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.

Warrior angels just one factor in many connected radical salvations

Report: Bibles for Mideast and an underground ALG Church

Al Bilal*, a fanatic Muslim, had long been an active member of his local mosque in a Middle Eastern kingdom. While studying at university, a Christian friend—who also happened to be the son of a Bibles for Mideast evangelist—gave him a sample gospel. As a courtesy to the friend he read it, but didn’t believe a word.

Not long after, Jesus surprised him by appearing before him in a vision.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” he said to Bilal. “I am the beginning and the end. I died on the cross and rose from the dead to give everyone eternal life. Those who believe in me will have a place with me in heaven. Follow me without hesitation!”  

Bilal managed to find the gospel tract again, and contacted the number printed on it. A Bibles for Mideast pastor answered the call, and shared the message of the gospel clearly with him. He didn’t need much convincing to accept Jesus as his personal savior and Lord, and soon afterwards made a full commitment to Christianity through baptism. 

Being highly educated both academically and in Islam, Bilal’s community had tremendous respect for him. But on his embrace of Christianity his parents, relatives and community leaders desperately wanted him back in the Islamic fold. Bilal boldly held to his precious new faith.

The angered community eventually excommunicated him from the mosque. Each and every one—his family included—came to consider him a dangerous enemy.

Bilal began going to a deserted area around midnight each night. He would kneel down in the sand, alone before his Lord, and for nearly two hours would pray and praise in the Spirit.

Some young people, under the leadership of Bilal’s first cousin Sulfiker*, began formulating a plan to kill him. They first found out where and when he headed for his nightly prayers. Then, armed with steel rods and sharp knives, they snuck out after him one night and prepared to lunge. 

But angels of the Lord surrounded Bilal, and fought back the attackers. In absolute terror, Sulfi and his gang took off in all directions.  Bilal however remained so engrossed in his time with the Lord he didn’t even notice the commotion!

Some angels you do not want to mess with

Some angels you do not want to mess with

As Sulfiker bolted away, he suddenly fell into a deep pit. He broke both his hands and legs in the fall, so of course could then barely move, let alone climb out. 

As his time of prayer and praise ended, Bilal stood and shook the sand from his knees. He then felt the Holy Spirit leading him to the pit his cousin had fallen in to. He could see immediately Sulfi needed help getting out, so climbed down and managed to get the young man mounted on his shoulders. Sulfi thought his cousin must be furious with him.

“Don’t kill me!” he screamed.

Bilal dragged and pulled him from the pit and administered some first aid. He also prayed for his cousin. He then took him to his home, and from there to the hospital.

Sulfi remained in hospital several weeks, with Bilal almost constantly by his side. When the time seemed right, he shared the gospel message with his injured cousin. Sulfi then blurted out all that had happened the night of his fall. Embarrassed and overwhelmed, he confessed his sins and accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior and Lord.

Sulfi’s friends—the fellow-attackers—also visited him in the hospital. They had obviously been just as terrified seeing and experiencing the mighty, fighting angels. When Sulfi shared with them the salvation available and possible in Jesus Christ alone, they likewise needed little convincing and joined him in praying to accept Jesus into their hearts and lives.

All have now been excommunicated from their mosque and face severe persecution. They also all secretly attend worship services in an underground ALG Church and work for the Lord through Bibles for Mideast.

Please pray for them and all other ministers and ministries of Bibles for Mideast! We so appreciate and need your prayerful support.

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* names changed for security reasons

Conversions in the millions: Muslims tasting the love of Jesus and embracing Christianity all over the globe

Report: Susanna Perry-Ettel

muslims to Christ.jpg

No one can deny that over the past several years, millions of Muslims worldwide have converted to Christianity. Once they taste His love, they soon sense that real freedom can be found only in Christ.

Many missionary organizations, including Bibles for Mideast, engage in evangelism to Muslims. Out of concern for the security and safety of new converts in some regions, we cannot publish all the details. Even the converts themselves often must resort to secrecy to survive.

This concern over safety proves the greatest complication in assessing the number of Muslims converting to Christianity in Islamic nations, according to Albert W. Hickman of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity.

"Many of these converts keep their new faith a secret. Some of them are fairly isolated, not knowing any other Christians," he noted.

"Others are part of house churches that consist exclusively of secret converts. These individual house churches can be part of networks that are quite extensive, although most individual members might be unaware of exactly how extensive."

Violence against Christian converts is connected to the rising tide of violence against Christians in the Islamic world, according to persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA.

The website Muslim Statistics reports that “A major Christian syndication has provided video evidence to us from their user data around the world which proves that a massive 350 million Muslims live their outward lives as Muslims, on the surface, but have secretly converted to Christianity” (article here).

In December 2001, Sheikh Ahmad al Qataani, a leading Saudi cleric, appeared on a live interview on Al-Jazeerah satellite television to confirm that, sure enough, Muslims were turning to Jesus in alarming numbers.

"In every hour, 667 Muslims convert to Christianity," Al Qataani warned. "Every day, 16,000 Muslims convert to Christianity. Every year, 6 million Muslims convert to Christianity."

