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.

Healings, salvations and a new underground church in South Asian village

Report: Bibles for Mideast and the ALG Church

Naseema*, 22, grew up the only child of poor Muslim parents in a village in South Asia. To support the family, her mother prepared snacks and bakery items at home which her father peddled door-to-door, balancing the food items in a large basket on his head.

As a brilliant and active little six-year-old, Naseema loved going to school. That being a fair distance from home, one of her parents would generally take her there and back.

One day when neither was able to accompany her, she made the trek home by herself. The youngster arrived back breathless, shivering and terrified. She managed to explain to her parents she had been running for her life from a stray dog who had chased her most of the way. She didn’t seem to have been bitten, but when the shaking increased and she developed a fever, her parents rushed her to hospital.  

She was admitted and as the night wore on, her fever and seizures increased, She became weaker and weaker and while wanting to speak, could not. Doctors were mystified at what might be plaguing her.  They began suspecting perhaps she had polio, or hemorrhaging in her brain, but were never able to definitively diagnose her illness. Soon she could no longer sit up, unable to balance her head or body, and became completely bedridden.

Her parents invested all of the little income they had for treatment and even hope for help. They invited many religious leaders of Islam to come and pray over her. They visited countless Muslim pilgrimage sites to offer vows and prayers for her healing. This went on for sixteen years.

Last year, Pastor Ishaq* of Bibles for Mideast—who regularly ministers in the region and had heard about the sick young woman—visited the family with his gospel team. He asked permission to pray for her, but her parents, dedicated Muslims, would not allow it. Christians were hated enemies, after all. The team left a sample gospel outside the house as they left.

A month later they were back. This time, the parents practically exploded in anger and forbade them from seeing Naseema. When the missionaries returned a third time, neighboring Muslims began gathering around, brandishing sticks, weapons and challenging questions.

“We have just come to pray for Naseema,” Pastor Ishaq answered them gently. “We believe our Lord Jesus Christ can heal her. For the word of God says that Jesus Christ was crucified, died and rose from the dead to save all human beings. It also says that by His wounds we are healed. So we believe that prayer in Jesus' name can heal Naseema.”

Hearing the name of Jesus, the crowd erupted in rage and rushed to attack. Pastor Ishaq and his team fled, the angry neighbors in hot pursuit. With God’s help they managed to escape safely … and of course they kept up their regular intercession for Naseema, her parents and the neighbors.

Not long ago, Naseema’s father met misfortune while out selling his wares. As he attempted to cross a busy road a car ran into him, knocking him down and scattering his basketful of food. The driver ignored the man he had just injured and kept driving.

Pastor Ishaq and his assistant ‘just happened’ to be by the same roadside and witnessed the accident. They rushed to help the hurt man get off the road, and administered first aid. Only then did the pastor recognize the man as Naseema’s father. He wanted to take him to hospital, but the father pleaded to be taken home instead. So the pastor hired a three-wheeled rickshaw and brought him to the family’s home. As they traveled, he talked of the love of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross.

“It is because of His love that we love you and are praying for you,” he explained. This time the man seemed to be listening. 

When they reached the family’s house and Naseema’s mother heard about the accident, the missionaries were warmly welcomed inside. The parents even invited the pastor and his assistant to pray for Naseema, and for them as well. After praying, Pastor Ishaq offered to hold three days of prayer and fasting in the house if the family agreed to it, and they readily did.

On hearing of the plan, Pastor Paul travelled 18 hours by train and 5 hours by bus to take part. On the very first day, a recent Thursday, Naseema had a vision of Jesus while the team prayed. She felt Him touch her head with His nail-pierced hands, she explained later. At the time however, all she could do was open her mouth and say, “Jesus is my Lord!” She had hardly moved and had not been able to speak for years. All were beyond astonished.

When she asked for assistance sitting up, Pastor Paul stepped forward to help and for the first time in 16 years Naseema could balance both her head and body and sit upright on her own. As the group began singing and praising, she clapped her hands in joy.  

