Not Even ISIS Can Scare Them Off
Followers of Christ need to relearn what it means to stand courageously for their faith rather than merely survive in a climate of fear. Instead of motivating believers to action, today’s headlines appear to be paralyzing them. Standing in the Fire demonstrates the church triumphant through the lives of people who stood strong and didn’t run away in the face of overwhelming danger. These Middle Eastern heroes of faith fear God more than terrorist groups like ISIS. Supported by Tom Doyle’s commentary on events, the stories included show how these Christians are not living as victims, but victors in Christ.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Tom Doyle, Vice President and Middle East-Central Asia Director for e3 Partners based in Dallas, Texas, and author of four books including Dreams & Visions and Killing Christians. Visit website: http://e3partners.org.
Greg Webster is cofounder of New Vantage Publishing Partners, a book development and marketing firm, and creative director of Webster Creative Group. The collaborator of more than a dozen books for a variety of authors, including Tom Doyle’s previous books Dreams and Visions and Killing Christians, he holds an MA in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary and a BA in journalism and an MBA from the University of Georgia. He lives and works in rural Tennessee, just outside Nashville, with his wife of thirty-six years and the four of his eight children who have not yet left the nest.
Read an Excerpt
Standing In The Fire
Courageous Christians Living in Frightening Times
By Tom Doyle, Greg Webster
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2017 Tom Doyle
All rights reserved.
THE SYRIAN FIRING SQUAD
Osama knew the execution position well — captive kneeling, head bowed slightly forward, hands behind his back. He had led his share of hostages and prisoners to the crest of the sandy hill five miles east of the rebel-held city of Idlib in northern Syria. But this time, he was the one struggling for breath under the black hood cinched tight over his head in the blistering desert sun.
From behind the three members of his firing squad, Commander Mahmoud Ramadan shouted the list of crimes Osama al-Jihadi had committed against Islam. He punctuated each judgment with vicious laughter. Ridicule was standard procedure in the execution of an apostate, and Osama imagined that his cousins on the other side of Idlib could hear the man bellowing. A year earlier, Osama could never have imagined he would be kneeling before an executioner.
The commander's monologue ended abruptly in a single gunshot, and Osama crumpled to the ground. A half dozen rapid-fire shots followed, and blood once again soaked into the sandy hill.
But it was not Osama's.
At precisely 3:00 a.m. one night the previous year, in the basement of a spacious suburban home not far from the bloody mound, a cold-eyed, twenty-ish man raised his hand toward a group of comparably aged males gathered in the underground room. The assembly honored his silent request for their attention.
"When Bashar Al-Assad dies, we will crush the Alawites and slaughter all Christians!" The young man spoke resolutely, confident of his cause.
Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian version of al-Qaeda, was now a grim threat to the Bashar Al-Assad regime that had looked so invincible just months before. Still maintaining discretion about its movements, though, the group planned its business a safe forty miles from al-Nusra's primary target, one of the oldest cities in the world. Continually inhabited for more than four thousand years, Aleppo boasts more residents than its slightly older but more well-known sister city and capital, Damascus.
"America will help us overthrow this evil regime. They hate Assad. But we are the ones who owe him and his father for what they did to our families in Hama. I will never give up the fight to liberate Syria from this illegitimate infidel. I will die in this fight, because I have no doubt this is what Allah created me for."
The young man returned the nods of his listeners. They, too, hated Assad. The bully of the Levant1 had too long oppressed them with his massive military and by way of his despicable alliances with Russia and Iran. Shameless flaunting of power only enflamed the hostility against him.
Life was good in Syria — at least for the family of Bashar Al-Assad. The president's wife looked as if she walked into the royal palace straight off of a fashion runway in Paris. The Assads loved the good life in Damascus. President Assad slept well at night — that is, until the Syrian civil war started.
"The one who has the plan for overthrowing the government will speak to you now." The upstart leader smiled and gestured with his right hand toward the basement's side entrance. "You didn't know you would have the pleasure of hearing from our spiritual mentor tonight, did you?"
Fifty men leapt to their feet as Osama al-Jihadi marched through the door and replaced the younger man as the focal point of the room. The straight-backed leader turned powerful shoulders from side to side and surveyed the room for half a minute before speaking.
