News from the Middle East – an interview with Tom Doyle

The following is an interview of Tom Doyle by Frank Costenbader to learn more about how God is moving among Muslims today in the Middle East. Tom is the Founder and President of Uncharted, the Middle East Advisor for e3 Partners and the author of a fantastic new book about Muslim converts to Christ called Standing in the Fire ( Frank is the Director of Manifold Hope, a Christian mission in Austin, TX which has extensively researched Muslims encountering Jesus (Isa) in their dreams ( Large numbers of Muslims are having Isa dreams today and millions are committing their lives to the man of their dreams. The interview was held on September 15, 2017.


Has the violence and genocide attributed to ISIS had a negative effect on Isa Dreams?

[Frank] Has the violence and turmoil suppressed dream stories, making people afraid to share them?


The gates of hell will not prevail:

[Tom]The violence hasn’t slowed the dreams down at all. It might have if Isa Dreams depended on the dreamers, but God has never been too influenced by Satan’s opposition. The answer seems pretty simple when people ask why God is doing this: (we have to be a little careful not to speak for God and say we’ve got this all figured out) but it doesn’t take a genius to see that if approximately 85% of Muslims globally don’t know one believer and they comprise one fifth of the global population, then God, because He wants the gospel to get to all nations, is motivated to do something. He (God) said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” I can’t think of a place except maybe North Korea, that puts on display the gates of hell on a daily basis more than the Middle East.


So many of the stories that we hear demonstrate the hand of God, especially in Syria and Iraq. We recently brought 110 Syrian leaders into Lebanon for about a week and deprogrammed them – let them tell their stories – we got to share the Word together, worship together. The message was clear – dreams are significantly increasing!


Here’s what I think Frank. I think that in the midst of the age of ISIS, and terrorist groups (once ISIS is knocked down, Jabhat al Nusra is waiting in the wings – there’s hundreds of these groups that can gain power rapidly), but here is why I think Isa Dreams are increasing.


[Tom] Why dreams are increasing:

A. People are seeing Jesus for Who He is.

Previously, Jesus’ message has been camouflaged in the Middle East. The Koran and the Hadith say some good things said about Jesus (we have to be fair), but then there are things that are not accurate too. Muslims say that Jesus was an earthly prophet who was not the Son of God and never died for our sins which creates a barrier to belief for Muslims. But the dreams knock all those barriers aside. When they have a dream, it changes what they think. As one man recently said, “I’d never considered Christianity, never even thought about it, but in my dream, a man in a white robe said, “My name is Jesus” and He hugged me and in my dream I felt love like I’ve never felt from anybody in my whole life!” One dream, one power encounter, and the man had to find out what it meant, so he looked for a bible (none in that mountainous area of Syria), looked for a church – no churches, finally got on the internet and God led him to a person who ended up leading him to faith in Christ and discipling him. But again he said, “I saw Jesus for Who He was. Everyone is killing each other here in Syria but here was Jesus loving me.”

So I think that is playing into it. Isa Dreams are revelation – God is showing Himself and people are hungry to meet Him.


B. I think they are also seeing believers for who they are.

We met some Syrian refugees in Jordan and this one woman told us (I mean 100% Sunni Muslim), but lovingly said with her husband and children there, with no fear or shame, “Well, Tom, the only people we trust in Syria are the Bible people. They are the ones who just love us. They don’t want to kidnap our kids, take our young women, they don’t want to beat up our husbands. They just love us and it’s just so different from everybody else.” And she said, “even in our own religion.”


C. They are also seeing Islam for what it really is.

So I think they are seeing Jesus for who he is, believers for who they are, but then with the rise of the Islamic State, Hamas and Hezbollah (all of those groups), I think Muslims are seeing Islam for what it’s roots truly are.


You and I know that not all Muslims live that way – of course they don’t. But the power brokers, the ones who control and who tend to rise to the top are violent and don’t seem to care for people. Muslims see that and many of them are tired of it. They want something different.


Allahu Akbar!

