“Pastor Samuel* must die,” Prasad declared. “Make sure it happens.”
Obediently, two men took their weapons and went to carry out Prasad’s order.
Prasad was a leader of a fanatical anti-Christian organization in South Asia. Pastor Samuel had defied his warnings too often. Now he would pay with his life.
For more than 20 years, Pastor Samuel had ministered in this area. Through God’s blessing, a strong Pentecostal church had been established. But these victories had not come without opposition. Now his life was being threatened.
As he walked toward the church, Pastor Samuel struggled with questions that plagued his mind. Should he take his wife and seven children to a safer place? Or should he remain faithful to his calling and ministry?
Approaching the church, Pastor Samuel saw two men waiting for him. He knew his decision already had been made. He would give his life for his Lord.
The men soon reported back to Prasad that they had left Pastor Samuel’s mutilated body on the ground. Their words caused their leader to gloat. Surely now the church would crumble under his hand.
Pastor Samuel’s congregation knew Prasad had ordered their beloved leader’s murder. They also knew Prasad would not be brought to justice because his organization had powerful political connections. But they refused to give in to evil.
Shortly after the killing, two bold women from the church approached Prasad and tried to give him a gospel tract. Prasad tore up the tract, flung the pieces in their faces, and cursed them. Enraged, he got into his car and drove away.
A short time later he was injured in an automobile accident. While he was recuperating in the hospital, a woman who did not know Prasad’s situation gave him a gospel tract and witnessed to him. This time the message of Christ’s love touched the murderer’s heart. Under great conviction, he surrendered his life to Jesus.
This turn of events caused turmoil among Prasad’s people. Ordered to deny his faith, he remained steadfast. In a humiliating ceremony, he was cast out of his family. He also signed a legal document surrendering his rights as a member of his high social class.
Members of the organization Prasad had led were infuriated. Realizing his life was in danger, Prasad fled the city for safety.
In a village far from his home, Prasad was given shelter by a pastor who discipled him and prepared him for ministry. Prasad now dreams of returning to his hometown and ministering in Pastor Samuel’s place. The man who sought to destroy the church now longs to shepherd its flock.
*All names have been changed.
In 1971, missionaries Calvin and Marian Olson were living in Dhaka, East Pakistan, holding nightly prayer meetings for a group of Christians. At the time, tension between East Pakistan and West Pakistan was strained, and war seemed inevitable.
One evening in late March, some believers reported having a vision of East Pakistan going up in flames.
A prophetic message warned that a time of intense turmoil was coming, followed by a time of unprecedented opportunity for the church.
A few days later, Calvin and Marian were awakened by the sounds of police dragging wooden roadblocks into place. Soon a deluge of automatic gunfire announced the beginning of war. In minutes the city of Dhaka was ablaze.
As the battle raged, soldiers indiscriminately killed everything in sight. Calvin and Marian often wept with the people who came to them. The death, suffering and mourning were overwhelming. Yet they were determined to stay.
When the Indian army joined East Pakistan forces, the war quickly drew to a close. East Pakistan became an independent nation, later to be named Bangladesh. Change became the order of the day as the government shifted from martial law to a secular state.
About this time God set a plan in motion to provide land for a church in Dhaka.
The caretaker of an empty lot next to the Olsons’ home was seriously ill with bleeding ulcers. Doctors gave him no hope of recovery. He had heard Christians praying regularly during services at the Olsons’ home. Desperate, he sent word to Calvin, asking him to come.
Calvin was reluctant. What if I pray and the man is not healed? he wondered. Surely this would serve only to discredit the work. But if the man was healed, the result would make a major impact on the area.
Cautiously, Calvin and another Christian man went to pray. The dying man lay on a board bed, his family gathered around him.
Suddenly, the power of God came upon Calvin. Taking the dying man by the hand, he said, “In the name of Jesus, get up!”
Immediately the man stood. A few minutes later he was eating spicy curry, a dish that would have killed him only a few minutes earlier.
When the man returned to work the next day, his boss asked, “What happened to you?”
The man told him of the Christians’ prayers and how the power of Jesus had healed him.
The boss insisted on meeting Calvin and hearing more about the gospel. The Olsons then learned that the man Calvin prayed for was the personal driver of the president of Bangladesh!
Eventually, the Olsons asked the president for first option to buy land next to their home should he choose to sell it. Their request was granted.
Through a series of miracles, all permits were approved and supplies purchased to complete the building. Today Dhaka AG stands as the largest Pentecostal church in the nation.
Calvin and Marian Olson served in Bangladesh from 1954 to 1989.
In a small, nondescript village in Crimea, an area on the border of Ukraine and Russia, a Tatar woman, Aishe, lay in a coma. Doctors had given up all hope of her recovery. They told the grief-stricken husband to go home and begin the traditional process of collecting money from neighbors to help pay for the funeral.
But during the night Aishe awoke to find a doctor in her room—a doctor she had never seen before.
“You can get up now,” the doctor told her. “You are not sick anymore so you can go home.”
Aishe’s husband returned the next morning expecting to pick up his wife’s body for burial. Instead he found Aishe waiting for him, her bags already packed. The man nearly fell over in shock!
