God's plan for the Middle East is "working perfectly" even though the persecution of Middle Eastern Christians is seemingly getting worse by the day, a persecuted Christian woman told American churchgoers on Sunday.
The Christian woman, who is referred to by the pseudonym of "Maryam" for security purposes, was encouraged by a group of six pastors and ministry leaders from the United States to travel to America and share her family's story of persecution and speak about the dedicated faith displayed by Christians in the Middle East.
This past Sunday, Maryam visited MeadowBrook Baptist Church in Gadsden, Alabama, and shared how her father was sentenced to six months in jail after he complained to police about a Muslim man who was blocking the entrance to his store, threatening to kill him and disfigure his daughters with acid.
"I will let you and your sister be orphans," Maryam said, recalling the Muslim man's threats.
Although her father tried to file a complaint with police, he was sent away and told by authorities to forgive the Muslim man. But after Maryam's father was physically assaulted, he went back to the police a second time and a case was finally filed. However, the Muslim man alleged that Maryam's father had cut him.
Instead of the Muslim man being jailed for death threats and physical assault, he was set free while the judge sentenced Maryam's father to prison.
As a whole, persecution and harassment are daily struggles for Middle Eastern Christians, Maryam said.
Maryam also spoke about a physical assault she suffered on her way to the airport to travel to the U.S. She said she was assaulted by Muslim men because she did not bow to strict fundamentalist standards and cover her hair.
"I was walking in the street and behind me there was three guys and they started to insult me and things like that. I just kept walking. They held these small stones and they started to throw it on me," she said. "They shouted in a loud voice, 'Cover your hair!' That is what I am seeing. It's daily life. Everyday we are facing situations and it is very hard."
Although Christians in the West might view persecution as a bad thing, Maryam and many other Middle Eastern Christians view persecution as a necessity to help the Church continue to grow in a hostile part of the world.
"The persecution is getting worse and worse and worse," Maryam said. "But on the other hand actually, what has encouraged me, encouraged my faith, encouraged my church, encouraged everybody Christian in [the region] is that is the Church is increasing."
Maryam explained that while some radical Muslims are brutally killing and persecuting so called non-believers and claim to be acting in the name of Allah, many other Muslims in the Middle East are starting to open their eyes and ask serious questions about the religion they espouse.
"A lot of Muslim people now, they are so confused about what is going on now. A lot of them are asking, 'Who is this God whose name is Allah, who orders people to slaughter?'" she said. "They are confused and they are asking and wondering now days about ISIS and about what is going on."
"We are talking to them and asking them 'Please, open your Quran and search what is written,'" Maryam continued.
Maryam said there are now over 1 million Christians in her country who are "Muslim background believers." She said she knows of one priest who single-handedly has converted over 6,000 Muslims in the last five years.
"We are not afraid or worried that the persecution will increase. We are just feeling that this is God's time," Maryam said. "God is working perfectly now in the Middle East. Even with all these crazy stuff happening, God is really working now."
"So, I want to encourage you that, of course, you need to pray for your brothers and sisters in the Middle East who are suffering for being Christians and for their faith, but I am asking you to pray a different prayer," Maryam encouraged the Alabama churchgoers. "Don't pray for the persecution to be stopped. … But pray for the Christians there, for their boldness, their encouragement, for their faith and that they can all be witnesses for God's work and for God."
MeadowBrook Senior Pastor Randy Gunter, who visited the region and met Maryam in April, told The Christian Post on Tuesday that he also met with a well-respected Christian leader named "Paul" during his trip.
Paul told Gunter that the experiences Christians have faced since 2011 have been "amazing."
"Do not pray for the persecution to stop; that is to pray in the wrong direction of the Bible," Gunter recalled Paul telling him. "What God has allowed us to go through in the last five years is amazing. He has allowed a great shaking."
"We could see the shining face of Jesus in the midst of all the chaos," Paul added. "Christians had hope, whereas the Muslims around us did not."
Gunter argued that many Christians in the West have the "wrong concepts about the persecuted Church."
"Many view [persecution] as ... destroying the Church, but historically and presently, God uses persecution to bring about the pure essence of hope and salvation within the Church," Gunter wrote in an email to CP. "Many Muslims and others are coming to faith because they are witnessing the love, forgiveness and compassion of the Lord's Church. Like all people, they long for hope."
Maryam will be speaking at eight different churches and venues in the U.S. over the next two weeks.
"Some people [in the U.S.] shared with me that 'We are shy to speak to people about the Gospel or about Jesus because they might laugh at us,'" Maryam explained. "I was like, 'Your brothers and sisters in [the Middle East], they want to evangelize but the law prevented that. But here it is allowed to speak about Jesus and sing songs. For us, it is not allowed. If we did something like that, we would be in jail.'"
"You have to be very awake because there is no time to waste," Maryam stressed. "The persecution has penetrated the U.S. and penetrated Europe now."