Stunned, the interviewer interrupted the cleric. "Hold on! Let me clarify. Do we have six million converting from Islam to Christianity?" Al Qataani repeated his assertion. "Every year." The interview has since been removed from Al-Jazeerah’s website, but you can both view and read it in its entirety here

Muslim women come to pray in a church

Muslim women come to pray in a church

Thousands and thousands have turned to Christ in Bangladesh, India,  Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Pakistan, Maldives, Egypt, Morocco, Libya, Tanzania, Cambodia, Somalia and many other Asian and African countries. Bibles for Mideast has about 150 gospel teams ministering in different Asian, African and Middle Eastern nations. Out of those, 20 are led by women, and many Muslim women convert because of these women evangelists. 

A vast number of Muslims who have turned to Christ in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, Jordan and Palestine now worship in underground house churches. We hear many miracles of healing, deliverance and even resurrections from the dead.

Some members of ruling Arabian families have come to faith in Jesus as Lord and face persecutions such as house arrest or imprisonment (see Royal Family members believe in Jesus, now face death threats and prison).

While there were only 17 Christian converts from Islam in Afghanistan in 2001, more than 250,000 believers now exist. Hundreds of baptisms happen every week.

In 1990, there were merely three known Christians in Kazakhstan and none in Uzbekistan. Now more than 250,000 worship Jesus in Kazakhstan, and 350, 000 in Uzbekistan. In 1979 there were fewer than 500 Christians in Iran. Since then, millions of Iranians have come to believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior, most meeting in underground house churches.

In Sudan, despite a radical Islamic regime and an ongoing genocide that has killed more than 200,000, more than one million have converted since 2000, and some five million have become Christians since the early 1990s. Seminaries are being held in caves to train pastors to shepherd the huge numbers of people coming to Christ. Why such a dramatic spiritual awakening?

"People have seen real Islam, and they want Jesus instead," a Sudanese evangelical leader reports.

One of the most dramatic developments is that many Muslims—including Shiites in Iran and Iraq—are having dreams and visions of Jesus, and thus are coming into churches explaining that they have already converted and now need a bible and guidance on how to follow Jesus. This is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy from the book of Joel:

"In the last days, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.... And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved." (Joel 2:28-32)

Even though persecution against Christians in Bangladesh is on the rise, so too is the number of Muslims converting to Christianity.

“When I began my ministry in Kurigram, there was only one Christian family with a Muslim background,” says Pastor Faruk of Bangladesh, who converted to Christianity from Islam in 1995. “Now, almost 1,500 believers from Muslim backgrounds are glorifying God in this area.” As many as 100,000 Muslims across Bangladesh have converted to Christianity in the last six years.

“Persecution will come more, but the believers and I are ready to face it," Pastor Faruk added.

In India, millions of Muslims are choosing to follow Christ and now face hardships and persecutions.

A large number of Muslim refugees in Europe from Syria, Iran and Afghanistan have also converted to Christianity, with some churches conducting mass baptisms.

Refugees lining up for baptism

Refugees lining up for baptism

"I've been spat on and told that I've betrayed Islam,” confessed a Syrian refugee baptized as a Christian in Germany. “But through what I've learned, I can forgive them."

"In Islam, we always lived in fear. Fear of God, fear of sin, fear of punishment. However, Christ is a God of love," an Iranian refugee reported in Switzerland.

"I've been looking all my life for peace and happiness, but in Islam, I have not found it," added Shima, another Iranian refugee.

In Austria there were at least 300 applications for adult christenings in the first three months of 2016 alone, with up to 70 percent of those said to be refugees.

“Within a few years all of the Muslim nations will come to Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit,” Pastor Paul of Bibles for Mideast, himself a former Muslim, says with conviction. “Satan knows it, that's why he tries to discourage and destroy the Christian workers and the believers through terrorism, persecution and brutal murdering. But our Lord Jesus will have the final victory.”

Since making that statement, Pastor Paul was again a victim of radical terrorists and is still recovering (those stories here: Despite persecution, more than 3000 former Muslims baptized,  Stoned by terrorists, protected by a lion!,  Prayer support still desperately needed for Pastor Paul and family).

Idris, another pastor with Bibles for Mideast, reports that countless ordinary Muslims, witnessing the brutal behavior of fanatics and terrorists towards Christians, are turning secretly to Christianity.

Please keep this ministry and its workers in your prayers! We so appreciate your ongoing interest and support. If you would like to submit your own prayer request or support the ministry in any way, please use the form here

Prayer support still desperately needed for Pastor Paul and family

First, a huge thank you to everyone praying our Pastor Paul back to a measure of health so that he can now be released from hospital. We didn’t reveal this earlier, but he actually had to be moved to a different hospital after authorities thwarted a plan by militants to kill him and his wife in the hospital.

He is now able to go home, but since ‘home’ is not a safe place, he and his wife have decided to go to a different state for the three months' rest doctors recommend for his full recovery.