News of the miracle began to spread. The next day, one of the neighboring families joined in the prayer and fasting.  By the third day, two more families and some other Muslim individuals had come along to take part.

When the pastors shared the message of gospel, all accepted Jesus as their personal savior and Lord.  On the fourth day, a Sunday, Pastor Paul conducted a worship service in the home and planted a new house church on the spot.

in another part of south Asia, worshippers gather outside their own 'house church'

in another part of south Asia, worshippers gather outside their own 'house church'

During the service, Naseema stood up from her bed, walked towards the others, sat on the floor and listened intently. Soon filled with the Holy Spirit, she began dancing before Jesus as the worship continued.

Since then, others have begun attending Sunday worship services at the new house church. Naseema's father has also completely recovered from his accident. Unfortunately, many other Muslims have begun persecuting the new believers.

Please pray for Naseema, her parents, the newly-saved people, Pastor Ishaq, his gospel team and other believers in the region. Also keep the ministries of Bibles for Mideast and the Assembly of Loving God (ALG) Church in your prayers.

____________________________
names changed for security reasons

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!

URGENT: Prayer request for Pastor Paul

As reported earlier, believers at a recent baptismal service—including the director of Bibles for Mideast—were stoned and many injured. Pastor Paul sustained serious head wounds, including damage to his skull, and required surgery.

After a week in hospital he has now been secretly moved to the home of a formerly-Muslim, now Christian family. The hospital stay proved too expensive and even unsafe. Militants had heard he was there and began hunting for him.

As he wrote to me today, the family members sheltering him often face persecution and death threats themselves. Doctors instructed him not to use his mobile phone, but he managed to send an email when the others weren’t watching. He asks for our prayers, and explains he may not be able to communicate again for several weeks.

May the Lord protect and restore Pastor Paul, guide and provide for the family he stays with while recuperating and direct and inspire you in your prayers for him and the ministry.

____________________________

UPDATE April 17, 2017:  Stoned by terrorists, protected by a lion!

Despite persecution, more than 3,000 former Muslims baptized

Report: Bibles for Mideast

(April 05, 2017)  By God’s grace, in spite of setbacks and persecution, more than 3,000 former Muslims were recently baptized in all of the churches of Assembly of Loving God (ALG) in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. 

Bibles for Mideast had evangelized them and prepared them to witness Jesus Christ in the water and by the Spirit. What a tremendous blessing as our 21 days of fasting and prayer wrapped up!

Satan tried to spoil the ministry many times, but our Lord Jesus Christ destroyed all the evil plans.

In one church in Asia, the pastor and newly-baptized believers were attacked by fanatics. Pastor Paul was stoned while changing out of his wet clothes after the baptism service, receiving a blow to his head. Hameed, Fasal, Ruqiya, Sheela and Bishara were wounded as well.

In his epistle to the Philippians, the apostle Paul spoke of knowing the fellowship of the Lord’s sufferings and his goal to experience the power of His resurrection (Phil 3:9-11). We aspire to the same.

Five strong powers worked together against our Lord’s resurrection.

1)  The government: Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect (governor) ordered the Lord’s crucifixion and also commanded the sepulchre be sealed;

2)  The military: soldiers guarding the burial site;

3)  The Lord’s own people: the Jews wanted to seal the tomb and set a watch;

4)  Heathen: all screamed against Jesus;

5)  Satan: of course never wanted the resurrection of Jesus.

But our Lord Jesus Christ overcame all these powers by rising from death and the grave. Such was the power of His resurrection!

Certainly we too need to overcome these forces. Most governments do not favor Christianity; police, military, terrorists and other militants all conspire against us. Many of our own people (blood-relatives or nominal Christians) do not share our precious faith in Jesus Christ. Non-believers and satanic forces everywhere work against our evangelistic activities.

Let us overcome all these powers by experiencing the power of our Lord’s resurrection.

“In the world you face persecution,” Jesus said. “But take courage; I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33)

St. John says, “For whoever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcomes the world: our faith. Who is it that has won the battle over the world? Only the person who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 John 5: 4-5)