[Tom] The contrast they see in Jesus is powerful. Things have changed so much over the past five years. The genocide and atrocities are real. The migration of people fleeing the violence is real, but oddly, there is a new element of freedom, of fearless faith. Did you hear the story about the man in the church who yelled out “Allahu Akbar” in Syria? (I had not) A pastor friend of ours in Syria said that before the Syrian war, if you and I were Muslims living in Syria, there’s no way we are going to walk into an above-ground church. Someone will see us. Someone will tell our families. You know, the community has ears all over the place. It was like Cold War Russia with an Arab spin on it. Out of desperation, some Muslims did sneak in but it was rare.


[Tom] Now it is more like 30% in Sunday services who are MBB (Muslim background believers) or seeking Muslims. So, back to the story, a pastor in Damascus is preaching and in the middle of his sermon he said something that hit people’s hearts and this guy shouts out in the worship service “Allahu Akbar!” That caused the people sitting around him to shrink back – it was a show-stopper! Can you imagine if someone did that in an Evangelical Church? The exits would have been jammed. The pastor just handled it beautifully. He knew what was going on. Here was a Muslim guy who had wandered in – he doesn’t know how to say Amen or Halleluia – but something touched his Muslim heart – “this is truth, this is right” – and the pastor just smiled, the guy had said nothing wrong. The pastor just kept going on and a few minutes later, sure enough, “Allahu Akbar!” again. He was agreeing that God is great, that’s all he knew. The man wasn’t even aware that people were moving away from him and looking scared at him. This man was so locked in on the pastor … the pastor gave an invitation and the man sprang forward – in a church in Damascus a Sunni Muslim gets up and goes forward at the invitation! The pastor talked to the man about how this happened and the man said, “I’ve been having dreams. Jesus has been coming to me.” He also mentioned the lives of Jesus’ followers around him who were filled with love, were there to help – they were notes wrapped in flesh. Jesus breaking through in dreams, Christians are living as we should and the combination is unbeatable. Unfortunately, the problem is never with Jesus – it’s always with us living out what we are supposed to, you know? Part of love, Jesus’ love, is reconciliation, people feeling hugs, women saying that they have never felt so safe with a man in my life (“that’s why I want to go bed at night, because in the Jesus’ dreams He puts His arms around me and tells me how much He loves me … like a father.”)


The anecdotal evidence is all over the place that Isa Dreams are increasing:

[Tom] One worker in Jordan recently saw twenty Muslims come to faith in Christ in one week! Some of the people were from Saudi Arabia, some from Syria and some from Iraq. Over a week’s span of time, God led him to these three different groups of Muslims – all seeking – and there was not one who had not had significant dreams about Jesus – every single one of them had dreams about Jesus!


We can’t quantify this. We used to say 30% but our leaders out there now say that it is easily one out of two Sunni Muslims are there because of dreams. They say, “Yes, I’ve had these dreams about Jesus.” You’ve heard “desperate times, desperate measures,” we see that with the heart of God. It’s just so evil out there, and God is breaking through – what a contrast!


(Frank – this makes me think about the contrast between widespread darkness and the shining light of Christ in Isaiah 60 – “Arise, shine, for your light has come!”)
[Tom] When you think about the Syrians coming into Jordan, Jordanians always feared the Syrians – for most of the Jordanians it is payback time. They are the same religion, same ethnicity, same branch of Islam – doesn’t matter. Syrians have raped their women, beaten their children, harassed their men and that’s in their own religion. Then they encounter Christians and the contrast is overwhelming.


[Frank] I interviewed a woman from Iran who laughed when I asked if she had an Isa dream. She said, “We’ve all had Isa dreams. Would you risk your life for someone’s argument? We need something transformational.”


Contrast between East and West

[Tom] You know what I think it is: In the west we are so analytical. Look at what the news is doing, always trying to put such a positive spin on Islam. That’s not all bad since Americans tend to hate all Muslims, I get that. But the news is feverishly trying to support the narrative that Islam is a peaceful religion, these anti-Christian atrocities just don’t happen. But people are seeing the truth and there just has to be this breakthrough and this Iranian lady you mentioned is asking, “Would we be willing to die for a lie?”


