I left a piece of my heart in the Middle East–Egypt, Jordan, Jerusalem, the West Bank. I used to travel there regularly working with local teachers, children and talented staff in schools, churches, businesses and homes.
Now as I listen to the news, my heart aches. I wonder: Do you really understand what’s happening there? It’s confusing. Not black and white. I don’t get it all, either. Yet, I know it’s difficult times for many.
What About the Children?
The other day I got the following letter from my Jordanian friend, Isam Ghattas, founder/president of Manara International in Amman. I worked with his wife, Nihad, and snapped the above photo of the children when I visited one of her preschools. I asked Isam for permission to share part of his message. I hope you can take a few moments to read and then pray.
LETTER FROM JORDAN
Greetings in our Lord’s holy name.
So much has been going on in North Africa and the Middle East and throughout the world. Though we do not fully understand, we’re confident that God is working out His purposes. And He intends for us to work with Him.
EGYPT: My friend, Howard Norrish, told me that in one large evangelical church in Egypt (probably) the largest in the Arab World) a few weeks before the current events, God spoke to the leaders in several unique ways. God seemed to say, “I’m going to do a new thing in the Arab World. Prepare yourselves in prayer and be ready for new opportunities.” Since then, the revolution has spread beyond Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt to envelope Lebanon, Syria, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Oman.
JORDAN: Our country, Jordan, has watched closely. King Abdullah heard God’s wake-up call, replacing his prime minister and cabinet and announcing that “Reform is our unwavering will.” As regimes fall throughout the Mediterranean, Jordan remains a friendly neighbor, friend to the West and refuge to those fleeing violence and persecution.
IRAQ: I was in Baghdad last November 1 when al-Qaeda-connected gunmen took 120 hostages at Our Lady of Salvation Church and slaughtered 41 Christians, as well as 12 police officers and 5 bystanders, wounding 78 others. The media called it the “deadliest attack ever recorded against Iraq’s Christians.” We learned later that they attacked the wrong church. They meant to attack the church of a pastor friend of mine, a block away.
As a result of the violence, many Iraqi families are fleeing to Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West. They leave out of fear for their families, carrying nothing except the clothes on their backs. In 2007, this church in Iraq had 1,000 members. Only about 250 remain. Yet, God continues to use this pastor and congregation to comfort and share the truth.
TRUE STORY: “A woman came to me with her husband and asked, ‘You are a father? You have children?’
“You are a father of your church also.”
“Okay,” responded the pastor.
“I need your help.” I thought she might ask for blankets or food. Then she continued, “I have three children, but the terrorists came into my home and killed them all. What is this Allah? When I leave your office I will believe or not believe that there is a God. You can help me. You have children. You can feel my feelings–what it would be like if you lost your children.”
My Lord, what should I tell her? I prayed silently. Immediately, God gave me an idea.
“Okay, you don’t believe in Allah. You question if he is a true god. You wonder how can they could come and kill in the name of Allah? You lost your children, but you did not make this choice. I will introduce you to someone who lost his son willingly.”
“What?! Why he lost his Son willingly?”
I told her the story of God the Father and Jesus His Son. She started to cry.
Finally she spoke, “You know what? You cannot understand me. Only God can understand my feelings because he lost his Son.” She trusted Christ as her Savior that day in my office.
PLEASE PRAY: Be encouraged, dear friends. In spite of terrible circumstances in the Middle East and all our weaknesses, God does use us and does manifest himself through us to His lost children.
Please continue to pray for the region as the face of the Middle East changes daily. Doors are opening to opportunities for spiritual growth and the planting of the Word. Please pray that the Lord will protect Jordan,so that stability and security will remain intact. We at Manara are thankful that we have been able to sendseeds to the north of Iraq (Kurdistan) for planting. We’ll send food, clothes and literature soon.
We lift you up in prayer and give thanks for you. May His blessings and grace surround you today and always.
Joan Responds: I wish you could hold a Middle Eastern child in your arms like I have. (See the photo)
I know this blog post is longer than I usually write. Yet, with all that’s currently happening in the countries where Jesus walked, I couldn’t keep silent any longer. There are caring people of every belief in this part of the world. They love their children.
They want to work. They want answers. Although the Christian population in this land where the disciples gave their lives for the growth of Christianity 2,000 years ago dwindles, the remaining Christians want us to know what’s taking place. They long for our understanding and support. They hurt when it isn’t there.
Tonight I keep hearing the tune of Tony Bennett singing “I left my heart in San Francisco”, yet I’m replacing the words with “I left my heart in the Middle East.”
Will you pray? If you’d like to help Isam, Nihad and Manara Ministries reach grieving mothers like the one in this story, send me a message. I’ll connect you to them. Thank you for “listening.”
(Yes, I took all these photos myself during my visits.)
Joan C. Webb
Writing, teaching, coaching to empower and set free.