As hospital personnel came to her room, Aishe kept asking about the doctor she had seen the night before—the doctor with the long hair. Each time her question was met with a puzzled expression.
“No doctor here fits that description,” they told her. “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
As Aishe and her husband were walking out of the hospital, Aishe noticed one of the Orthodox paintings hanging on the wall.
“There He is!” Aishe exclaimed excitedly, pointing to a picture of Jesus. “That is the Man who came to see me last night!”
At that moment Aishe realized she had not seen a local doctor at all. Instead, her guest was the Great Physician, and He had completely restored her health.
News of Aishe’s healing spread quickly. Soon her entire family and several others came to Christ. A team of believers living in a nearby city began meeting with them weekly for discipleship, and every week the group grew.
The local religious leader went to some of the new believers’ homes.
“You are not living by our teachings,” he said. “I’m warning you, if you don’t stop your meetings there will be consequences.”
When the leader reached Aishe’s home, he asked, “Who is teaching you these things? I want to talk to them!”
A meeting was arranged between several Tatar believers and three religious leaders from the area. A small group from the village, including the mayor, gathered to listen to the discussion.
With boldness and love, the Tatar believers showed the religious leaders how their own teachings talk of Jesus as the One without sin and the One who has power to heal.
“Aishe’s healing was His doing,” they declared. “He is worthy of our worship.”
After the meeting, the mayor of the village approached the Tatar believers.
“Would you consider holding some meetings in my house?” he asked. “I want to hear more about this message you preach.”
In a poor forgotten village, tucked away in an unreached area, Jesus came to bring light and life. Aishe’s miracle opened doors to plant the church.
Several months ago, some friends of ours, Tom* and Jan, had the opportunity to lead a young Arab woman, Zara, to faith in Jesus Christ. When Zara’s family learned what had happened, they refused to let her leave the house or even spend much time out of her room.
After six months of seclusion, Zara was allowed to leave home for the first time and go shopping for 30 minutes at the local mall. What she found there was beyond anything anyone expected.
At the same time, Tom found himself frustrated and bewildered. He needed some items from a store at the mall, but everything seemed to be going wrong. The checkout person didn’t know how to help him. Prices couldn’t be found for some of the items. People were cutting in front of him in line.
Why is this happening? Tom wondered. Until then he had never waited more than half an hour to get through the checkout line.
Just as he was reaching the height of frustration, he heard a quiet voice from behind him.
“Dad, is that you?”
Turning around, Tom found himself looking into the face of his spiritual daughter, Zara.
In the few short minutes they had together, Tom encouraged Zara in her young faith. He even helped her download an app that would enable her to read the Bible on her phone, away from the prying eyes of her family.
In a city of nearly a million people, what would be the likelihood that Tom and Zara would be at the same place at the same time to share life in Jesus together? Yet with our God, nothing is impossible!
*All names were changed.
On a Sabbath morning in October 2003, my wife, Loretta, and I had a full schedule before us. After worshipping with a local congregation in Haifa, Israel, we planned to eat lunch at a restaurant before heading down the coast. Some dear colleagues were preparing to return to the United States, and we looked forward to a final visit before they left.
Maxim, the restaurant where we planned to eat, is a special place—a sort of microcosm of Haifa’s best. Despite years of conflict in other cities, Haifa had generally remained an exceptional model of coexistence between Jews and Arabs. Co-owned by an Arab and a Jewish family, Maxim was a hangout for people from all ethnic and religious communities in the city.
Loretta and I were en route to Maxim when, at the last minute, we decided to alter our plans and eat at the Bank Café. While there we could buy a special dessert—an apple cake—to take to our friends. Someone must have been praying for us, because our seemingly random decision probably saved our lives.
As we sat eating, we noticed a slight but unmistakable change going on around us. In the distance we heard the wail of ambulances. People around us became restless. We could not tell precisely what had happened, but all signs pointed to an attack somewhere in the city.
We left the Bank Café and drove toward the highway leading out of town. Almost immediately, we came upon a horrible sight. A bomb had devastated Maxim.
While we were sitting elsewhere, a suicide bomber struck the very location where we had planned to be. We later learned that a 28-year-old woman had made her way to Maxim, knowing it would be full of patrons on a busy Saturday. On that fateful day, this young woman—her heart seething with hurt and hate—made her way past restaurant security and sat down to order.
According to reports, she calmly ate her lunch before detonating her concealed bomb. The powerful torrent unleashed in that instant expunged her own life and 21 others: children and adults, Jews and Arabs, rich and poor. More than 50 others were wounded. Some of the victims were people we knew.
As we stood looking at the twisted remains of a familiar place, the dawning realization of what had just happened—and what had not happened to us—seemed almost suffocating. Conflicting and almost overwhelming emotions followed us that day and for some time thereafter. We experienced intense emotion and befuddling numbness all at once.
Besides shock and disbelief, we immediately felt intense gratitude to the Father. We had been given an unusually graphic illustration of His undeserved grace to us. He had preserved us from near-certain death and certain trauma through no merit or wisdom of our own. In His mercy, He had simply ordered our steps.