In America, we look for reason … “you know, Muslims don’t … In the Middle East, they look for revelation! They don’t want to read a paper – they want to connect with God – find out their destiny! “God, if you’re there, show me!”


Life and death in the Refugee Camps

[Frank] What has happened when people have been moved into camps? Has that made spreading the gospel easier – being in such close proximity?


[Tom] In some ways the refugee camps have made things more dangerous since people are not separated like they would be in homes in Iraq or Syria – there is not a lot of privacy in the camps. There are faith house ministries throughout the Middle East who set up safe houses outside the camps where MBBs and those who are interested can safely gather. You don’t have to stay in the camps during the day. There is freedom to go out if you get a pass. So the close quarters make it easier to see and hear, but make it dangerous to accept Jesus as Savior. I think they are seeing the worst of Islam in the camps. For the Lebanese, Syria has always been the oppressive big brother. They hate them. Look at what happened to Rafik Kariri, blown away by someone connected to Assad. That was Lebanon’s John Kennedy event! Some Lebanese are getting back at the Syrians whom they hate. Many of the Syrians are now suffering in refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon. They are confined to these camps. I can’t help but think how dangerous that would be. But yet – Jesus is breaking through – people are having dreams in the camps – We’ve been in Germany, we’ve been in Sweden, we’ve been in Italy … we’ve been all through the Middle East … we see the same thing – Muslims are having dreams.



Modern-day Lepers

[Tom] I look at today, I look at the Syrian refugees – they remind me of the lepers of the New Testament. Nobody wants to get near them, you know? People are just – “are you kidding? Look at the rapes in Germany, look at the robberies in Sweden.” There’s always stuff to point to, and those things are happening, you can’t deny it. Those people are desperate and there are evil people among them. But on the other hand, this is our opportunity. I think as the church, we don’t need to look at them as the lepers of today. Luke 4 talks about how God reached out through Elisha to another Syrian – Naaman the leper. I think we need to look at them as the missionaries of tomorrow.


[Frank] That’s one of the questions that I had. It seems there is a lot of fear about migration – that it is going to take over Europe, that it is going to break down culture, but I wonder, if it might be happening in reverse where the Holy Spirit is moving in them and transforming the refugees? Do you think any of them may go back as missionaries to their home countries?


[Tom] Exactly. A couple of things: I don’t think they’re going to return to Syria. There have been some studies and I wish I had them at my fingertips … but I remember years ago reading that since 1900, so this would have been published around the turn of the millennium… that there were something like 120,000,000 refugees since the turn of the millennium. So you look at WWI, Vietnam, wars in Russia and all that stuff … anyway, the percentage of those who went back to their home country is minimal – it was very, very minimal. The refugees couldn’t afford it, or they were absorbed into other societies and assimilated … but, whether these people ever go back or not, these people have a story to tell.


The Church in the West needs a broader perspective

[Tom] I believe that many people look at someone like you and me when we stand up to speak at a church and say, “well, you guys are missionaries, you guys go all over the world … you do this – we can’t. We’re afraid!” They need to see past the fear.

One Lens – Security

[Tom] So I give them my testimony – what I say is: look, my dad was an FBI agent. He fought the mafia, that’s why I was born in Chicago and grew up in Las Vegas. In my family, you were guilty until proven innocent. You could never get away with anything. My dad was later looking at the borders for Muslim infiltration. So I understand that – I understand the need for security, but i think too many Christians look at the example of Syrian refugees through one lens like a telescope and what they do is look only at security. I think we need to throw away the telescope and grab the binoculars – two lenses. The one on the right is the government/security – we want our government to function, we don’t want ISIS getting into our country – we don’t. We need security and that is the government’s job to protect us.

