately the officers decided to 'only' arrest them. They were whisked away to a religious court for trial and sentenced to prison for blasphemy and proselytizing.

When thrown into a common cell with notorious criminals and murderers, their real trials began. For over a month they faced cruel torture by jail wardens and relentless, often violent harassment from fellow prisoners. Yet they report now they felt the ever-present love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Compared to what He endured for us, they explain, their sufferings amounted to nothing.

Inside a Mddle Eastern jail cell

Inside a Mddle Eastern jail cell

On first arriving at their cell, they immediately knelt down and prayed in the name of Jesus. Seeing this, other prisoners beat them and made it clear they were not to ever pray like this. So the men resorted to waiting till the others were sound asleep, then join hands in fervent worship and prayer. They figure the Lord must have induced deep sleep in their fellow prisoners, just to allow His children to worship Him in spirit, truth and safety. They prayed especially for their jailers and cellmates.
 
One day a man imprisoned for murdering three people developed severe chest pains and began vomiting blood.  He had been the one encouraging others to torture the gospel team members. 

“Shall we pray to Jesus for your healing?” Pastor Zakkir asked him.

“No!” he replied. “You cannot pray for me in that name and I do not want to hear that name again!” 

When his vomiting resumed even more severely, the man, now exhausted, thought he was going to die.

“Shall we pray for you?” Zakkir inquired again. ”Jesus is the mighty healer and He will heal you and will give you life, for which we are the witness.”

The criminal didn’t turn down the offer this time. So the pastor touched his head and prayed over him. The other team members laid their hands on him as well, joining in the prayers.

His stomach settled down immediately, as did his chest pains. Leaping to his feet as if absolutely nothing had been wrong, he marvelled that he'd felt something like an electric current flow through his body when the men prayed.

Others in the cell were equally stunned by his swift relief. The atmosphere in the cell soon transformed as the convicts grew friendly and accommodating. The missionaries could now freely pray as and when they wanted.

Furthermore, when any prisoner felt sick, depressed or upset, he'd now ask for prayer and find rapid, remarkable relief. One by one the convicted murderers, rapists, thieves and other outlaws joined the gospel workers in their times of prayer. Without the jail wardens or officers knowing, the whole cell resembled an underground church each night, with praise, worship and prayers rising to the heavens. 

Zakkir and his team related their own stories of salvation to the others, and the pastor shared the gospel message. Each and every prisoner confessed his many sins before Jesus Christ, and readily accepted Him as personal savior and Lord. They agreed that if released from jail, they too would become witnesses of Jesus to others.
 
Three months ago, a new officer took charge of the prison. Apparently trying particularly hard to prove he was tough and up to the task of controlling those in his charge, he behaved harshly towards prisoners. He could not figure out, however, why the men in this one particular cell actually seemed calm and happy. They behaved well and kindly to each other and even more surprising, when beaten or tortured, responded with “Praise the Lord!” Keeping a close eye on them, he discovered it was all because of the prayers of the gospel team members. So after two weeks, he moved Pastor Zakkir and his team into a separate cell.
 
And he continued to watch them. One night, as soon as he heard them praying, the officer entered their quarters. The gospel workers’ initial fear turned to wonder as he walked unthreateningly towards them and sat down. He then opened up about his own life. He had studied at a western university, he explained, and while there, had many Christian friends. Through their influence, he learned about the sacrifice of Jesus and had even accepted Him as his personal savior. He attended worship and prayer services with his Christian buddies and had numerous experiences with God at the time.

But on returning to his homeland after studies, he joined the government services and lost all Christian fellowship. He did however still begin his day reading the bible and secretly prayed to Jesus both morning and night.

Now, he eagerly joined with the evangelists in prayer. He asked each of them to share their testimonies, which they of course did. The men continued in worship and prayer till dawn. From then on, the officer interceded with them every night. With his help the prisoners in the team's previous cell continued their prayers as well.
 
Since the new, secretly-Christian officer held sway in higher circles within the prison system, he took the initiative in securing their release from jail, with one condition: they must leave their native land.

Agreeing to this, the evangelists were freed from jail several days ago. Before departing, Pastor Zakkir asked two of the prisoners to lead in regular prayer services in the jail, as the Lord Himself would lead him. The Christian prison officer offered his full support to this. 

Worshippers in an underground church

Worshippers in an underground church

The officer then made arrangements for Pastor Zakkir and his brave team of seven to leave the country. They are now safe with Bibles for Mideast pastors in another region, and continuing ministry there.

Please pray for them and the entire ministry, all ministers and believers of Bibles for Mideast and the ALG Church, and the ministry as a whole. Pastor Zakkir and his team also want to sincerely thank all who prayed for them over these challenging yet God-ordained seven months.

Astonishing power of prayer: Jesus saves Muslim man from pirates and jaws of death at sea

Report: Bibles for Mideast and an underground ALG Church in east Africa

Gainful employment being as scarce as rain and healthy crops in Milad’s* drought-stricken east African country, many, including his family, struggled to survive.  As the eldest of nine children in an orthodox Muslim family, when an offer to work on a ship came along, he gladly accepted. At last he could help provide for his parents and siblings.

