I am primarily an evangelist and teacher who travels around the world in apostolic ministry as God leads and enables me. In addition to preaching and teaching the Bible, I mentor our key partners to be more strategic and impactful for the Gospel in their countries and cultures, just as they continue to mentor me. I am relationally focused rather than program or project focused in ministry relationships and partnerships.
“As we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people,
especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
Dear Ministry Partners,
Thank you for your prayers for the people of Nepal who have been devastated by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake – with over 165 aftershocks that have continued to rock the country. The Kathmandu Valley has become “Death Valley” for thousands of people. To date the government says that around 5,000 people were killed and over 9,200 injured. However, because of the remote villages that were also impacted, the full details of the death and destruction will take more time to confirm. But initial reports say that some 8 million Nepalis were affected, with 1 million children in need.
Because of the constant aftershocks that continued for a couple of days after the initial earthquake, most Nepalis slept outside in makeshift conditions for fear of further collapses of the houses still standing.
Below is a picture of Hanok’s neighbors sleeping outside. Hanok slept in the cab of the truck that we were able to purchase for him last year.
While Nepal was the hardest hit, there were related shocks in neighboring India, Bangladesh and Tibet. Additionally, this powerful earthquake set off killer snow avalanches on Mt. Everest that resulted in the death of a number of climbers at Base Camp – including 4 Americans. Since I have been to Base Camp in the past, I know something of the challenges of the helicopter evacuations that had to take place.
This area is also the region where our partner, Pastor Sangge Sherpa, ministers through our “Everest Base Camp Outreach” (EBCO) that we have been supporting for over a dozen years. I received this picture below of Sangge baptizing a new believer in the high Himalayas the week before the earthquake. We have had a confirmation that he is safe.
As a 7.8-magnitude earthquake on the Richter scale, this earthquake ranks among the strongest ever recorded. It was the same magnitude as the 1906 killer earthquake that devastated San Francisco, and was over 20 times larger than the 2010 earthquake that killed several hundred thousand in Haiti. But like in Haiti, the densely populated 2.5 million people living in the Kathmandu Valley were very vulnerable because of the poor construction of the buildings and houses.
FROM CHURCH TO HEAVEN
Because the initial earthquake took place a little before noon this past Saturday, April 25th, most Christians were in church. In Nepal, the Christians all worship on Saturday. It is the Government’s day off rather than Sunday, so the churches were filled with worshiping Christians. As I shared in my previous email, Pastor Hanok Tamang said:
“I was about to start my third point on preaching at the church this morning when the building started to shake and bricks started to fall down and all the members who were listening to the message ran outside and I did the same.”
Fortunately no one was killed in the church where he was preaching. But many were killed in other churches that collapsed. The total death count among Christians has not yet been verified, but Hanok confirmed that 50 were killed in one church alone when the ceiling fell in on the congregation.
Since many Christians throughout Nepal worship in “house churches,” the damage and destruction has been great. There were many in Nepal this past week that went from the local church to the universal church in heaven.
Scores of Christian churches were badly damaged or destroyed by this earthquake – many of them built by our ministry. In addition, Pastor Hanok says that untold hundreds of homes of Christian families were totally destroyed. As per the Apostle’s admonition above, they will be our TOP PRIORITY of ministry in the days ahead.
Homes where Christians lost their lives.
Pastor Hanok and his team from the Aradhana Church have already been in action since the earthquake first hit last week. They are the Lord’s heart, eyes, ears, hands and feet in Nepal. They are also our “boots on the ground.” They are ministering to both the living and dead as you can see from the pictures below.
The red truck we bought for Pastor Hanok over 20 years ago has served as a hearse to carry dead bodies scores of times. Once again, it is being used to do the same after the earthquake.
CONCLUSIONS FOR NOW
Thanks for your continued prayers for Pastor Hanok and his team who are reaching out to the Christian community 24/7. The task will be big and long. There are no quick fixes for problems of this magnitude. So, we count on your continued faithful prayers and giving as the Lord enables you. The verse that precedes the one I shared at the top of this email says: “Let us not become weary in doing good …” (Gal. 6:9).
With all of the man-made and natural disasters in the world, we are each confronted with many needs every day – far more than we can fully take care of. If we are not careful, it is easy to develop a terminal case of “compassion fatigue” where we spiritually and emotionally shut down. It then becomes easier to just turn away and ignore the latest crisis. Shut our eyes. Stop our ears. Close our checkbooks.