The Other Lens

[Tom] Here’s the other lens: the church and the great commission. Jesus called us to go to the nations and the nations are here! He’s making it easy on us. Remember praying for the 10/40 Window? Sheesh, look out our windows … it’s there now. The missionaries we prayed for … it’s us! “Lord, send people to the 1040 Window.” They’re here! Are we going to be responsible? We are the answer to that prayer and He’s making it easy on us. This is what the church has to do, so, yes, we do want security – we don’t want a bunch of suicide bombers in here. But as the Church that’s not what we’re here to focus on, and as the Church we have to stop defaulting to the government to “fix the Muslim problem.” The government does what it’s supposed to do, but the church has to do what it has been commanded to do in the Great Commission … my gosh, we’ve got people from all nations right here!


Dreamers Among Us

[Frank] what have you heard? – it seems like so many of the stories about Isa Dreams are in the Middle East, what about here in America? I was recently reading again about your encounter with the lady in the gas station in Dallas who had been having dreams. Have you heard anything new?


[Tom] You know one thing that I observed, some people, if they have been having dreams say, like this woman you mentioned from Saudi Arabia, moving to America didn’t stop her dreams. Sure they are having dreams here in the U.S. Praise God, our God is not a territorial god. She had as many here as she did there. A lot of people will say, “you know, there is more access here – you can turn on Christian TV, there’s bibles, there’s books, there are churches but for many Muslims that is forbidden – you can’t do that. I have heard that people who have dreams of Jesus overseas continue to have them here. And we’ve met Muslims that never had dreams in Iraq, but they’re having them here. It seems to be more concentrated. I mean I haven’t met a group like a group of Jordanian who said twenty out of twenty had dreams – I haven’t seen that here but we are seeing many who are having dreams. We are seeing this here in Dallas. Texas is the largest Muslim state in the country now – we’re meeting Muslims who have had dreams about Jesus.


Genocide and Church Growth

[Frank] It is easy to glamorize something like “Fox’s Book of Martyrs,” but in the middle of genocide it does seem like the church grows. The very thing that Satan is trying to suppress and destroy backfires on him.


[Tom] It really does. That’s why I wrote “Killing Christians” because there are so many stories of heroic Christians whom the Lord has taken home. The next book that comes out in a few months, “Standing in the Fire,” is about people who should be dead, we’d expect them to be dead. How can a former ISIS leader stay in the country that he lived in and perpetrated those crimes and he’s still alive? We asked him and he said “it’s just the Lord. The Lord has a plan. I know that I’m going to die any day, but for now I’m here, my country needs me and Jesus is the answer.” It’s pretty powerful stuff that we see going on out there. The church spreads when it is persecuted. It’s like identical twins: you see harvest and right next to it you see persecution … always. That’s Satan’s automatic response. But the thing that he’s not getting is that this throws gas on the fire, it doesn’t shut it down. Really, a better MO would be to let us alone and let us fight about church music or the Holy Spirit or future things or something. But when the church is beaten, we get stronger, our roots go deeper. I think persecuted believers have become the new face of genuine Christianity. And here’s the shock to many Christians – many of those persecuted believers are former Muslims. That’s what blows people away. The person who’s been a believer for two months and is memorizing hunks of the Bible and is willing to die for Jesus. Would our average Evangelical who’s been going to the same church for forty years be willing to die for Jesus? You know?


“Your Faith is Too Easy”

[Frank] I had a troubling meeting back in 1974 with a Pastor Ham from Estonia. His country was under Russian control and I remember him weeping – he said, “Your freedom is crippling you. Your faith costs you nothing!” I knew inside me that he was right – I didn’t know how to respond. I remember thinking, “You’re living a more vital faith, but it is largely the circumstances of your life.” I’m challenged about that with the people who are coming out of the ME and looking at the church today and wondering what we have to offer them? Are we giving them a vital church? You know what I’m saying.


[Tom] Oh yeah, and you know what? Say, listen, I’m all for helping people when they’re down and out and they need help but here in America we have fourth generation families that are on welfare. And for all the things that have been done for them, they have the loosest connection to our country of anyone. You think about it, they didn’t have to pay a price – it was given to them. Yes, there is a sense of societal debt I totally get that. It’s kind of like the American church – they haven’t had to pay any price, it’s been given to them, it’s been easy. Go down the street, there’s a Christian bookstore. “Easy come, easy go,” I think. That’s what shocks, that is what humanizes. My goal is to tell stories, stories, stories.