"So these are my warriors?" The hint of a smile crossed Osama's face. "I like what I see — not only in this room but also in Syria's future. We will take what is rightfully ours as Sunni Muslims. We outnumber Assad and the filthy Alawites nearly five to one.
"So tell me, how have we let this trifling Alawite tumor control us for so long? How can he cause us to live as exiles in our own country?" Osama glared at his audience.
"I'll tell you how: it's because cowards have led us! But those days are over. Many of us here will die in this holy fight. But by Allah's strength, so will Bashar Al-Assad. We will see that he gets what is coming to him."
Osama al-Jihadi stood motionless. His eyes shifted from cohort to cohort until he had personally acknowledged nearly every man in the room. Finally, he nodded toward the one who had introduced him, and the meeting was over.
Jamal al-Jihadi filed slowly out of the basement with the other men but briefly caught his older cousin's steady eye. He smiled and bowed his head toward his leader and uncle's son. The strong man of al-Nusra had no idea that every time his favorite cousin grinned, he was praying for Osama.
"Jamal, you have to get out! My sister in Lebanon is ready for us." Jamal's fiery wife, Safa, slammed both hands flat on the kitchen table, her words and eyes pleading with the man seated across from her. "I don't care if Osama is your cousin. You're playing with fire. Surely he suspects something. Osama recruited you, so the two of you could be 'freedom fighters.' But these people of his are nothing but cold-blooded terrorists. How can you even go to the meetings anymore in good conscience? You're a believer!"
Jamal closed his eyes, sincerely considering the fears of the wife he so adored — and the mother of his three young children. Barely five feet tall, his lovable stick of dynamite was also by far the best cook in either of their extended families. Her Lebanese heritage added literal and figurative spice to every family gathering.
Their passionate dialogue had begun the instant he entered the kitchen, groggy from too little sleep after the late-night meeting. Jamal mainly listened, and after just ten minutes, he felt as if the talk with his wife had been in progress for hours.
He picked up a serving dish from the center of the table and scraped the last fava beans onto a piece of pita. Studying the pale green objects, he smiled softly, and raised his hand like a schoolboy waiting to be called on at the madrassa.
"I would like to say something."
Safa accepted the interruption and with flair slapped her right hand across her mouth.
"My dear Safa, when Jesus came into my life, I knew He called me first to our precious family, yet my heart is in agony for my larger al-Jihadi family as well. Some people are called to take Jesus to foreign lands, but I'm to stay here. This is my calling. It begins for me in my house, but I am willing to tell everyone else about Him too."
"Yes, I know that, Jamal, and I love you for being such a brave man. But you were raised a Muslim — we both were — and your family is involved in terrorism. Many of them are! Do you think they will not notice the change in you? It's all over your face. The Holy Spirit has marked you. Please let someone else reach out to Osama — anyone but you!
"We may play the game in front of them, but I'm telling you, somehow they know what's happened to you. Somehow, someway they know! And besides, Sharia law is a cruel master, and I just don't think I can take it anymore. Please, can we go to Lebanon?"
"My love." Jamal shook his head almost imperceptibly. "I promise you ... they don't know. Not even Osama. We have been best friends since I was five. I love him like a brother. I know everything about him, and he knows everything about me — except the most important thing. But that is coming soon.
"When he believes, we will have a modern-day Paul. Something good will come out of Syria. When Osama accepts our Lord, he will shake the world. I feel this in my heart."
Jamal pushed back from the table and crossed his legs. "How are the children this morning?"
Safa scowled. "Jamal, habibi, you are very good at changing the subject when I have you cornered. And don't 'remind' me that you've had lots of practice either!"
"Of course not, my love. Let me conclude our conversation properly." Jamal smiled broadly at his spritely bride. "This was a wonderful breakfast."
Jamal slowly coiled the black hose of a nargila (hookah) onto the floor between them. Osama rested his cup of intensely black Arabic coffee on his right knee and with his left hand reached for the mouthpiece Jamal had just relinquished. Well into their third cup of coffee, the cousins neared the end of a long night of deep conversation. The exchange with Safa that morning played in the back of Jamal's mind, but he determined that his wife's legitimate fears would not stop him from doing what he could to bring his cousin into God's light.