But the Holy Spirit does not give us that option. Just as Jesus “… went around doing good …” (Acts 10:38), we must do the same. As Paul reminded Titus, Jesus Christ “… gave Himself for us to redeem us … for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:14).
Thanks to those of you who quickly and eagerly responded to my first appeal about Nepal. I hope others of you will be moved in your heart to do the same and give as you can. As always, we will deploy 100% of what you give to meet the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of the “suffering saints” in Nepal!
In His compassionate love for them,
JL & Patt
P.S. Thank you for your continued prayers for Dr. Josh Riggsbee and his wife Sarah, and their children, Chloe and Eli. As we mentioned in our previous email, Josh and Sarah are currently serving as missionaries in Nepal, and Sarah is the daughter of former NDI members Dick and Sheila Orcutt. We have received word that Sarah and the children have safely returned to their village, while Josh will remain in Kathmandu to coordinate medical relief efforts with Samaritan's Purse.
“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom,
and in various places there will be famines and EARTHQUAKES.
But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.”
Dear Ministry Partners,
This morning all of us awakened to the tragic news of yet more “signs of the times” that Jesus told us would increasingly mark these “last days” of human history. Most recently we have focused on the political signs of “... nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom” through the ISIS crisis in the Middle East. This international crisis created by Islamic terrorism will continue for years to come. So we will not stop our efforts there.
However, in the midst of our responses in Jordan to our persecuted and displaced Christian brethren from Iraq and Syria, we have to turn our attention to our displaced and hurting brothers and sisters in Nepal. Like each of you, I awoke this morning to the tragic news of the killer 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Nepal. To date there are reports that more than 1,500 have been killed and 40% of the country has been directly impacted. Just as was the case in the Haiti earthquake in 2010, the poorly built houses became crumbling death traps to people in times of earthquake! And the over-crowded conditions and poor infrastructure make quick response almost impossible.
Images of the horrific destruction of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake.
Just this morning, I received this timely email from our long-time partner, Pastor Hanok Tamang in Kathmandu. Ironically, he was preaching when the earthquake hit! Please read it carefully and then ask God what He would have you to do in response (emphasis mine)…
JL, by now you must have heard a horrible and horrendous news, caused by a most disastrous earthquake today.
It was nearly 8 rectors earthquake, which started to shake the buildings at 12 pm.
It was the time when I was about to start my third point on preaching at the Dahachowk church this morning. At the starting point of three, building started to shake and bricks started to fall down and all the members who were listening to the message ran outside and I did the same.
As I came out from the building, I saw the front exit was blocked by the wall that fell off. There was another exit from the toilet and that wall fell off too, but this provided us the exit to come out. As the Dahachowk is situated in higher altitude, we saw dust flying in the air, and Kathmandu remained dark caused by dust. As the dust cleared up and we saw many buildings destroyed, many lives crying under the rubble of the houses with severe pain.
JL, we are fine so far, but even after the major hit, we are still feeling the after-shocks of the earthquake and thousands of people have come out from their homes. I am writing this email by sitting in the open place of my house. All our neighbors are sitting with us.
At Aradhana Church, the new part of the building built by NDI years ago is good so far. But the older part of the building has been cracked much. The ceiling of my office fell down and the Mac laptop you gave me was smashed. I left it on my desk when I left to preach at the Dahachowk church earlier this morning. Even though I could not enter my office, I can see the dust and rubble all over my office on the table and chairs. My bookshelf fell off and books were scattered. But no one was injured. We cannot use the old part of the building anymore now.
Historic Bhimsen tower fell off and scattered into three pieces, many people died under the rubble of it. Over a million people will have to spend the night outside their home.
The Historic Bhimsen tower, before and after the earthquake.
I called my mom a few minutes ago, that being the area of epicenter of the earthquake, over four hundreds homes and several people died in my village. It is very sad and very unfortunates to see many casualties with major damage.
JL, so far we are doing fine, and God knows what transpires next, but God is in control of everything. Pray for us. Please share this with others as well.
I was able to immediately contact Hanok after receiving this email from him. He has made contact with Sister Laxmi at the Himali Children’s Home as well as with Pala Tshering at the Champa Choeling Home for Tibetan children. Both are ok, but huddled outside right now due to the on-going aftershocks that are still taking place. And, since it has started to rain in Kathmandu, this will make things more miserable for the survivors.