Confronting My Heart

[Tom] Recently a guy called me and said, “You know what? I know what you did. I know what your MO is for Standing in the Fire.” I said, “What’s that?” He said, “You’re confronting my heart – forcing me to deal with it emotionally! I didn’t think that Muslims were real people and now I know they are real people and secondly, when they come to Jesus they are more dedicated to Him than me and it just blew me out of the water.” And that’s what people have to see, but the church – that easy come, that insider tribal language that no one but believers can understand (laughter) this would seem non-relevant, but if they could see the churches meeting in someone’s home in the middle of the night, and the women come in and take off their burkas and worship Jesus together – that is something that would blow their minds.


[Frank] I think we may get our chance given the changes that I see taking place in our society.

One of the questions that I have is whether the Lord is birthing new churches. I was talking with the Turkey Network and they were saying that televangelists are reaching people and that there are many new believers but they are isolated. They are often not meeting and worshipping together – they are afraid to.


Satan’s Plan A is Nothing Compared to God’s

[Tom] I think Satan’s game plan is to stop anyone from coming to Christ. If that happens and that plan doesn’t work (i.e. People do get saved) then Plan B is to keep them from meeting together. That’s the second goal – Satan wants us weak, he knows that we are stronger together … we know that. So every place I see is different. The numbers are not huge, but they are significant. I mean we are not seeing something like in India and China – there are mass movements there. But in the places we are traveling we are seeing a lot. I think so much is how they are prepared in the beginning. I was talking to a church planter in the Middle East and I asked Jamal why are you seeing less attrition with Muslims, more people getting into small house churches?  And he said, “I’m don’t think I’m doing anything right other than our team of about fifteen do this before we lead someone to faith in Christ …” they do five things (and I’m not one to say “do these five things and it’s going to solve all your problems” but it’s all God, that’s for sure. He said, “I do think it’s important how we prepare them …” He said this (and in one city he works in they’ve seen about 180 Muslims who have come to faith in Christ – baptized this week someplace! And I mean it is in a dangerous city. We can’t say it, but it is in a dangerous city in Jordan.

He did say this, “Before they pray to receive Jesus, we tell them:

  1. They will be persecuted,
  2. After they pray, we tell them that Jesus wants them to be baptized soon – believe and be baptized! (And so I met a young believer in Jordan named Mohammed. He came to faith in Christ and the next week he was baptized. I said, “Mohammed, that’s pretty gutsy, for baptism is the dividing line.” And he said, “Well, it is in our culture but, let’s face it, Jesus said believe and be baptized. It’s not a graduation, Tom – it’s an initiation.”

Believe and be baptized. And I thought, Amen! I mean, look at our churches – 16 weeks of classes then you can get baptized. These MBB’s are offered discipleship, but they baptize them first.

  1. We teach them to be bold to reach their families and neighbors.
  2. The day they accept Jesus, we take them to the field and they share their faith. We want them to say, “Hi, my name is Mohammed. An hour ago I gave my life to Jesus and this is why. We take them that day. We show them that ministry is a part of your life. It is not something that some people do – we all do this! And then,
  3. We help them discover their spiritual gifts so that they will be useful in the Body of Christ.” And he said, “We don’t want this second tier Christian background/ Muslim background – we’re all in the body – we all contribute.” Isn’t that great? He said that the Lord just gave it to them over time. He said, “Hey, we have ups and downs too. We see people go back, we see people defect and expose churches, but we’re not seeing a lot at this point. He said it is just a time of great harvest.


Where Do We Go From Here?

[Frank] What would you like to tell me about the situation as it is maturing? What is the message that the Lord wants for the church in the West about what is happening in the Middle East?


[Tom] I had a friend who taught at DTS who said he would weigh people’s beliefs on how much he would wager on them (like for pre-trib, post-trib, etc.).

So, that Jesus is the way to heaven – I’d bet my house, my car … everything on it.

The rapture of the church? I’m not sure, maybe $100?