Jamal cradled the coffee cup in both hands. His eyes drifted up to his companion. "Osama, you are a great leader. But do you ever worry about the future? I mean, for your family? Honestly, do you?"
Osama looked at Jamal as if he had not quite understood the question.
"Osama. When Assad is gone for good, what next?"
The older cousin nodded. Excitement flitted in his eyes.
"Israel, of course." He smiled at Jamal. "And, no, I don't worry — because we will win. We have to win this war, no matter how long it takes. There is no other way this can end, Jamal. It may take ten more years, but losing is not an option. Our families will be slaughtered if we fail."
Osama paused, considering his next words. "So, to be clear: I suppose from time to time I do worry about my children, and especially my sons. Our evil president will no doubt try to kill them all. Yes ... that part does worry me."
Energy drained from Osama's face, and expressionless eyes focused on his friend and cousin. "That's why we're fighting, Jamal. It may be for Syria, but it is also for our families who will have the best life possible when we defeat this contemptible Assad regime once and for all. When we're done, we'll make sure there will be no heir to ever challenge us. Syria will be a Sunni-led country again, and once we join with Iraq, we will be strong enough to level Israel. My family — our family — used to enjoy vacations in the Golan. And now the filthy Jews have had it for far too long! That must end."
Osama paused to sip his coffee. "Jamal, one of my goals in life is to see the Assad family suffer a slow death. Won't that be pure joy for us? Can you imagine watching him die just like Khadafy did? Justice is coming."
Jamal stared at his cousin in silence for several seconds. "Actually, Osama: No, I can't imagine that." Jamal looked down at his cup of black liquid.
Osama watched as his cousin drank the last of his coffee, but said nothing more until he bid Jamal good-bye at the front door. Before stepping through the courtyard gate of Osama's house, Jamal checked the street and surrounding rooftops several times for movement. Al-Nusra had secured the neighborhood last month, but the Syrian Army infiltrated every so often, which meant that death by sniper fire was possible at any time.
Well past midnight, Jamal entered his kitchen through the back door. Finding the light on, he had hoped Safa was still up, cooking, but he discovered her asleep in their bedroom. Jamal undressed, pulled a sleeping shirt over his head, and slipped into bed beside his wife. As he slid his right hand past the curve of Safa's hip and around her waist, she startled and sat up. Her eyes found Jamal's form in the mostly dark room.
"Is everything all right, Jamal? How was Osama? Did he start screaming about Assad or Israel again?"
Jamal reached for Safa's hand. "Maybe you're right about him, Safa. He has so much hate in his heart. When he started to talk about seeing Assad die a slow death tonight, something sinister took over. The evil in his eyes truly scared me. I've seen it in his speeches to al-Nusra recruits as well.
"If he knew my secret, that evil would consume me in an instant. He is ruled by hate." Jamal paused, and then whispered, mostly to himself. "How long can I keep up this game? Lord, we need a miracle."
Safa leaned toward her husband and laid her head softly on his chest. The two Jesus followers drifted to sleep in each other's arms.
Shock waves nearly threw Jamal to the floor. Instantly awake, he heard Safa gasp as he jerked upright beside their bed. The explosion couldn't have been more than a block away.
Are the children okay? His mind raced through the possibilities. Was it the Syrian Army? The Americans? Russia?
Three al-Jihadi children sprinted into their parents' room and scrambled under the bedcovers. A smaller noise focused Jamal's attention. His cell phone was ringing. A second later, Safa's added its familiar notes. Safa flicked on the bedside light just as Jamal fished a cell phone from the pocket of pants he had left on the floor.
As he answered, a familiar voice — one of the men from al-Nusra — blurted at Jamal, "It's Osama!"
"Osama? Is he dead?"
At the word "dead," Safa froze. She gave up looking for her phone and stared at Jamal.
"Okay. How bad is he hurt?" Jamal's eyes scanned the room, looking at nothing. "Where did it land? Are Amal and the children safe?" He paused again for an answer. "I'll be right there."