Because of our over 3 decades of close partnership with Pastor Hanok, we have been involved together in a number of relief efforts there after severe monsoon rains, floods and mud slides. So he is a veteran in this area of reaching out and giving aid in the Name of Christ. He will be our primary “boots on the ground” in bringing relief efforts to the needy. Therefore, we urge you to give what you can to our special “Nepal Earthquake Fund” (NEF) so we can immediately put some resources in his hands to use. And as always, 100% of what you give will go directly to the relief efforts.
Thanks for standing with us and with Pastor Hanok in this time of national crisis. As always, we do not fully understand the sovereign hand of the Lord in these horrific political events and natural disasters leading to so much loss of life! But we do know that He wants us to be His “salt” and “light” in those places to reflect His love and compassion. As Paul said about some adverse events in his life “My circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the Gospel” (Phil. 1:12). We pray that these horrific events will accomplish the same in Nepal through Hanok and the Body of Christ in Nepal.
I will continue to keep you updated, as Hanok is able to send me further reports. By faith, we have advanced Hanok several thousand dollars to begin relief efforts. We count on you to help replenish and increase these funds in the hours and days ahead.
In His Love & Compassion for Nepal,
PS: After writing the above quick report, I received an additional email from Hanok in response to my inquiry about his current ability to use the truck we recently bought him for relief effort …
Thank you JL, great to hear from you. Our two trucks are ready to hit the road. I am sitting in front of Barnabas villa where we have open space, all our neighbors are here. No light, dark night. In Nepal's history this will be darkest of the dark night. I am listening the news update constantly. Death toll has been increased, and due to darkness rescue endeavor has become difficult. There are several districts, which have been severely damaged, but our focus would be to help the household of God…Hanok.
Additionally, Sarah Orcutt Riggsbee, the daughter of Board member Dick Orcutt and his wife Sheila (also a member of the original New Directions singing group) and family are in Nepal. Dick and Sheila have received word that Sarah and her family are safe in another city, but do not know what damage was done to the town where they are ministering. Please pray for the continued safety of the Riggsbees: Sarah, Josh, and their children, Chloe and Eli (pictured at left).
“… you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering ...
you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution ...
you joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property,
because you knew that you had better and lasting possessions.”
Dear Ministry Partner,
In our first report on our recent time in Jordan, I began by quoting Paul’s words about the “ ... fellowship of His suffering” (Phil. 3:10). It was a fellowship with Christ that Paul faced in the First Century. Contemporary events show that this “… fellowship of suffering" has continued and increased into our Twenty-First Century. And since man’s sinful, rebellious nature has not changed through education, enlightenment and economic prosperity, this painful spiritual fellowship will go on until the Lord returns. The recent beheadings of Christians by ISIS radicals in Libya are but the latest manifestation of this religious barbarism!
While most of the rest of the world has experienced all manner of suffering, we Americans continue to be the exception to the rule. As a people, we have largely been exempt from the kinds of persecution and levels of suffering others have experienced as a direct result of their faith. Many of the peoples who first migrated to America did so to escape religious persecution in their home countries. As a result, our founding fathers wrote into our Constitution and Bill of Rights a level of religious freedom that few people in history have experienced and enjoyed for such a long period of time.
The architects of our Republic wisely established a "separation of church and state" that insured that elected officials could not take away our freedom of worship. It was the dictates of our hearts – not the mandates of government – that determined our religious practices according to the dictates of conscience. Until recently, that wall of separation insuring our freedom of religion and worship has stood tall and strong. Sadly, our current President and many of his liberal, leftist colleagues have increasingly reached across, around, under or over that wall of separation and begun to dictate political policy by fiat that directly mitigate against the spiritual conviction and conscience of millions of people.
As a result of this historic deconstruction, more and more of our Christian populous is being forced to go against the dictates of their conscience in areas of sexuality, marriage, family and social relationships. Definitions have been radically changed and relationships have been dangerously altered from their Biblical and historical meanings. Increasingly many of our public officials are calling the abnormal –“normal.” What was considered perverted and abnormal in the past is now the “new norm.” The moral labels are being switched. Many of our public officials have ignored the prophetic warning:
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight” (Isa. 5:20-21).