Brent and Loretta Neely have served in the Middle East since 1997.
When my wife and I first went to North Africa, no Christian literature was available in the dialect understood by the people. The few Bibles to be found were in a classical Arabic that was next to impossible to understand.
Our first priority was to produce an easy-to-read translation of the Scriptures. We began with the Gospel of Mark. After months of translating and checking for accuracy, we had the manuscript ready to print.
With funds from a church in California, I bought printing equipment and set it up in our garage. Happily, I took the first page of the Gospel of Mark and went to the garage, ready to get to work.
Soon my happiness changed to worry. The printing equipment made much more noise than I expected. In our neighborhood, the houses were very close together. I was afraid the unusual noise might prompt people to report us to the authorities. In North Africa, the last thing a Christian missionary wants to do is call attention to himself.
I stopped printing and asked my wife to pray with me about the noise. Needless to say, I was troubled.
The next morning I awoke to the sound of roaring motors and clanging machines. I peeked out the blinds to see a road crew at work. The city had decided to pave our street!
I hurried to the garage and resumed printing. The noise was totally covered by the din on the street. The road work took just long enough for me to finish printing the entire Gospel of Mark!
The first friend to whom I gave a Gospel of Mark read it and said, “This is a nice story, but it is not like our book, the Quran.”
We talked together over an interval of several weeks, and he asked many questions about the gospel. Finally, he gave his heart to the Lord.
“Now we can start a church,” I said.
The only available place for Christian services was our home. We didn’t invite people to a church service or a Christian meeting because they would have been afraid to come. Instead we invited people to come to discuss various topics relating to religion and culture.
In less than two years, 30 to 35 people received Christ and began meeting together. Some were able to win their families; others faced intense persecution in their homes. All of them became part of the indigenous church that grows in North Africa today.
For these new believers, their journey of faith began with reading the Gospel of Mark. To get it printed, God sent a noisy paving crew to a certain street in an Islamic city at just the right time!
Written by a missionary who has served in the Eurasia region for 40 years.
As news of visitors disrupted her few moments of rest, missionary Anna Tomaseck breathed, “I just can’t take another baby today.”
Following God’s direction, Anna had come to a remote area of India to raise children who had been deserted or orphaned. Her home, known as “the last house in India,” was near the border of India and Nepal. Beginning with three children, her ministry quickly grew as more and more children were brought to her door.
Wearily Anna went out to meet a small group of men who handed her a dirty rag. Inside was a tiny baby girl.
The men told Anna they were among several people who had been working in India and were returning home. To get past the border, every person had to participate in a ceremony of religious “cleansing.” The ceremony included eating a wafer of whey from the milk of a sacred cow mixed with the cow’s urine, dung and saliva. Since the baby was too small to swallow the wafer, she could not cross the border.
Anna’s heart sank. She knew she could not refuse this little life, so one more baby had a warm bath and a dresser drawer became a crib.
The baby weighed only 33 ounces and needed to be fed with a dropper every hour. Time after time Anna set her alarm clock at hour intervals as she tried to get nourishment into the infant’s tiny body.
In spite of Anna’s loving care, the baby lived only a few weeks. With a heavy heart, Anna sent word to the father.
A few weeks later a group of men arrived from Nepal. They had no baby with them, and Anna wondered about the purpose of their visit. She could not understand their language, so she called a local worker to interpret their request.
“They say they want to see the talking god,” he told her.
“Surely you misunderstand them,” Anna said. “What could they mean?”
One of the men began to explain. He mentioned the tiny baby Anna had taken earlier.
“Yes,” Anna replied, “but that baby died. I sent word to the father.”
The men made it clear they cared nothing about the baby. They only wanted to know more about the talking god. The baby’s father had told them about the night he had left his child in Anna’s care and how he had hidden outside Anna’s window. Time after time a bell would ring, and Anna would get up and bow before her shining silver god. She would care for the babies, bow to the god again, and go back to bed. All that night the god had called her. Now these men had come to see the silver god for themselves.
Suddenly Anna understood! Her alarm clock! Each time she had turned off or reset the alarm, the baby’s father had thought she was bowing to an idol.
Anna showed the men her clock and explained how it worked. Then, carefully choosing her words, she told them about the God in heaven whom she worshipped. In this way, the men heard the plan of salvation for the first time.
For months afterward, groups of men came to Anna’s house asking to see the talking god. Apparently the baby’s father was telling of the silver god everywhere he went. Missionaries could not go into the areas where he traveled, but God used a tiny baby and an alarm clock to bring people to Anna’s porch to hear about Jesus and His love.
As the years passed, the babies Anna cared for grew up and were replaced by more babies. Besides teaching them the gospel, Anna saw that each boy learned a trade and each girl was taught to cook and care for a home. Some of the children returned to their homelands in closed areas, taking Anna’s teaching with them. The ministry of “the last house” and the children Anna raised there were part of God’s plan to bring the light of the gospel to a dark land.
Anna Tomaseck served as a missionary to India from 1926 to 1977.