Surrounded by people made desperately poor by the COVID-19 pandemic, Nizar* knew he should have felt good about his life among the privileged classes in the Middle East.
Instead, the 26-year-old son of wealthy Muslims was deeply troubled – by his mother’s prayers for him.
An intelligent young man whose curiosity had led him to explore the New Testament, Nizar’s heart stirred when he’d read about the Christ sent by God to save people from sin. He’d found out more about Jesus of Nazareth from local missionaries he’d discovered online, and they’d led him to put his trust in Christ.
“He became a believer, and his mother heard about it,” the leader of a local ministry said. “As she is a very strict Muslim lady, she began doing 50 Muslim prayers each day – 40 of these prayers is the norm for most strict Muslims – in order to get her son back into the Muslim faith.”
Nizar was well aware of her prayers, and they so aggrieved him that he brought up his mother for prayer at every church meeting, the leader said.
“He said, ‘I love my mother, and her attitude is causing me to feel hurt,’” he said.
The local missionaries and other church members prayed for her regularly with him. At the time, neither Nizar nor the fellowship realized how their prayers were having any effect.
“One day Nizar came to us with great excitement,” the leader said. “He said, ‘A miracle has happened. My mother saw Jesus in her dream, then decided to view our videos to learn all about Him, and now she believes in Jesus!’”
The Islamic, day-long fast of Ramadan was underway, and his mother was asking him how and when Christians fast, Nizar told the ministry leader.
“It’s wonderful how God is answering prayers, causing changed lives in this country,” the leader said.
Having planted five churches along a major coastline in the region, the ministry’s local missionaries marveled at other ways God has answered prayer. They recently established their first fellowship farther inland.
“After a number of folks there were hearing the gospel by internet, and with the help of one or two refugee believers, they also received Jesus and were baptized,” the leader said. “We continue connecting with them, enabling them to worship our Lord and grow in their faith.”
The congregation has now rented a facility for worship, a milestone in their development and a culturally important step for attaining legitimacy in the native culture.
The leader was further encouraged that one of the churches the ministry planted has made room at its new facility for services of other nationalities worshipping in their own languages. He said support from Christian Aid Mission donors allowed local missionaries to share God’s love with a number of refugees who eagerly put their faith in Christ and sought a place to worship in their own languages.
“Now in the building there’s a meeting for believers from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan,” the leader said. “It’s been a joy to plant the spiritual seeds as we helped refugees in this area. At this time there are about 10 national believers at this church. Due to your prayers, there are now about 71 believers from other nations as well.”
At the same time, he said, in his country there aren’t enough churches to serve those who wish to gather for worship. One elderly man who heard the gospel from his sister and believed in Christ kept begging for the native missionaries to visit him in his distant city, saying he wanted to be baptized.
“Since it’s hard to baptize a person without a church in their city, we invited him to come visit us so we could baptize him,” the ministry leader said. “Even though he is an older man and not in good health, he was willing to be baptized in the cold waters. We pray that God would use men like him in other cities of our country to draw many into the kingdom and live like disciples of Jesus in their unchurched areas.”
The pandemic has put many people out of work and cut the hours of others, with refugees hit especially hard, the leader said.
“The refugee population is in such despair that finding food to stay alive has become very difficult,” he said. “We do our best to share what you send to us with those with no jobs who are struggling to survive. Families feel like they’re in perpetual quarantine these days, so we do what we can to get medicine and food supplies to them.”
The needs of refugees contributed toward the founding of the new inland church, he added.
“Some time ago we used some of the funds coming to us to help the refugees in that area,” he said. “They began to come to us for food, not just for their stomachs, but for their spirits as well. The few believers there helped us to meet these needs, and the gospel was given together with loving help to them. Those who accepted Christ as refugees ministered together with the new believers in the area. Without your generous donations we couldn’t have done this, so we’re considering you a big part of the evangelization of this area.”
Such work is going on throughout the Middle East. Please consider a donation today to help native workers bring the love of Christ to the physically and spiritually hungry.
*Name changed for security reasons