Pinpoints of hope are popping up everywhere—God is doing amazing work in the Middle East and Open Doors is blessed to be His hands and feet.
In a hidden location in the Middle East, a group of female house church leaders has gathered in secret to grow and learn together. Lively conversation and warm smiles fill the room.
Outside this room, in a culture dominated by men, these women are forced to blend into the anonymous mass of covered heads. They must hide their faith and risk their lives. But the light of Christ can’t be stopped, and in the safety of this women’s conference hosted by Open Doors, these daring leaders can finally be themselves.
Tala,* a warm, young woman with big, bright eyes, is part of the group. She was the first to come to faith in her Muslim family and has led more family members to Christ, including two of her older sisters. The sisters’ decisions to live for Christ come at a high price.
“We started reading the Bible together,” Tala shares. “But when my father found out we had become Christians, he was so angry and did all kinds of things to try to make us lose our faith. For instance, he locked us up and forbade us from eating at the same table with the family.”
He even made the sisters go to a mullah, a leader specifically trained to persuade new Christians to convert back to Islam. It didn’t work.
“After we left, the mullah told our father that our faith was impossible to shake, that we had even shared the gospel with him!” Tala remembers.
When nothing changed the daughters’ conviction, Tala’s father took an even more drastic approach and forced Tala’s sister to marry a strict Muslim man.
“He controls [my sister’s] every movement,” Tala says. “She can’t attend the house church anymore; in fact, she is barely allowed to have contact with her brothers and sisters in faith.”
However, this pressure hasn’t stopped Tala and her other sister from leading house churches. Tala is one of few leaders in the country who work with children, which can be very hard she says. The conference gives her the opportunity to meet privately with a trauma counselor and share and process some of her painful experiences.
In other sessions, a Bible teacher shares about the high value Jesus placed on women in the Bible—the opposite of what their Islam lessons taught them and what they heard from their fathers. Tala soaks up the words like a dry sponge. Reinvigorated, she returns to her ministry.
Recently, she has glimpsed some hopeful new gifts from the Lord.
“My father has become softer in his approach to me,” she shares. “He sees how my sister and I keep treating him with love, even though he persecutes us. I pray that this will be the start for him to get to know Jesus.”