Shalom dear friends!
Recently we returned with our team from amazing few days in Turkey, where we had the privilege to be a part of an annual Middle Eastern underground reconciliation conference. The opportunity to gather with fellow believers from all over the Middle East was so invaluable, to share with one another reports on what God is doing in our nations, to pray for one another has been so encouraging and powerful.
We heard some incredible reports on what is happening in countries such as Syria, Egypt, Iraq, etc. The reality of most believers in this part of the world can be so different from other places, the persecutions our middle eastern brothers face is so severe that their lives are in constant danger. Which is one of the reasons they are so passionate about Jesus, they don’t have the luxury to get comfortable in their faith, precisely because their reality makes it that much more difficult to follow Christ in a country that can execute you just for being a follower of Jesus.
The testimonies and reports we heard were powerful and gave us a glimpse into the reality many of our brothers in Christ live in; darkness covering their nations, threats of war, privation of freedom, constant danger.
For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you. (Isaiah 60:2)
Despite all these hardships and unspeakable challenges, we have seen resilient and passionate followers of Yeshua, who are continuously being encouraged by the Holy Spirit to do the impossible even in the midst of harsh circumstances.
Azerbaijan is currently the only country in the middle east that has diplomatic relations with Israel, so when we met a pastor from there who shared with us about the amazing report from his country, we were so excited to hear how powerfully God is moving in their nation.
Apparently the government sought out local Azerbaijani pastors and openly asked them to expand their work, plant more churches, increase in numbers. They had two reasons for asking that:
- Azerbaijan government is very interested in developing their ties with the western countries, and they realize they have to show how progressive their views are, how much tolerance and freedom other religions have in their countries.
- Another reason: They openly oppose radical Islam. Despite being an officially a muslim country, they acknowledge that most of the problems come from radical Islam, so they want to ensure Christians keep growing in numbers, because they see it also as a way to stand against the radicalization of their nation.
Iraq is a country that has seen its share of horrors, war and destruction. The living conditions in Baghdad are unimaginable with power outages that last for hours every day, unequipped hospitals that aren’t able to help people, collapsed sewer system, no running hot water, on top of daily threats of terror on the city streets.
Those are but a few of the things Sarkis, an Armenian pastor from Baghdad shared with us. These are the conditions they live, work and minister in!
Sarkis’s family has been living in Baghdad for 15 centuries, since the byzantine era, and his family preserved their Armenian culture, their Christian faith, despite the turmoil and the changes that region has seen over the centuries.
He now trains pastors and leaders, and a big part of his work is devoted to humanitarian aid for muslim orphans, both local and refugees. There are so many children that have lost their entire families to war and terrorism, he makes sure they are taken care of.
Sarkis also urged me to communicate to our dear friend abroad that despite Iraq being a challenging place, there is a green zone where the U.S. Army controls and maintains a neutral and safe place, and where people could come and stay at a local hotel, meet local believers and minister to them. It would all be safe and done within the Green Zone. So if you have a heart for these nations that are facing unimaginable circumstances and you wish to minister to them, there is a way.
We were all so blessed by the time we got to spend with our Arab brothers in Turkey during the conference, to get a chance to connect with them, share the love of Christ that unites us as One New Man, being able to encourage them in their struggles and pray for one another – that is invaluable to us all and we’re grateful to have had this opportunity this year again.
Love and blessings,
Pastor Israel Pochtar