18 years ago today, he was released from captivity

One of the highlights of my time in Istanbul took place tonight at a dinner table. I had the privilege of sharing a meal with Joel and Margaret Delhart in the home of mutual friends. Joel grew up in Central Asia and continues to live there today. In the summer of 1991 he and a veterinarian, Dr. William Lewis, were working in a remote region of Afghanistan, serving the Hazara people by implementing a vaccination program for their farm animals. On Saturday, July 6, they were abducted by a Mujahideen commander and held for ransom. On January 4, 1992, exactly 18 years ago, Joel was released. Dr. Lewis had been released 3 months earlier after becoming critically ill.

The quiet, humble confidence in God that Joel exudes is recounted in a book that he and a co-worker who was the lead negotiator for his release co-wrote, entitled, The Upper Hand: God’s Sovereignty in Afghan Captivity. I was given a copy of the book tonight and look forward to reading the details of the story that I heard over dinner.

Seven years ago, the Deharts also survived a grenade attack on their church during a worship service in Islamabad. Both of them were injured in the attack and live with the resulting challenges of those injuries.

They are passing through Istanbul on their way back to Central Asia to continue serving the people they love by teaching English. Being with them was a reminder of the reality of suffering and sacrifice that many or our brothers and sisters face around the world today. It was also a reminder to pray for those who choose to live in hard places for the sake of the gospel.

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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