While I am neither paranoid nor captivated by “conspiracy theories,” only a willfully blind person cannot see the obvious here. Just as radical Islamic groups like ISIS will not tolerate any other belief but their own – to the letter of Sharia law – political correctness in America is headed rapidly down the same path of political and religious intolerance! Any and all other faiths other than the Judeo-Christian faiths are tolerated. The supposed virtues of Islam are increasingly touted and pontificated in clear contradiction to their bloody historic record of savage conquest across much of the globe since its inception in the 7th Century. At the same time, the clear historic record of the virtues of Christianity is being besmirched by innuendos, misrepresentation, and the clear contradiction of the historic record. That’s why we see both anti-Semitism and anti-Christianity on the rise in America and across the globe.
In America today, to go against the dictates of political policy and political correctness quickly lead to legal indictment, economic penalty and social vilification. This political overreach by our President and his associates is but the first step in a growing governmental jihad, or “holy war,” against the Judeo-Christian faith and Biblical foundation America was originally built upon. Overt legal persecution and social punishment is the next logical step. Nazism, Facism, Communism and Islamic Jihaddism prove the painful reality of political intolerance that leads to religious persecution. Unless things radically change through the next election cycle in 2016, it is just a matter of time until we Christian Americans will experience greater and greater degrees of the " ... fellowship of His suffering."
As Patt and I fellowshipped with the persecuted and displaced Christians from Iraq, we could not help but see the prophetic parallel between their plight and what we are rapidly headed toward in America. So, as you look at more of these pictures from our time in Jordan, I hope you will not feel detached from their situation. The spiritual and political intolerance that led to their carnage by ISIS is no longer “over there.” It is now “right here” in hometown America. To ignore or become insensitive to their situation only speeds the same political intolerance in America from the White House to the Court House!
Thank you for standing with us through your prayers, partnership and positive political activism. Once again, America and the world stand at a strategic crossroad. Whether we turn further to the “right” or the “left” will largely determine whether our children and grandchildren will live out their lives under the freedoms we have enjoyed. Or will they live under an Islamic America where only the radical dictates of Allah through Mohamed will rule through their Caliphate?!
JL & Patt
COMPASSION THROUGH CARITAS
One of the wonderful organizations we had the privilege of working through was Caritas. We first became aware of their extensive work all over Jordan through our friendship and partnership with Ambassador Lewis Lucke. After his 3 months of being our American “boots on the ground” in Jordan through USAID, Lew found Caritas to be doing one of the most wide and diverse works with the refugees across Jordan. They just needed more resources to help feed, clothe, house and treat those displaced from both Iraq and Syria. Because of your generous giving to us, we were able to give to and through them. What a confirmation it was to visit several of their works while we were in Jordan.
Patt listening to the heartrending stories of women, mothers, and grandmothers
who lost everything to radical Islam. Their Muslim neighbors whom they had lived
in peace with for generations turned on them when ISIS arrived.
Mothers like this one now live in an uncertain
future about where their daughters will grow up.
We visited some of the small partitioned rooms in the church where these
Christian refugees are living - still preparing for Palm Sunday celebrations!
This dear sister showed us her Arabic Bible, one of the
few precious possessions she was able to escape with from Iraq.
Spiritual and physical food to nourish both soul and body ...
... and good medical attention to treat the various illnesses
that many refugees had upon arrival.
After hearing the story of this Iraqi man who lost everything, we gave some
small toys to the children to bring some joy into their lives.
THE ORAL WORD
Among the most important things we took to Jordan were 100 “Solar Bibles” in Arabic to distribute to the people. We have found in other refugee situations that displaced people have a lot of time on their hands with nothing to do. They are generally not allowed to work by their host country, in this case Jordan. Finding ways to positively fill the long hours and days is a great challenge. So, giving them God’s Word in their “heart language” is one of the greatest things we can do. These Jordanian Christian leaders below were two of the people we equipped with these vital tools – each one made possible by the $25 contribution from partners like you. Because of our past experience, we know that God’s Word will not return empty (Isa. 55:10-11). Please pray that as scores of Iraqi Christians listen to God’s Word in the weeks and months ahead, it will bring them the comfort, strength and hope of Christ.
One of the last experiences we had in Jordan was to worship with some of our Arab brothers and sisters in Christ. The music was a combination of East and West … Jordan and America ... English and Arabic. What a joy it was to have this small foretaste of heaven with various languages blended in worship to the Lord Jesus! And how special it was to hear the word “Allah” being used positively in praise to the true and living God. Most Americans and Westerners forget that “Allah" is the Arabic word for the Jehovah God of the Bible that Arabs were using long before Mohamed was ever born. There were thriving Jewish and Christian communities on the Arabian Peninsula long before Islam was born as a religion through the supposed revelations to Mohamed through the angel Gabriel. Sadly, this very appropriate Arab word for God was “hijacked” by Mohamed from the Jews and Arab Christians. This false religious prophet redefined the word “Allah” to mean the god who had supposedly spoken to him through a series of revelations in a cave over a period of years.
