by by a field worker in the Arab World
A shroud can be two things. It can be a covering used for the dead or sometimes it can be something like a mist that keeps us from seeing the mountains. When something is shrouded, it is obscured from our vision. We only see in part right now. If we know Jesus, however, He can part those clouds to give us a view of the true nature of God and His plan for us. It’s exciting to know that there is something to look forward to. It may be painful that we cannot fully see and understand everything yet. But we know that our Savior wishes that no one should perish, and so it is wonderful to belong to Him.
Hope. It is a beautiful word. It conjures up the dreams in our hearts and it can be a word filled with love. We cling to hope in times of trial. It’s what makes us different from other forms of life. We are expectant. We are hopeful. We know that our bodies and the shrouded world we live in are temporary. We know there is something more. We believe. We wait. We hope.
In the predominantly Muslim nations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), you can literally feel the shroud that covers the land. The shroud has effectively obscured hope. Walk outside and a lot of times there will be a misty haze of dust that clings and shrouds everything in sight. The women that walk by dressed in their gauzy, black veils and cloaks that billow in the wind are shrouded from the world. You can feel it in your spirit. It’s oppressive. You can hear it as you talk with locals; many minds are shrouded and unable to think beyond the steady drone of their prayers and teachings. There are ancient customs and beliefs that they stubbornly cling to, simply because the shroud makes it impossible for them to consider another way. The enemy has used false doctrines to carefully shroud this land.
To the foolish these lands are perishing in poverty and backward customs. However, we believe that there is hope for this part of the world. Slowly, the shroud of Islam is beginning to be pierced with tiny holes and tears. For many generations believers have come to this land to share the gospel. They usually returned home “empty-handed” or worse. Yet, they keep coming back. We keep holding onto that little seed of hope. Now, after so many years, it is happening. It’s a trickle of belief. It’s a few here and there. Those that are here and believing can feel the ground trembling. We know the Lord is rallying his faithful to bring a large harvest in. He promises in Isaiah 25, that:
“On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
7 On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
8 he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.”
Perwin’s mind was shrouded for many years. She grew up a Muslim. Perwin lived in a small village and did all that was expected of her. She did not attend school. She was told if girls study they will become blind. People told her women’s brains are not capable of learning. She didn’t even resent this; she believed it to be a fact. She eventually got married to a man her family picked out for her. Perwin was trained from an early age to not show emotion because doing so would be shameful to her and her family. She allowed all decisions to be made for her, and she took good care of her household responsibilities. In return her physical needs were taken care of and provided for. Perwin was doing what she was supposed to do. She was expected to show her gratitude by submission.
Perwin’s husband was angry, feisty, and erratic. He saw no value in the Islamic religion, and eventually he abandoned it. Then he met Jesus. He didn’t know anything about Jesus, but he was ready to enlist immediately. He was just as much outspoken for Jesus as he had been against Islam. It cost him a great deal; he faced rejection and persecution. He still knew very little about Jesus.
Perwin continued to be a good wife and followed her husband obediently even in this. Then one day seated on the bare concrete floor of their home with nothing but a dusty fan beating off the heat, her husband read aloud about Noah from the Word of God. For the first time she was hearing truth taught to her. Her head tipped up and her eyes lit up. She became excited and exclaimed, “I never thought I could learn, but I understand this!”
The shroud was torn back for Perwin on that day! She had believed that she was unable to learn. In reality, it was just a shroud, but the truth penetrated through that shroud. It tore a hole in it for her to see out for the first time. She was amazed by her own ability. All in an instant, simply through the story of Noah, her mind was exposed to Light. She did not go blind. Now she too bears the mark of hope. She can hope for her three girls and one boy to learn what she never learned before. She will never be the same!
At age six, Kojan woke up one day to find his family murdered and their bodies scattered around him. The shroud around his heart was heavy with passion for revenge. Kojan became a fierce soldier. His name meant, “to add pain.” He roamed through the mountains with his militia group for years. Of the 120 men he enlisted with, only two were still alive after 11 months. In his wanderings, he came upon the Gospel of Luke. He read it and re-read it. He recognized Truth in it, but he identified himself as a Muslim. He believed what he had always been told: If you are born a Muslim, you will always remain a Muslim. He loved the truth in the gospel, and he let go of his hate and desire to avenge his family. He forgave. He shared the gospel wherever he went. He would get into discussions and talk to others about Jesus and how He had changed him.
One day he overheard another man telling others of the Truth, and he revealed that although he grew up a Muslim, his identity is now in Christ. Kojan was amazed; he immediately switched his personal identity to that of a follower of Jesus. He changed his named to Kojin, which means “to add life.” The shroud had been removed! The pain had also been removed and in its place was life. His allegiance has changed, and his hope now is in Jesus. He now “fights” for Jesus by teaching His truth as a pastor.
The shroud won’t be completely removed for any of us until Jesus prepares that final feast when he returns. We each have to struggle against the shrouds that our own culture tries to impose on us. We look forward to that day when he will destroy the shroud forever. Until then, we must hope expectantly. We must pray for others to have the glimpse we have been given. We must pray for others to understand the gospel like Perwin and Kojin. The inheritance is rich. The feast that we will share will be extravagant. Who will you be seated next to? Maybe you will hear the story on that day of how your prayers helped pierce the shroud for another!
Pray for the spiritual shroud to be removed from every people group we pray for this month.
by Keith Carey, editor, GPD
Dear Praying Friends,
A couple of years ago I struck up a conversation with a woman who turned out to have lived in Normandy, France, during the D-Day Invasion. I told her that it must have been horrible to have lived in a war zone, and her response really surprised me. She said, “It was nowhere near as bad as living under enemy occupation.” Since the Fall of Man, we have all lived under enemy occupation, and Earth has been a war zone. People have found destructive ways to cope with this grim situation. Some worship unclean spirit beings in an attempt to get them to take care of us rather than our wonderful loving Lord. Others believe any or all of the following lies: we do not have a sin nature, so sin is a non-issue; we can earn our salvation by doing the right things; God is fickle and uncaring.
In the Arab World, Islam has provided the framework for many forms of religious deception and, in some forms, for an unhealthy love of death. As a result, warfare rages throughout the Arab World today. Islamic militants from groups like ISIS truly believe that what they are doing will make the world a better place. Their worldview involves a love for killing and a love for death.
A shroud can represent two things. It can be a simple piece of cloth used to cover the dead; thus it represents death. It can also represent darkness, since it blocks out all light. But the Light of the World, who came to earth, can break through to the Arab Muslim World despite the efforts of the enemy of mankind to shroud the Truth. That will be the theme of our prayers this month: that the unreached peoples in the Arab World will “cope” with the shroud of death and darkness by embracing the Light of the World, Jesus, who came to give life to the fullest! Will you pray with me this month for God’s mercy on the Arab Muslim world?