Please continue to pray: for complete healing, for redemption, for protection, and for guidance and provision for the future. A massive thank-you to all who have generously contributed to the hospital costs for the past month!

Work in the field continues, so please continue to pray and support as you are able. We in the West have such a limited conception of how difficult it is to live for Jesus in so many restrictive countries in the world, such as those where Bibles for Mideast missionaries live and work.

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Related stories:
Despite persecution, more than 3,000 former Muslims baptized
Stoned by terrorists, protected by a lion!

Jesus protects persecuted new convert from Islam by the 'power of His right hand'

Maheen* had always been an observant Muslim. When given a Bible by a team distributing them in his neighbourhood, he took one, brought it home, but never looked at it. Why should he? He had the Koran.

One night while he slept, he says an angel came to him and touched him on the shoulder.

“Read Acts 26:23 from the Holy Scripture which you received,” the angel told him. Whether a dream or a vision he wasn’t sure, but it certainly struck him as strange. Too tired to react otherwise, he fell back asleep.

A short while later, the angel touched his shoulder again, more firmly this time. “Get up and read Acts 26:23 from the bible you were given. It is a verse for you.”

Still groggy and half-asleep, Maheen had a hard time trying to process what was going on. So he decided to ignore the unusual occurrence again, and go back to sleep.

The angel appeared a third time, nudging him forcefully. “Get up and read the verses as I said!”

Maheen bolted out of bed, frantically grabbed his new bible, and began to read from the Book of Acts.

“That the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He should be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.” (Acts 26:23)

The striking visitation, the power of God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit brought Maheen to his knees. He acknowledged his sins before God and accepted Jesus as his Savior and Lord.

He became a strong believer in Jesus Christ. As much as he tried to convince his wife Muneera* of her need for salvation, of the importance of reading and meditating on the Bible, the Word of God—she would have none of it. Further complicating the situation were the attitudes of her brother Siddhiq*, an Islamic extremist working nearby in Saudi Arabia.

Maheen desperately wanted to be baptized, but waited months, hoping and praying his wife would join him in his new faith and be baptized with him. He finally decided to take the step alone.

When Muneera told her brother of the new development, he flew in immediately from Saudi Arabia. He implored Maheen to return to Islam, offering him an outstanding employment opportunity if he’d move to Saudi Arabia. He could even have an immense home and property as part of the deal.

"My Lord Jesus is far, far above any of the offers of this world,” Maheen replied. “I may be killed, but I will never deny Jesus, for He is my Lord and Savior, and granted me eternal life."

This infuriated Siddhiq. While his sister watched in horror, he joined with others he had traveled with and brutally beat Maheen. They then locked him in a dark room. For 17 days he remained locked away in darkness, without proper food or facilities, and unable even to see his wife.

Everyone felt sure Maheen would change his mind and come back to Islam. Instead, he grew stronger in his faith with each passing day. So they decided the only way to save Muneera from her husband would be to kill him.

She couldn’t believe it. How could her own brother, her own family, including her own father, even think of killing her husband? So she implored God, the Almighty, to intervene.

While praying, she had a vision of heaven and saw the Lord Jesus seated on the throne. And there was Maheen, her husband, at His right hand being held safe, praising Him along with the angels! While she couldn’t understand it, she could see human souls being washed by blood which flowed like a beautiful stream from the heart of Jesus.

When she tried to reach out to her husband, she couldn’t even get close. A huge gulf spanned the distance between them. Then she noticed a bridge in the shape of a cross over the gap, but when she tried to go towards it, it was taken back to heaven.  

Shaken to her core, Muneera began to weep. She took her own step of faith and accepted the Lord Jesus as her Savior. Who else could this be but the savior of humanity? She prayed that Maheen would not be harmed.

She then phoned the leader of the team who had been distributing the free bibles and holding the underground worship services Maheen had been attending. She explained to him all that had happened.

He explained that he too was a convert from Islam and often faced similar hardships. He arranged to visit the area, meeting up with a group of local believers first, all also converts from Islam. They prayed together, then met with a politician in the region. With his help they were able to secure the assistance of a senior police officer who freed Maheen from the dark room that had been his prison for over two weeks.

That same evening, a mob under Siddhiq’s leadership gathered with weapons to attack the church leader. A group of secret believers in Jesus heard of it and Immediately moved him to another house where the terrorists couldn’t find him. The prayers of the children of God certainly moved to save and protect Maheen as well as the Christian leader.

Maheen with bibles for distribution

Maheen with bibles for distribution

Maheen and Muneera now have two children, a boy and a girl. They work with Bibles for Mideast, distributing bibles, Christian literature and helping establishing house churches in their area of the Middle East.

“It is a great task,” they explain. “We have to work very secretly. We worship secretly. We collect bibles for distribution also in a secret way. We are in need of support, but we don’t get it.”  Both retain secular jobs to earn enough for themselves and the work of their team. Please pray for them!

If you feel led to support the work of acquiring and distributing bibles and establishing house churches for new believers, please use the form here.

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* names changed for security reasons