Stories of Impact

Tools in His Hand

tools-in-his-handsThe man was clearly intrigued by the Christian faith. He showed a lot of interest and kept asking questions. So when he said he could never actually become a Christian, Shakir wondered why. The man's reason? "Jesus will change me, all the people will notice, and then I will be afraid."

His awareness that Jesus changes lives is a testimony to the Christians he has observed, but it was also a source of anxiety. He was certain his wife would overhear some words—a prayer, a mumbled Bible verse, some Christian utterance that would expose him, and then he would be shunned by his family and possibly killed. He was afraid of the people in his own home.

This is the kind of environment in which Shakir and Mirah (not their real names) work. Their dream is to print Bibles and distribute them in their country, but for now they simply smuggle as many as they can into the country from outside. Shakir has already been imprisoned once, and though he was released after a couple of weeks, the arrest exposed his work to the rest of the neighborhood. Now Mirah feels that she needs to protect the children by keeping them from standing in front of the window for very long.

Shakir was shocked that God allowed him to get caught and asked why, and the answer he heard was firm. "When you work with Me, you must work with My plan. You are like a tool in my hand. Don't tell me how to use you."

Since his release, Shakir has seen the wisdom in God's plan. One of the neighbors, a sheikh, secretly asked for a Bible and is now reading it. Some other neighbors, who were instrumental in betraying him to the police, thought he had only been nice to them to avoid getting caught, marvel that he is still nice to them after his capture. They can't understand why Christians don't return hostility for hostility, and the surprising response of grace is changing their minds.

Meanwhile, Shakir and Mirah refuse to live in fear and continue to see miracle after miracle as God opens doors for their work. One day they hope to start a church with the people whose lives have been changed by reading Bibles the couple has distributed.

Most areas of the Middle East and North Africa are not nearly as restrictive as the country where Shakir and Mirah work. Contrary to the perceptions of many in the West, the Word of God is taught very freely in some. But some countries in this part of the world have been in transition—"upheaval" might be a more appropriate word in places—and no one knows exactly where those transitions will lead. A lot has changed in the region in the last two years.

One thing that hasn't changed is that churches are still faithfully ministering, the Bible is still being printed, distributed, and read, and Walk Thru the Bible is still active in areas that would surprise many. Christians are very active, finding even more opportunities to reach out than ever before. They don't talk about it much in some places because of the possible consequences, but biblical resources are making a difference in the lives of people who are, in turn, making a difference.

Egyptians Christians wonder how the country's recent changes will impact them. Basma is a young believer who fears that women may one day be required to "cover"—to wear head coverings or even full burqas—and forbidden to work outside the home. What will her single-mother friend do to support her family? How can Christians creatively provide assistance to fellow believers as well as Muslims if economic hardships shift into crisis mode? She doesn't think such developments are likely, but they are possible, and the uncertainty is unsettling.

On the other hand, she's encouraged that Christians have been having deeper encounters with God since the revolution, and many Muslims have developed a spiritual openness that wasn't present before the political and social transitions. The near future may be a season of Egypt's greatest dangers and greatest opportunities.

Likewise, Christians in Syria are experiencing enormous dangers as explosions rack their cities daily, yet they are finding more opportunities to minister to those in need. That happens when needs rise to the surface as drastically as they have in this war-torn country, and the new opportunities are giving churches the occasion to teach the biblical story and apply it to marriages and families and individuals going through traumatic experiences. Walk Thru the Bible courses on endurance, character, and relationships are critical in such moments of spiritual opportunity. They draw people into the kingdom because they address relevant, pressing issues.

So Walk Thru the Bible resources are impacting lives sometimes overtly and sometimes under the radar in countries across this region. They are being broadcast into millions of homes on TV and radio by satellite and on computers via the Internet, sold in the West Bank's first Christian bookstore, taught openly in established churches and classrooms, taught informally in house churches, used in counseling practices, and even integrated into one Islam-dominated government's training program for public employees.

In the coming years, some countries in this region will continue to transition into political futures that are still far from certain, some will continue to allow the same freedoms and openness to Christians they always have, and some will continue to enforce extremely strict policies against Christian activities. In all areas, hearts will continue to open to the truth of salvation in Jesus and the kingdom of God. He finds a way to get His Word into the hands and hearts of those who seek Him.

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