However, we should not be surprised by this “counterfeit allah.” As the “god of this age” (II Cor. 4:4), Satan has always sought to distort the Name and nature of the true God. From eternity past, he has sought to divert the worship that the true God deserves to the counterfeit worship of himself - which he gets through every other false religion or cult. Every religion has a "counterfeit allah” for the true God of the Bible. The Jehovah Witnesses give a false witness to the true Jehovah of the Old Testament. The Mormons have a counterfeit Jesus contrary to the one in the New Testament. The Muslims have the “Isa” of the Koran who is a counterfeit to the Jesus of the Bible.
Biblical and secular history shows that Satan constantly seeks to distort and confuse the Name and nature of the true God by redefining Him. One thing for sure, the day is soon coming when “ … every knee will bow and every tongue confess that JESUS IS LORD to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11). So we can be sure that the “counterfeit allah” of Islam will one day soon be exposed for the false god he is.
More importantly, the millions who are living under the spiritual darkness and bondage of Islam will see the truth when God reveals Himself to the world in His Second Coming. But even now, He is doing so through dreams, visions, supernatural visitations and media exposure, through which the Lord Jesus is already liberating untold numbers of Muslims from the religious deception of Islam. And He is sovereignly using radical groups like ISIS to expose the true nature of this demonic religion for what it is – a spiritual counterfeit from the one who “… masquerades as an angel of light” (II Cor. 11:14).
In His Love,
PS: If you have not ordered your “Nun” lapel pin for a gift of $25, please do so. Wearing this pin is a timely way to publicly “fly your flag,” and to identify with our persecuted Christian brethren in the Middle East.
“… you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering …
you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution …
you joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property,
because you knew that you had better and lasting possessions.”
Dear Ministry Partners,
Fellowship is one of the defining words of Christianity. It describes our relationship with God and with each other. Sadly, our fellowship with each other in the Body of Christ is often on the surface and superficial. The Apostle Paul found out that one of the things that drives us to a deeper relationship with God and with each other is suffering. That’s because suffering burns away everything else that tends to distract and detour us from an intimate heart-to-heart fellowship with God and each other. For that reason, Paul prayed that he would “… know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering” (Phil. 3:10).
Frankly, the “fellowship of His suffering” is a spiritual reality that most of us do not want to experience! It’s a spiritual fraternity in which we do not want a membership. We prefer the “fellowship of His peace and prosperity.” But the “school of suffering” is where we earn our graduate degrees in authentic spirituality, selfless living and servant leadership. It’s the way of the cross and self-surrender.
In the last two weeks, Patt and I were privileged to vicariously experience a little of the “fellowship of His suffering” as we met with persecuted and displaced Christians from Iraq. Their personal stories were both heartbreaking and heartwarming. How humbling it was to sit with brothers and sisters in Christ who had lost everything overnight to radical Islamists. To hear the personal stories of people who had been “… publicly exposed to insult and persecution” and had experienced the “… confiscation of their property.”
By now, you should have received our initial email we sent from Jordan titled: “Windows on Jordan.” For the sake of the people we were meeting with, that introductory email was rather general and focused primarily on some of the historic antiquity of Jordan. That part of the Middle East is both the cradle of civilization and the cradle of Christianity. So it has a spiritual and cultural richness that long predates the birth of Mohamed and rise of Islam.
In this e-letter, Patt and I want to share with you some of the pictures of the “persecuted saints” we met with in Jordan, and also some of the Christian leaders who were our link with these dear people who have lost everything to ISIS – except their faith in Christ!
As you look at the pictures that follow, know that your prayers and financial gifts were what made our ministry to them possible. Prior to our going to Jordan, we had sent funds to help several church ministries who were housing these displaced Christians. We also took in more money to give while we were there as the Spirit prompted us. And as the Lord provides additional funds through our partnership with you, we will send in more to assist and bless them in the weeks and months ahead.
In my reports that will follow in the coming weeks, I will share more pictures and commentary on the political situation, Islam, America and the state of the church there and here.