Not till he joined his new employers onboard did he realize the ‘work’ involved attacking and robbing ships. They were pirates! When he tried to abandon ship they wouldn’t allow him, and when he told them he had no intention of working for them, they bound his hands and legs with steel chains. He became a slave to the pirates, freed only when they found their next target of attack. They knew that if he got away, their secrets and information on who they were would escape with him. 

Armed Somali pirates preparing to attack a ship (AFP/GETTY IMAGE)

Armed Somali pirates preparing to attack a ship (AFP/GETTY IMAGE)

One evening they attempted to rob a ship full of valuable merchandise in the Indian Ocean. The vessel’s strong security force fought back, and a fierce gun battle ensued. When a bullet hit Milad in his left shoulder, he jumped into the sea to save himself.

As he tried to swim to safety, a giant fish suddenly darted through the dark waters towards him. Whether a shark or a whale he couldn’t tell, but he could see its wide-open mouth ready to finish him off. Just as he felt himself sucked into the creature’s mouth, a strange reflection … a bright image of what appeared to be a man, but somehow in the shape of a cross ... appeared on and through the water. It was like it came down from above and both reflected off of, and pierced, the dark water. He noticed what looked like blood stains on the luminous image. He felt himself being pulled away from the gaping jaws, and then helped safely to shore.

By this point, late at night, bedraggled and alone, all Milad knew was that some supernatural power had saved him from certain death. But what could it have been? Looking around in the darkness, seeing no one, fear quickly overtook him. He sat down by the sea shore, his mind and emotions churning, his heart heavy.

As only God could arrange it, members of an underground ALG church in Africa were engaged in an all-night prayer vigil some miles inland from where Milad sat. Pastor Abu* had gathered believers at his ‘prayer shed’ for the night watch [more on that prayer shed in our earlier story about Pastor Abu and his ministry here: Miraculous multiplication of faith, food and believers in east Africa].

As they prayed, his wife had a vision of the Lord Jesus saving someone from pirates and a giant fish, and that the man, named Milad, was now sitting at the sea shore gripped with terror. She shared her revelation with the prayer group. Two others (including Hydrus, the former Muslim whose radical salvation we also relate in the story mentioned above) received the same vision. One even prophesied they were to go get him and ‘pick him up’ for the Lord’s work.

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As they continued praying, Pastor Abu also prophesied about the fellow on the seashore. Clearly an immediate rescue was in order, so the men determined to go find the survivor.  They headed out in the direction they’d been shown in the visions. Pastor Abu’s wife remained behind in charge of the vigil, and the women and children continued praying.

Walking the eight miles to the sea shore, the 40 or so men refrained from speaking, uttering only words of prayer and praise. Each carried his own Bible, and none felt tired or found the journey long. When Milad saw them approaching, his fear intensified. What now? But then he heard his own name being uttered by a calm, assuring voice.

“Don’t be afraid, Milad,” Pastor Abu called to him. “The one who saved you from the gunshot and from the giant fish in the sea has sent us to you to console you and rescue you.”

“He is Jesus, who was crucified for us on the cross of Calvary and rose from the dead for our salvation. He loves you and wants to make you His own child. Believe in Him and follow Him.”

Already incredulous Milad did not think things could get any more incredible until he then heard the pastor outline to him all that he had gone through. Could it be a dream? He touched the leader and several of the other men to see if they were real.  

“You are not dreaming,” Pastor Abu assured him. “All of this is real and true, and only because our Lord and Saviour Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.” He then held up his Bible.

“This is the word of the true and living God, who saves you from sin and death.”

Milad rushed to kiss the Bible, and then prostrated himself before the pastor. 

“No, I am just a servant of God,” he explained, stepping back. “You surrender before Him and confess all your sins to Him. He is our savior.”

Milad cried aloud and confessed all of his sins before God. He then readily accepted Jesus as his personal savior and Lord. The men prayed over the new convert and joyfully brought him back with them, praising and thanking the Lord for His marvelous wonders as they journeyed back to the shed.

Milad now stays with Hydrus at the underground church’s 'prayer shed' under the guidance of Pastor Abu. Please pray for Milad and Hydrus as they grow in their faith and walk. Also keep Pastor Abu, his family and all the other believers in Africa in your prayers.

____________________________
names changed for security reasons

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Essential note

As an important ‘back story’ here, we asked Milad if he knew of anyone from his past who may have been praying for him. He then remembered that several years ago, an American missionary team had visited his town on a charitable and medical mission. One day, Milad and one of his sisters visited the temporary quarters set up by the team, hoping for help for the skin disease they both suffered from. Missionary doctors examined each, and gave them medicine. One took a special interest in the two siblings, making note of their names. She began telling them about the healing and saving power of Jesus.

Milad and his sister had no idea what she was talking about. Then, when she put her hands on their heads to pray for them, the young man angrily pushed her away. The doctor simply smiled, and let them know she would continue praying for them. She also asked them to come back in two days for checkups and more medicine, but the siblings never returned.

What an encouragement to continue praying! We thank the Lord that missionary doctor kept up her prayers for Milad, and for you for praying for the ministry of Bibles for Mideast in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Never give up.