[Tom] Here’s something that we know 100% is happening. The So. Baptists have done intensive research and found that the fastest growing church per capita in the world right now is in the Middle East region. Not all regions of the Middle East, but there are some regions that are just jumping out where they have seen significant growth. So I think our message to the Body of Christ is Now is Our Time! The religion of Islam is imploding before their eyes. It’s being shown as all pure terrorism. But yet in the midst of it with people disgruntled and disgusted at what they are seeing, there is this new openness. And in disaster when people are really down low they can look up more and I think Muslims are looking up saying “I’m not going to pray God where are you? I’m going to pray God Who are You? I’m confused. You never seem to answer my prayers.” (The perfect chance for Jesus to step in.) So, if people have wanted to do something, if people have wanted to change, how about this one – 1/5 of the globe is being bombarded by Isa Dreams and Jesus is moving around the world among Muslims and now is our time – we’ve go to get involved. Every believer in America needs some training. They don’t need to be a Muslim scholar, they don’t need to know everything in the Koran, in fact, the best missionaries I meet, the best at sharing the gospel, know very little about the Koran. We need to learn how to share with Muslims, we need to learn how to befriend them – how to build a friendship, how to bring Jesus to them without being obnoxious, without hitting the barriers that have falsely been put up by the imams and sheiks. So I guess my message is this: This is our time. We don’t want to look back in ten years and say we had this great opportunity and we let it slide away. This is our opportunity and whether it is going to one of the seminars we do: how to love Muslims to Christ seminars or going to the Crescent Project – whoever – there is great training out there that is being effective in the Muslim world and we need to show Christians that Muslims are human beings, that Jesus is reaching out to them and that He expects us to as well. He has made it easy – He is bringing them to us. So let’s turn off the news and get into the Bible. Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church.” We should expect that and it’s happening, so let’s step into that and be a part of it.


[Frank] Thank you Tom. How are the changes in your ministry reflecting what you are seeing?


The Next Step is Discipleship

[Tom] A few years ago, and a part of it is writing Dreams and Visions, Killing Christians and Standing in the Fire – I’ve seen tremendous things that the Lord is doing, but the next step is discipleship. What do we do? And the tremendous scourge of the MBBs in the Middle East just won our hearts. I’m still the Middle East Advisor for e3 Partners. I’m still working with the guys I recruited and trained, but we want to go to the next step. What do we with these MBBs who are getting persecuted, who have no jobs? God just gave us a heart for the persecuted church and I think when people hear we are going to work with the persecuted church they may think of an Assyrian Christian who has been marginalized for hundreds of years in Syria. Our hearts are really drawn to the new believers who come from Muslim backgrounds who are being persecuted. They are like the Thessalonians who received the message with joy in the midst of severe persecution. Right off the bat they are getting hammered by people. So that’s where our heart is – the underground church – persecuted believers. We are also doing that in Korea too, but primarily in the Middle East. We want to be there. We want to be an advocate for them. We want to help – we don’t want to bring them to Jesus and leave them hanging. We want to be there for them. So, we need to form gospel-centered churches in the Middle East but we also realize that Muslims coming to faith in Christ in this desperate age are going to pay a price that few people have ever paid. So we want to be with them, work with them, support them, help them, advocate for them.


[Frank] I saw the note about the trip to Korea and I thought, O boy, Lord, what are you opening up there?


Koreans are Afraid of Muslims Too

[Tom] Yes, Frank, listen – here’s what was mind-boggling to us. North Korean spies infiltrate South Korea. They try to capture defectors – kidnap them and bring them back. Meeting with the South Koreans, they are no different from Americans. As we talked with them, we thought Big Bully (N. Korea) and all of that – they are afraid of N. Korea. Our S. Korea friends said they’re not even tuned into the news about what that crazy guy is doing in N. Korea with the rockets and all of that stuff. You know whom they are afraid of? They are afraid of the Muslims because Muslims are moving to S. Korea. Pastors from S. Korea are saying, “We don’t know what to do so we are ignoring them.” So Voice of the Martyrs has asked us to come in to work with them and do Muslim outreach training – how to love them and welcome them into your community and reach out to them.




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