But in this first follow-up report, meet some of the people in Jordan you have touched through your prayers and partnership …
A FATHER LIKE OUR “ABBA, FATHER”
One of the first people Ambassador Lewis Lucke networked us with was Father Khalil Ja'ar and his Messengers of Peace Association. His church was among the first to take in refugees from Iraq after the bloody invasion of ISIS. Fortunately, his church had a large courtyard and a building that could be quickly converted into housing quarters for families.
Patt and I were deeply moved as we sat in his small office and listened to his personal testimony of how Christ had sovereignly prepared him for this latest assignment. As an Arab who had been born in Bethlehem, Palestine (or Israel as we generally call it in the West), God uniquely prepared him to minister to these people from another country and Christian tradition. God first called him to minister in a predominantly Jewish area of Palestine to the very people who were his “enemies” that he grew up hating. After his time there in God’s school of suffering, he learned to love everyone through Christ regardless of their race or religion.
After years of effective ministry in Palestine, God called Father Ja'ar to this church on the outskirts of Amman with an aging population. Little did he know at the time that God was about to fill his facility to overflowing with needy sheep from Iraq!
As they came with nothing, looking for anything and everything – he welcomed them with an open-heart … open arms … and open church facilities. The first wave of Iraqi refugees came last September as ISIS invaded their hometowns of Bagdad, Mosul, Kirkush, etc. What was to be a temporary situation has now stretched into months. But by faith, Father Ja'ar continues to feed, clothe and house them – supported by people like us and other concerned Christians in the West.
As the name of his organization notes, he is truly a messenger of peace through the Lord Jesus …
Some of the children and adults from Iraq who have become
Father Ja'ar's congregation 24/7.
The church courtyard has become a place for the children to have informal
schooling, as well as place to play in safety and security. When Father Ja'ar
first started the program, he expected 50 - 60 children from the
camps ... but 250 arrived! Just as we are about to start our tour,
a new couple arrives from Iraq with their papers, asking for
help and housing.
Patt met and heard the story of this young wife, who lost everything, as she
and her husband and children fled the ISIS Jihadists. ISIS killed this elderly
Iraqi Christian's entire family, took his home, and all of his possessions.
Although he is the lone survivor, he finds comfort in the company of
the other refugees at the church.
Father Ja'ar with 2 of the many lambs the Good Shepherd
has entrusted to his care. The hallway of his former
church offices were petitioned with bedspreads and
converted into living quarters for 12 families.
Father Ja'ar showed Patt the small living quarters for
some of the families, and a typical temporary
home for an entire family, where they sleep, eat, and live.
Patt with several of the teenage girls, who have lived here for months. One of
them said: "If you could have seen my nice room in my home in Iraq - and
now I sleep on the floor on a mat." Father Ja'ar showed me his former
church office that is now the living quarters for this young boy and his family.
A CHURCH FAMILY FROM IRAQ
Each day before the noon meal, all of the adults living in the church and surrounding camps come together for a brief meeting, a time of fellowship and a cup of Arab coffee. What a privilege it was to sit with these people who had lost both their physical homes and their church building in Iraq to the destructive and deadly hands of the Islamists.
Overnight, ISIS gave these people the option:
"Convert or die."
As we entered the room in the church basement, they stood to honor their priest
who had fled with them, to honor Father Ja'ar who had taken them in, and to
honor us, as people from America who are standing with them. It was all Patt and
I could do to fight away the tears!
We came to honor them as the real spiritual heroes. Since it was Holy Week,
we would have liked to wash each of their feet, just as Christ did for His
disciples before going to the cross. Father Ja'ar and the priest from Iraq
who had his church totally destroyed by ISIS are pictured at right.
Together they continue to be the spiritual shepherds
for these displaced Christian people. This group of Iraqi Christians
are from ancient Assyria and speak Aramaic, the language
Jesus spoke. While we were there, they sang and prayed in Aramaic.
A FELLOWSHIP LUNCH WITH SAINTS
After our time with all of the adults, we went to the living quarters again for lunch with the 12 Iraqi Christian families. Because of our financial support of them, they wanted to honor us by having lunch together. Certainly one of the great symbols of Christian fellowship is “breaking bread together” in the love of Christ.
Before lunch was served, Patt visited some of the wives and mothers
who take turns cooking the daily meals in the small church kitchen.
The ladies do a wonderful job cooking whatever food the Lord provides that day.
We enjoyed soup, eggplant, fresh vegetables, pita bread, French fries, chicken,
and hummus. (I saw that one of the boys had put peanut butter on his bread!)
It was a great honor to share words of encouragement and to bless the food.
