This is an overdue 'thank you' to the many, many of you around the world who prayed for our recent ministry efforts in the Middle East. Today concludes our time here and each moment has met with the wonderful blessings and guiding providence of our loving God and Savior.
It's been a very hectic 10 days or so. We landed last Thursday at 7:30pm after a 13 hour direct flight from Atlanta. I think I'm all caught up on the movies I've missed over the last several months!
We arrived at our lodgings around 9:30pm or so, grabbed a light dinner, then off to bed. Fridays are holy days in Islam, so Friday morning found us gathered together with the saints here. It was an honor to preach during the two morning services at one international church here, and later to share my testimony at an Arabic speaking church. I can't quite describe what it's like to praise God with Arab brethren in Arabic... somewhat exotic and familiar at the same time as occassionally a known tune would be sang or a "halleluja" would go up while the rest of the service was a glimpse of that day when every tongue shall praise God. One thing about our Arabic brethren, though, they love to be together. We started service at 12:30pm and ended around 3:30pm. It was a full morning and afternoon.
That same Friday, the student leadership conference began. From Friday evening through Saturday, I delivered three talks on biblical theology, attempting to help the students see the unity of the Scriptures and the glory of the gospel throughout all of Scripture. The students interacted hungrily with the word and with each other. We hoped the conference would be useful preparation for the dialogue and the follow-up afterwards. By God's grace, I think we met with some measure of success.
Sunday included a time of prayer with the team here, some brief fellowship time with my dialogue partner, Bassam Zawadi, and discussion with the church elders. The entire day was sweet.
Monday's Muslim-Christian dialogue was the central reason for our visit. What a unique opportunity to proclaim the supremacy of our Savior in a land where He is not known. The Christian Fellowship Club, the only one in all of the Middle East as far as I know, did an outstanding job with all of the details. The event took place in the largest room available on campus. The room filled with some 275 people, overwhelmingly Muslim. Two years ago, we were able to distribute about 100 copies of the ESV outreach Bible. What a treat to see a lot of those Bibles show up again at this year's dialogue. In addition to those, we were able to distribute about 75 more Bibles this year.
An area mosque announced the event to the 600 persons on their mailing list. The wider the event, the greater the concern for a peaceful, constructive dialogue. Though a number of people, myself included, found themselves anxious about this issue, the Lord turned the room into a very hospitable and winsome atmosphere. Bassam and I were able to engage one another seriously and winsomely. The Lord enabled the gospel to go forward repeatedly throughout the event, including a concluding word of personal testimony about my conversion from Islam to faith in the Lord Jesus.
A senior advisor for Islamic Affairs attended the event. Following the dialogue, he very excitedly shared with others that such events should happen more often. Please pray for the King, the kingdom, and such officials in this region, that they would work to preserve religious liberty and the right of all people to worship according to their own conscience. Pray that this event would be precedent-setting and door-opening for the gospel in this region. Pray that the Lord would demonstrate His power through the gospel in the conversion of many.
The video of the dialogue should be up on YouTube at some point. Please check it out if it interests you. And please pray that the Lord would be pleased to extend the fruit of the dialogue across the region through this means.
We found out later that night, after having enjoyed so much of the Lord's favor, that two people dear to the saints here had been detained by the secret police in a nearby country. They've been caught up in an anti-Christian sweep being conducted by that government. Our joy melted into prayer for these brethren. This country is currently considering an anti-conversion law that would enforce a death penalty for Muslims who convert. In addition, some Christians suspected of affiliating with Westerners are in danger of being charged with treason and spying, also carrying the death penalty. Please pray for the nearly 100 Christian leaders who have been rounded up over recent months, and for these two brethren currently detained. The good news is we've heard from them since their arrest. But they still need the Lord's favor. Pray for their joy and strength in the Lord, and that the Lord would shake the jail causing the jailers to repent and believe.
Tuesday-Thursday included follow-up meetings with student leaders and some of the attendees at the dialogue. Again, the Lord showed great favor and blessing in these times. Stephen visited and shared at the host campus for the dialogue while I visited another university in a nearby city. I also had the wonderful privilege of catching up with dear friends during these days, friends first made while we were back in Washington, D.C. I felt like the Lord indulged me in these times.
Thursday night included a talk at the church's youth group. And Friday morning I spoke again at the church's two services. I was thankful for the Lord's sustaining grace on Friday, since I came down with some flu-like thing on Wednesday. We attended the evening service, where the church prayed for the saints and ministries back at FBC and celebrated the 19-year ministry of one of its elders now moving to Australia. A sweet time gathered with the Lord's people.
Saturday was spent with student leaders talking about spiritual leadership, its joys and challenges. The team went out to the dessert for a time of prayer and hymn singing. Finally starting to feel better, I stayed behind for a bit more rest.
It's been a tremendous week with much, much more to give God praise for. To see His sovereign hand at work here leaves one in awe! May He continue to make himself known and receive the praise of the elect among the people of this region!
Thank you for your prayers and encouragements. I trust the Lord will grant you an unfading crown for your love and kindness!
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