Jamal squinted past the blinding red lights flashing beside the courtyard entrance he had walked through on his way home four hours earlier. With each red pulse, he could see that little remained of the entry portion of Osama's house. Jamal darted up to the ambulance just as two paramedics lifted a stretcher through the open back doors of the white van.
"Where will you take him?" Jamal screamed. He had maintained control of his emotions until the moment he spotted his cousin and best friend under the blood-soaked sheet.
"The al-Watani hospital." The lead attendant spoke as he jumped into the van and pulled the stretcher on board.
Jamal looked at Osama and read the agony in his barely open eyes. The younger man forced a smile and prayed silently, Lord, is this it for Osama? As the ambulance door slammed shut, Jamal wondered if he would ever again see his cousin and best friend alive.
Although surgery to remove shrapnel and stop internal bleeding should have taken no longer than two hours, four hours later, the al-Jihadi family sat in the al-Watani hospital waiting room with no word from medical personnel on Osama's condition. Jamal had a bad feeling.
Osama al-Jihadi's wife, Amal, sat at the center of a circle of ten women. Tears spilled down the front of her niqab.
Jamal stood outside the group of black-clad females, listening as Amal choked out her fears. "I've dreamed that Osama would soon be dead. I wake up crying almost every night. I think he is cursed and condemned to die already."
The two women closest to Amal — her sisters — each touched one of the sobbing woman's shoulders, as a voice from across the room called out, "Are you Osama al-Jihadi's wife?"
Amal stood slowly, braced on each side by the two sisters, prepared to receive the feared news, and turned toward the voice. A man in surgical clothes stood in the doorway of the waiting room.
"Osama survived the surgery and has been moved to intensive care. There was more damage internally than we picked up on the X-ray. He has many injuries and an infection. If it goes septic, he could easily die. Even if he makes it through the next few days, he will be here for several weeks, perhaps a month." The man in green shrugged. "Maybe more. I am sorry. We had the best doctors in the area, and his case was challenging even for them. Osama is in a medically induced coma to stabilize him. We can thank Allah that he is alive."
Amal howled, and her black form crumpled toward her sisters. The woman's body slipped through their arms, and the two helpers, caught off guard by Amal's faint, managed only to soften her drop to the floor.
Amal revived and, unhurt from her fall, stayed with Osama that night and through the next two days. When she at last broke from keeping watch beside her husband, Jamal took her place in the hospital room. He sat alone next to Osama. A handful of nurses came and went, ignoring Jamal, and for nearly an hour, he said nothing. Finally, he leaned close to his comrade's ear and spoke quietly.
"I kick myself that I never told you. Here you are in a coma, and no one knows if you will survive or not. Your house is destroyed, Osama, but at least Amal and your children are safe in my home. Safa cooks all day, and there is much noise in the house. You should see it, Osama."
Jamal paused and covered his face with his hands before continuing.
"Well, I know you can't hear me, but here I go." He laid his left forearm on the bed beside the comatose figure.
"Osama, I began following Jesus last year. I found a Bible, and I could not put it down. I don't even know where I got it. Initially, I wanted to find out where it had been corrupted. Every night in bed, I read under the covers by the light of my phone. I waited until after Safa was asleep, and sometimes I would not even sleep myself. But that didn't matter. This Jesus was more than I could handle, Osama. I mean He loved people who were suffering — little children, the helpless, the marginalized, and the poor. He took time for people — especially the sinners. The worst ones were drawn to Him, and He never turned them away. Did you know Jesus caused such a stir that news about Him traveled all the way to Syria from Israel?" He paused, suppressing the urge to feel foolish at talking so intimately with an all-but-dead body, then pushed on.
Excerpted from Standing In The Fire by Tom Doyle, Greg Webster. Copyright © 2017 Tom Doyle. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Time for a Change in Direction xiii
Chapter 1 The Syrian Firing Squad 1
Chapter 2 There's NO Place Like Homs 25
Chapter 3 Married to an Imam 51
Chapter 4 The Muslim Woman at the Well 71
Chapter 5 Just the Usual Damascus Death Threat 91
Chapter 6 The ISIS Recruit from Mosul 121
Chapter 7 The Secret Police Secret 141
Chapter 8 The Jerusalem Peace Plan 169
About the Authors 211
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Amazing stories of true faith in God. We can all learn from this book!