December 4th, 2012

Hello Friends!

Many of you have continued to ask about the situation in Syria.  I can’t thank you enough for holding the Syrian church in prayer!  They are in full blown civil war, and the situation just gets worse and worse every day.  BUT, with the Lord there’s always awe and wonder no matter what is happening!   He ALWAYS breaks through!

For those of you who are new to this email list (and this ministry in general), we work closely with a few churches throughout the Middle East.  We have journeyed with these incredible believers for several years.  One of these churches is in Syria, pastors Rana and Emil.  They are very good friends, and they pastor a strong, beautiful, on-fire church in Damascus.  In fact, to our knowledge it’s the only Spirit-filled church in the nation.

So here’s the update;

Last week I was scheduled to teach in two of their bible study and prayer groups via Skype.  I was going to be skyped in with the ladies on Thursday, and the men on Friday.  I had skyped, talked, texted and facebooked with Rana several times in the beginning of the week and heard of the growing intensity surrounding them.  On Thursday I waited for them on Skype but they never logged on.  A couple of hours later Craig let me know that he heard in the news that the situation in Damascus had suddenly gotten much worse;  90% of the internet was down, cell coverage was down, streets were blockaded and the airport was shut down.  Egad.

I sent out notes to our team of intercessors and friends, and spent nearly all of three days in prayerful tears waiting for news.

Saturday the internet came back up.  Thank you Lord!  I skyped and texted with Rana off and on, all day long, just hanging with the family. 🙂  I really do LOVE this technology era we live in!   Here’s some of what she shared;

In the first part of last week they were getting ready one morning, helping their kids off to school.  They have continued to try to keep life as normal as possible, sending their kids to school as often as they can.   They live on the 6th or 7th floor of what we would call an apartment/condominium building, with no elevator.  Tamara (their 13 year old daughter) said goodbye and began the long walk down the stairs.  Out their window they heard an explosion that was very near by.  Emil quickly ran to the window just as his daughter was leaving the building.  He screamed as loud as he could to tell her to come back up.  She heard him (miracle!) and ran inside and up the stairs just as another explosion went off even closer.    And then another.  And another.  It went on all day long.  Buildings shaking…..  people screaming….  people dying.  They said it was a massacre.  The hospitals were overrun, out of blood and in dire need.

Rana often talks about the intense grief that is over them all.   Many of them have seen horrific things.  (I won’t go into details).  The knowledge of all the death around them is thick and extremely painful.  Everyone in the country is in mourning.    It would be disrespectful in their culture to celebrate in such a time as this, so there’s no Christmas decorations, trees, or anything of the sorts.

Their daily life is effected in many ways.  It’s not just the bombs, the snipers on the rooftops, the carjackings, kidnappings, etc.  There’s shortages on food, shortages on gasoline to heat their homes, banks and stores are closed, etc.  Emil stood in line for five hours for just a couple loaves of bread.  Their electricity is off for about 7 hours each day.  There’s hundreds of homeless people in the streets who have lost their homes from bombings.  And on and on and on.

Yet….    (and this is a big YET)….  God has been so very present in the midst of their lives!  Oh, how I could  talk for hours about the journey they have been on.  You see, they’re no different than you and I.  As this whole horror story began they had all the normal, human reactions.  Tremendous fear made them all huddle in their homes, pulling into themselves in survival mode, shaken faith, anger…   you name it.  But the Holy Spirit inside of them has now caused them to stand up.  They have shifted into this supernatural place and they KNOW they are alive, and in Syria, for such a time as this.  They are the hands and feet of Christ to the Syrian people who are desperate for a Savior.  Somewhere along the way their vision turned to the strength of their citizenship in the most stable and secure Kingdom of all.   Their hearts are now steadfast and fixed like flint upon His face.  They are willing to lay their lives down for the name of Christ to be glorified.  They are alive for His namesake!  Whether they live or die they will do it for His Glory.  Their lives are not their own.

The men of the church gather every morning at six am for prayer.  They go for several hours, exalting the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, contending for His plan, His vision, His direction and His peace.

They are bringing in families to live with them.  Right now they have ten people living with them in a small two bedroom apartment.

They are taking much of their food to feed the homeless on the streets.

Their home is a safe haven and a refuge for many many people.  It’s very very dangerous to leave your home and go anywhere, yet the people of their church will risk their lives to come to their home…   to read the word, encourage one another and worship the King.

And God has supernaturally protected them.

One day as the men were gathering for prayer a couple of them were late.  As you can imagine, it’s a BIG DEAL when someone is late these days!  15 minutes went by and they were getting panicked.  Praying like mad, calling around….   very worried.  When the two men arrived Emil (lovingly) hit them on the legs pretending to discipline them…   saying “you CAN’T be late! You just CAN’T do that to us!!”  The very next day all the men arrived on time 🙂  Just a little while after 6:00am a bomb went off on the very sidewalk they had to walk to get there.

Another day one of the ladies was driving to their home.  She normally drives very fast, and feels very urgent about getting off the street as fast as possible.   On this day she felt the Lord calm her to such a degree that she found herself worshipping and driving slowly.  She was in such deep rest from the Lord’s slowing patience that she was waiting and letting other cars go ahead, and driving so slowly that there was a lot of empty space on the road in front of her (this never happens in this congested city of millions of people!).  Before she knew what happened a missile flew right in front of her, about to land and explode before her very eyes.  There was a large container of water on the side of the road, and the missile landed INSIDE THE WATER BUCKET!  As it exploded it splashed water everywhere but no one was hurt! She drove right by and arrived at Rana’s home safely.  Praise God!

Rana and Emil are determined to stay right where they are. Most of the pastors of the city have left the country, so Emil feels that there are many sheep without a shepherd, and he wants to help them.

The church is stronger spiritually than they’ve ever been.  Everyone is seeking the Lord, falling more in love with Him every day.  They are learning to hear His voice more clearly than they could have imagined.  Their hearts are encouraged and happily leaning upon their amazing Jesus.  They don’t know what tomorrow will bring, yet they are feeling so strong in the Spirit that they are at peace no matter what happens.

PRAYER REQUESTS:   We have sent a debit card to a good friend of theirs in another country near by.  Emil needs to be able to drive to meet him and get the card.  Once he has this card we can help them substantially!  We can get money into their hands to help them feed the homeless in the streets, to buy necessary things for their home and others as well.  It is dangerous to travel, as you can imagine.  Emil has already faced the ends of a few guns, and isn’t excited about risking that again.  Yet they really need this card.  So please pray for his wisdom and continued protection, and pray that he is able to get this card in his hands.   We are continuing to raise money and put it in this account.  If you would like to give to Rana and Emil just click here for more information.  Please make sure you let me know where you’d like the money to go.


Thank you thank you thank you.

Love in the name of Christ,
Chris and Craig Westhoff