What a joy it was to eat this Arab meal with these dear people!
As we ate our lentil soup and pita sandwich, Father Ja'ar
continued to tell us story after story from his new flock,
and how God continues to miraculously provide for their
daily needs. It costs $150-$200 per day to feed the
12 families who live in the church. His love for the
children is especially evident, through how he feeds
the spiritually, physically, and emotionally.
After the meal, we continued to fellowship with Father Ja'ar and the adults,
enjoying traditional Arab tea. This dear man at right is an example of the plight
of the majority of Iraqi Christians. He is an educated and experienced engineer
who lost his job, home, and possessions when he had to flee ISIS. Now he is
not allowed to work in Jordan, and faces each day with nothing productive
to do, but wait, pray, and hope that he and his family will soon be repatriated
to America, Canada, or Australia. Iraqi Christians are well educated ... some
are doctors, lawyers, surgeons, engineers, and teachers ... and will be a
blessing to whatever country takes them in.
We always try to take in a suitcase full of small toys and school supplies
for the children. Father Ja'ar distributed the toys and supplies, which the
children were happy to receive.
Some of the teenage girls were given hair bows and warm tights, provided
to us by a ministry partner.
A beautiful picture of Christ in typical Middle East iconic imagery,
painted by a 12 year old refugee boy. He hopes to sell his
artwork as a way to help support his family.
Before leaving, Father Ja'ar showed us a personal "Letter of Appreciation"
given him by Queen Rania. The Queen had wanted to present this letter
to Father Ja'ar on national television, but he refused. So, she came to
the church, and presented it to him there. While we are thankful for his
spiritual humility in the face of this recognition from Queen Rania, I rejoice
that he will one day receive a far greater eternal recognition from Christ
in heaven when He says to him: "Well done, good and faithful servant!"
A SMALL GARDEN FOR THE MOTHERS & CHILDREN
Before leaving to visit another group of refugees, Father Ja'ar showed us an abandoned area on his church property that had been taken over by weeds and debris. To give the refugees something productive to do, he was letting them clean the area to make a small “Garden of Eden” with shrubs and flowers where the mothers could be with their children. Since Patt and I love gardening and landscaping, we were honored to donate funding to complete the gardening project.
Soon this area will be a place of beauty and tranquility for the benefit
of these dear people.
Thanks for your spiritual and financial investment
with us in this wonderful minstry by Father Khalil Ja'ar.
“DEAD SEA” OR “SEA OF GALILEE"?
Overlooking the Dead Sea, with Palestine/Israel
in the distance.
Thanks for taking a few moments to read this first in a series of reports on our recent time in Jordan. We have MUCH MORE to share with you in the days ahead. So be watching for our next report. Until then, know that you are helping us make a real difference in these people beloved by God. Most have been through a degree of the “fellowship of His suffering” that we cannot relate to here in America.
This closing picture above of us, overlooking the Dead Sea, is an appropriate place to end this first report. As you know, the Dead Sea is the lowest place on planet earth. I think it is also a spiritual parable of the current situation in the Middle East. Islamic radicals like ISIS have plunged the world into new depths of depravity. Once again, we are seeing the very lowest expressions of human and demonic depravity in the name of religion – specific Islam. Their misguided religious fanaticism has motivated them to express the sin, evil and hatred that reside in the heart of every member of Adam’s fallen race. Only the transforming grace of Jesus Christ can change them – or us – into lovers rather than haters … life-givers rather than killers … peacemakers rather than warmongers.
But there is another lesson from the Dead Sea. When you have too dense a concentration of salt, it kills life rather than purifying and seasoning it. That’s our problem in American Christianity. When Jesus called us to be the “salt of the earth,” He meant that we should penetrate our spheres of influence with His life and love – not concentrate it on ourselves. In church after church, we have far too high a density of salt that is concentrated in the “ecclesiastical salt shaker” – rather than out in the world bringing preservation and seasoning to life! All around us there is decay and death in every area of existence – whether political, economic, social, cultural or relational. ISIS is simply the latest collective expression of this human devolution toward corruption and destruction. Contrary to the idealism and naïveté of Darwin, we are not evolving upward – but downward to lower and lower depths of depravity. Just as water settles to its lowest level, each of us, left to ourselves, sinks lower and lower into the Dead Sea of our own “selfism”.
