A sheikh (Muslim teacher) in a Middle Eastern country sent his nephew to a native ministry’s church so that the young man could compile a list of names of everyone who attended worship services.
The undercover mission had several purposes, all designed to keep Christianity from spreading. Such a list would be helpful for learning the names of Muslims who might be attending Christian services, names of Christians who were formerly Muslims and names of Christians who might be trying to convert Muslims.
Once known, these people could then be pressured to cease and desist their activities.
The twenty-something nephew, Rami*, said he attended services for several months in order to learn people’s names.
“Then I realized that what I was doing was very wrong,” Rami said. “I started enjoying the preaching. I liked the singing very much, and it touched my heart. I became very depressed because of what I was doing, and guilt filled my conscience.”
His attitude toward Christianity and Christians gradually shifted; then came a sudden pivot.
“One Sunday when a preacher asked who would like to give their heart to Jesus, I immediately prayed in my heart and accepted Jesus as my Savior,” he said. “I did not dare to raise my hand, as I was afraid that there may be other spies like me in the room.”
In time he made his faith known, developing relationships within the fellowship as relations with his uncle and other Muslim relatives deteriorated.
“I am now completely happy and truly believe in Jesus,” Rami said.
From its inception the chuch has grown as it has focused outward on meeting needs in the Muslim-majority country.
Those needs increased rapidly through various economic storms, exacerbated by incoming flows of refugees displaced by violence in the region. The basic need for food, for example, has grown so acute that local missionaries are providing 800 food boxes to families per month, the ministry director said.
A member of the ministry’s relief team said workers feel privileged to provide food to the needy with one hand and a Bible with the other, but not in a way that recipients feel forced or manipulated.
“What we do is unconditional,” he said. “That is, after we offer them the food boxes, if they agree, we also share the Good News with them. We do not force it on them. This has helped us to build bridges with the people we serve.”
Workers show their genuine care for people, both nationals and refugees, by visiting them often to check on their condition. Gradually learning their various needs and trying to meet them opens the way to conversations that bring them closer, the worker said.
“Many times when we first start talking about the love of Christ with them, they refuse our message,” he said. “They want to see this love within us first before they can trust us more. After we build those bridges, and as more and more start trusting us, their attitude towards us changes, and they start accepting our message.”
Faith in Christ naturally develops after workers forge relationships with them, the worker said.
“Many people have so far accepted Christ in their lives as a result of our efforts, and most of them come from a non-Christian background,” he said. “They have come to a point of realization and testify that they were living in darkness and now they have seen the light.”
Church volunteers help with the aid, and refugees especially are amazed at the concern and care they receive from them, he said.
“Today, the refugees that are being catered to by the church are amazed by the practical love they are experiencing through the church team members,” the worker said. “As a result of that, many of them are currently being followed up by our outreach team and already are regularly attending church.”
Workers train those who have come to Christ through discipleship that involves outreach and equipping them to minister in-country or, if they are refugees, back in their countries of origin.
“We are also doing a training-the-trainer course to empower the leaders who are following up on people with enough support to understand how to deal with all type of believers, and specifically those who come from a non-Christian background,” the ministry leader said. “Those leaders in turn are taking the training and providing discipleship and follow-up lessons to the many new believers they are serving.”
As workers believe in ministering to the whole person, the ministry meets medical needs by bringing in specialists from within and outside the country – dentists, surgeons, trauma therapists, pediatricians, specialists in infectious diseases, dermatologists and others – who gave free consultations over six months to more than 1,700 adults and children.
The treatments, accompanied by workers praying for patients and sharing Scripture with them, are especially meaningful in a country whose economic spasms have sapped people of health insurance as unemployment has risen. Many people can no longer afford to go to a doctor or buy prescriptions.
From literacy classes for adults and children to laundry service to second-hand clothing, workers meet a wide array of needs that are the first expressions of Christ’s love for many people.
“Through our community support projects, health, food distribution and relief work in addition to the education services, we have succeeded in building trust relationships, assuring the people we serve that we really care, because we have demonstrated that in tangible ways that preserve their dignity,” the director said.
Please consider a donation today to help such workers bring the love of Christ to hurting people throughout the region.
*Name changed for security reasons