It started with one man, from an ancient Syriac Orthodox family in a small town in southeastern Turkey. His beloved and beautiful wife had died. He packed his three small sons on a donkey, and moved out to the seacoast. In the small town of Karadash on a peninsula facing Cyprus, he met a missionary from America, who brought him to know God in a new and deeper way. He became a teacher, and raised his boys in a mission school.
Tragedy struck again. As the Ottoman Empire died during and after World War II, the Turks and Kurds turned on the Armenian and Assyrian Christians, who shared the religion of the Western imperialists. Two of the boys, now young men, got out; the third brother and their father were killed. Years later, a witness to the massacre told of the father being begged to save his life by saying the words that would make him a Muslim. He refused, saying that he would not give up his Christ.
The two surviving brothers found their way to Lebanon, then under French governance. The younger one, Aziz Malki, married a young lady from an Orthodox village in the mountains of Lebanon. Aziz was known as a lay evangelist, and their 11 children were raised in Protestant mission churches and mission schools. (The oldest was my husband John.) When his fourth son Elias was 10, his father prophesied that God would use him to be a minister of the Gospel.
Elias later met an American Pentecostal missionary in Beirut, who discipled him and arranged for him to go to America for Bible school. He married an American girl, and after he graduated from Life Bible College in Los Angeles, his first ministry job was to revive a small church in Highland.
Elias found a way to go back to Lebanon to preach. He eventually had a church, a summer camp and a Bible school there. When civil war broke out in Lebanon, his sponsors insisted that they come home. As this door closed, his Bible college classmate and close friend Jack Hayford helped them them set up their own nonprofit ministry, Middle East Gospel Outreach. The Holy Spirit led him to an opportunity to broadcast the Gospel in Arabic on a radio station in Cyprus, and later was asked to do an Arabic-language program similar to the 700 Club on a TV station that Pat Robertson of CBN had acquired in southern Lebanon. The "Good News Program" led to speaking tours and pastors' conferences in the Middle East, as well as the US, England and Australia, which often included taking tour groups to Israel, and neighboring countries when possible. He also established a training school in Cyprus to disciple converts that could go back to Middle Eastern countries with the Gospel. The next step outward was in 1996, when satellite time became available on an uplink in Kurdistan--not far from where his father was born, and owned by people of the same nationality that had killed his grandfather and driven his father to flee to Lebanon. This satellite reaches most of the Middle East and Europe with the Good News.
Look at the chain of individuals that were used, often through tragedy and sorrow, to bring one man to a place where he has been able to bring the Good News of God to an astonishing number of people in one of the most difficult parts of the world. Each time a door closed, it led to a wider opportunity opening up. One of the things Elias kept saying as his health was failing was "It's not over yet!" Looking around the chapel today at the people gathered to remember and thank God for him, I was thinking that no, your assignment is not over, even though God has taken you Home, because you inspired and discipled and trained so many others that are already out there spreading the Good News in the places that God laid on your heart--and they are discipling even more generations of messengers. This is how God has always worked--empowering people through His Spirit to pass on the Good News.
In Loving Memory of Elias Malki, 1931-2015; www.godsairforce.com