North of the Dead Sea is the Sea of Galilee, which gives us a far different picture. The melting snow from the heights of Mt. Hermon feed the Jordan River that flows in and out of this lake teaming with life. That’s to be a picture of each of us. We are to let God’s blessings flow “in and out” of our lives – bringing life and blessing to others. We are not to be like the Dead Sea, accumulating more and more for ourselves. As God told the patriarch Abraham: “I will bless you and make you a blessing” (Gen. 12:2-3).
Thanks for helping Patt and me be like the River Jordan and Sea of Galilee to some of our persecuted and displaced Christians from Iraq and Syria. You are helping us be a “river of life” to them through your prayers and giving.
Until our next report …
JL & Patt
Dear Friends & Partners,
Loving greetings from Patt and me in Amman, Jordan – the “Hashumite Kingdom.” What a great joy it is to be here over Holy Week, to come alongside our Jordanian friends and partners – but especially the persecuted and displaced Christians from Iraq and Syria. I will be sharing much more about our time with them in the days ahead. But first, I want to give you a brief panorama of this ancient City that has been ruled by a number of empires from antiquity to modernity. So we begin with a trip to the top of the old city where the “Citadel” once stood …
One of the great-untold stories in America and the West is the significant role Christianity played in Jordan long before the Muslims conquered it. Here is the site of an ancient church in the Citadel, dating back to the 2nd and 3rd Centuries.
The ancient Roman Amphitheatre below is one of the marks that the Romans left everywhere they went in the world.
Patt & I in front of the Roman Amphitheatre. At right, I am pointing to the Amphitheatre in the distance.
The Ancient Roman Amphitheatre.
The plaque at left details the history of this ancient country.
Patt & I overlooking the Jordan Valley with Israel,
or Palestine, on the other side.
The largest Muslim mosque in the city, built by the late
King Hussein. The mosque dominates the skyline, and
announces that this is a Moslem city and country.
PALM SUNDAY WITH THE IRAQI REFUGEES
While you celebrated Easter this past Sunday in America, we celebrated Palm Sunday in Jordan, as they are on the Eastern Church Calendar here and we in America are on the Western Calendar. This coming Sunday is Easter Sunday here in Jordan and in most of the rest of the Middle East.
Patt and our host Yarub, outside the temporary housing
for the first wave of refugees at a local Catholic Church.
Preparing for the Palm Sunday march into the church, Patt,
with her olive branches, is ready to march with the refugees
and their Jordanian Christian friends.
The service was in Arabic, the official language
in Jordan and in much of the Arab Middle East.
Walking with Jesus on Palm Sunday.
Preparing to enter the church for the Palm Sunday service. The service
took place inside the first church to take in the Iraqi refugees.
Sharing a "nun" pin with a leading Jordanian Christian businessmen,
who expressed his deep appreciation to American Christians who are
standing with them through prayers and financial support.
We enjoyed fellowshipping with one of the Bible Study groups
from the church who are helping the refugees.
Patt shared with an Iraqi father and daughter, who had to flee with nothing
but the clothes on their backs because of ISIS. What a humbling experience to
be with these persecuted saints who have given up everything - but Jesus!
Patt enjoyed fellowship with 3 generations of Orthodox Christians.
At right are our wonderful hosts, Yarub & Lina, who have entertained us
royally with traditional Christian Arab hospitality!
Our Palm Sunday feast with our Arab hosts,
enjoying a delicious Arab meal with multiple courses.
It has been a humbling experience to spend these days visiting various groups of refugees from Iraq. After this brief look through this "window on Jordan," I will send further reports and pictures from our visits with our persecuted brothers and sisters.
Until then, know how MUCH Patt and I appreciate your prayers and financial support that is making all we do here possible. As always, we feel we have received much more than we have given. We are so thankful to be able to do what we have done so far, and we believe this is but the "first fruit" of more partnerships and projects here in the weeks and months ahead. Obviously, this is one of the most crucial "hot spots" spiritually and politically on the globe.
Thanks for being here with us!
In His love for them ...
J. L. & Patt
PS: Thanks again to all of you who have given to this need. And for those of you who have not yet given, let me remind you again about our current efforts to raise funds for these precious brothers and sisters who have lost everything because of ISIS. For every gift of $25 or more, we want to send you this “N” pin, the Arabic letter "nun", representing the word “Nazarene,” a name for Jesus in the Koran. It is the symbol painted on Christian homes for destruction and death. Wearing this pin is a wonderful way for you to publicly identify with the plight of these believers, to remember to pray for them, and to help raise consciousness of this growing international crisis.