When the leader of a ministry based in the Middle East recently went to a prison to tell inmates about salvation in Christ, he knew from experience it was not normal for the official checking his ID to tell him to take a seat.
Then another person in the uniform of a top prison officer approached him, he said.
“He pulled me aside, causing me to think that he might be going to arrest me,” the leader said. “But he then said, ‘Greetings, Ahmad*,’ which really surprised me – how did he know my name?”
In low tones, the officer told him he had watched his video sermons on the internet – and had hoped to come visit him, some day. The ministry leader was in awe of how God could reach people from all walks of life, he said.
“This kind of news remains so hidden, and it reminds me of how Nicodemus came to Jesus at night,” he said. “I felt so much joy over how the gospel is being shared so powerfully with the help of this officer and the internet.”
Recently the leader heard from another person at the prison he had never met – an inmate who had requested and received a New Testament from the ministry. He sent the leader a letter stating that he had read it through, earnestly studying each Gospel and letter. Ahmad was surprised to read that he had learned the ministry’s address from another inmate in a separate section of the prison.
“There must be other Christians in the prison, and they are sharing the gospel with each other as they have come to faith in Jesus and are sharing the Bible with one another,” he said.
The inmate stated that he’d been sentenced to many years in this prison and, among other things, that the facility was cold, and he needed warm clothing. The leader said he was thankful to be able to help the prisoners physically and spiritually with the support of Christian Aid Mission, and that he was especially encouraged by the letter.
“For many years we’ve supplied a helpful service to those in prison and we wondered if the books we were sharing were, indeed, read,” he said. “We wondered if the newspapers and radio stations we advertised to them were being ignored. This thinking was proven wrong – we are seeing evidence that the spiritual seeds sown are reaping amazing fruit. The letter sent to us by this prisoner showed us how God is opening many hearts in the prison.”
Kids for the Kingdom
Children also have surprised the leader.
The church he pastors has many children between the ages of 7 and 14, and before presenting them with gifts last Christmas, local missionaries asked them to draw a picture on the theme, “What we must do during this pandemic.”
“Interestingly, most of them shared pictures expressing how Christ Jesus will save us from this pandemic,” Ahmad said. “The pictures show how they believe victory over this pandemic is as we pray, so their encouragement to all of us adults was to spend more time in prayer to Jesus. How wonderfully God uses these children, who didn’t even know anything about Jesus just a year ago.”
Often kids are the gateways to winning their parents to Christ, he said. A church lay leader’s family was visiting another family whose father is atheist and the mother Baha’i when the Christian family’s children showed the couple’s daughter, Noura*, some picture books of biblical stories. The Christian kids also told Noura what they loved about the church’s children’s program, Ahmad said.
Noura then asked her mother to take her to the Sunday gatherings, and as they visited over several weeks, the leader occasionally had opportunities to share the gospel with the mother, he said.
“She said to me, ‘I’m not a Christian, but my daughter loves coming to this church – she wakes me up early each Sunday saying, “Let’s go to church,” so I come to please her,’” he said. “I’m noticing that, as she keeps coming, her heart is softening, and faith in Jesus is blossoming. I believe that her new birth into the Kingdom will happen soon.”
He said he has seen parents eager to please their children in people from various cultures, including refugees from conflict areas.
“We notice this as we hand out boxes of supplies to refugees – they will ask us, ‘Can you possibly share some milk with us for our children? My child doesn’t have shoes for winter, are there any warm shoes or socks?’” he said. “You see, instead of asking for themselves, they want their children’s needs met first, even if it means they as parents go hungry.”
He and his team make special efforts to meet the needs of refugee children from Syria and elsewhere, he said. The COVID-19 pandemic has left many refugees jobless and, unable to pay rent or electricity bills, they have returned to tent camps that winter rains have covered in mud, he said.
“Everywhere it’s very cold,” he said. “I was going to tell them to wear socks but, after I saw the mud everywhere, I knew that it was better not to wear socks. We bought so many boots for them and distributed them so that at least their feet will not be covered in mud.”
The ministry has an urgent need for blankets and winter clothes, he said.
“We need baby food and diapers; they are always in need of food,” he added. “Please pray for these people who are tough-looking but with a very soft heart.”
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*Names changed for security reasons