In the countries of North Africa where only a scant few have heard the gospel, Muslims are taught that Christians worship three gods including the Virgin Mary, and they routinely hear that the Bible is riddled with major textual corruptions.
Samir Abdelnour* had heard all these things, but it irked him that Muslim teachers would forbid him from reading the Bible or asking questions about the Koran. Hard-pressed to find any Christians in his city, the Muslim in his young 20s began to find answers about the Bible and Christianity by watching satellite-transmitted, Christian TV programs and surfing the Internet.
On one website he signed up to receive a copy of the Bible, and the native ministry that sponsors the site sent a team worker to meet with him.
“They met up, and our worker explained to him the truth of the Bible and Islam,” the ministry director said. “He was so astonished and touched with all the truth concerning Jesus that finally he accepted Jesus as His Lord and Savior.”
Economic and political unrest in many of the countries, along with an influx of refugees from other areas, has created unprecedented opportunity to introduce people to hope in Christ.
While the Bible alone has been known to lead some people to faith in Christ, amid the region’s miasma of misinformation a personal connection cannot be underestimated; one question leads to another, and nothing short of face-to-face answers will do. Following up with those who contact the website, native missionaries travel to different regions of the country and pray for those they meet. In an area once closed to the gospel, they recently saw three people baptized.
In another area, 11 new Christians took baptism. Further east, 32 people put their faith in Christ. Elsewhere, a church of 36 Christians saw six new people receive Christ.
“The ministry’s aim is to to disciple new Christians and start worship groups, to see them develop into churches and reach out to their communities,” the director said. “Despite persecution, there were many baptisms that took place in different regions of the country.”
More than 103,000 people saw the Jesus film in the past year, and 29,125 people visited the ministry’s websites. The team receives an average 115 phone calls from seekers each month.
Countries in the region have populations that are no more than 2 percent Christian, with most of them under 1 percent. Economic and political unrest in many of the countries, along with an influx of refugees from other areas, has created unprecedented opportunity to introduce people to hope in Christ.
A team from Abdelnour’s country visited another country in the region, where they encouraged a church of 30 people. The director gave thanks to God for their ministry there.
“A local couple who have been separated for 10 years were reconciled through their ministry,” he said. “At the end, a local believer was baptized.”
Another team of seven native missionaries drove to a town in another country in the region, where they divided into two groups – one to share the gospel, and one to pray for those sharing and hearing the gospel.
“One immigrant who had been very much touched by the Christian TV channels came to faith after meeting the team,” the director said. “Some nationals were prayed for and blessed, and a few were delivered from unclean spirits. Praise, glory and honor be to the Lord!”
Their work is carried out in an increasingly dark landscape. A recent Pew Research Center study found the levels of religious restrictions are highest in the Middle East-North Africa region. Also, the average score for government harassment in the Middle East-North Africa region increased by 72 percent between 2007 and 2017.
In some North African countries, Pew’s Social Hostilities Index (SHI) increased more than the Government Restrictions Index (GRI) did. In Libya, for example, societal hostility as measured by the SHI increased from 1.4 in 2007 to 7.1 in 2017, even as its GRI decreased from 5.1 in 2007 to 4.1 in 2017.
North African Muslims who leave Islam to receive eternal life in Christ can expect to be disowned, with their families telling them that if they want to be Christians, then the Christians can take care of them. The ministry strives to meet that challenge, providing a multi-service shelter for persecuted Christians.
“It’s a shelter for persecuted believers to stay in but also a place to grow in their biblical knowledge and walk with God, get medical help if needed, and get vocational training to support themselves when they leave,” the director said. “We also provide assistance to some persecuted believers by helping them pay their legal fees.”
Former Muslims can face legal burdens of several kinds. Some are arrested for sharing their faith on social media; some are fined for possessing Bibles or Christian literature; some have their businesses closed and go to court for redress; others go to court to recover the right to build homes used for worship.
Pastors increasingly resort to legal battles to re-open closed church buildings. Sometimes those court appearances themselves result in the gospel coming to light.
“With the closing of some churches in one area, the team committed to fast for five months,” the director said. “The Lord gave us several opportunities to share the gospel with people who could not have been reached without this closing of the church – for example, lawyers, bailiffs and police officers. So many people in the administration heard the Good News.”
Native missionaries are working throughout the region to proclaim the gospel and disciple those who respond to the call to follow Christ. Please consider a donation today to help them build the kingdom amid dark opposition.
*Name changed for security reasons