“Evangelists Urgently Needed for the Rising Number of New Believers Who Were Muslims”

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The Islamic world which was impregnable, is showing a big change due to the shrinking oil market and refugee issues. The following article introduces the changes in the mission environment in the Islamic world after my recent visit to a local Islamic region. <Editor>

The Middle East and North Africa are in the midst of a radical wave of change.

Saudi Arabia is expanding tourist visas to attract tourists, and the doors of Saudi Arabia that have been firmly closed are opening wide to attract foreign companies. This is to change the economic system that has been dependent on oil.

In addition, Oman, which dreams of improving the economic constitution, has the biggest dependence on gas among six Gulf countries, is rushing to open the door to attract foreign companies.

In line with these open doors in the Middle East, missionaries are saying that a new situation will emerge for the preaching of the gospel.

South Korea also opened its doors to Western society with Japan-Korea Treaty of 1876, which is also called “Ganghwado Treaty”, and United States-Korea Treaty of 1882. After then, missionary Allen came in South Korea in 1884, Underwood and Appenzeller in 1885. Given these examples, the open doors in the Middle East are likely to be green lights for missionary work.

Residents of Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan lost their foundations of lives due to wars and terrorism. The residents were driven to Europe and neighboring countries, causing refugee problems, and the European and neighboring countries are suffering from the refuge problems. Meanwhile, the refugees are watching carefully what will become their true hopes in refugee camps and new settlements. The gospel, reaching out to them with a loving hand, is capturing the hearts of the refugees.

A Christian met in the first stopover, Egypt

December 2019. Egypt’s air into winter was as cool as autumn air in South Korea. Ahmed (pseudonym) was the man of faith who first met the Lord in the land of Egypt. Ahmed was a fundamentalist Muslim who believed in Sufiism. As he continued the conversation with me through the Google translator on his smartphone, he confessed:

▶Smartphone screen translated the confession of brother Ahmed
▶Smartphone screen translated the confession of brother Ahmed

“I am crucified with Jesus on the cross, and now Jesus Christ lives in me and will be my life for ever.” Looking at the screen where his confession was translated, I was moved. It would not have been easy for a Muslim to believe in Jesus…How could he make such confession? What difficulties, pains, and hardships did he have in his life? I wanted to hear more stories. Thankfully, during his stay in Egypt, I was able to meet with him again (The brother’s interview will be introduced at the next opportunity).

He was a Muslim who believed in Sufiism, literally practicing the Quran doctrine. When he was a young man, he emphasized doctrines and even demanded a strict life of faith for his father, and sometimes talked harshly for the doctrines. However, at that time, his family looked at him in vain and considered his words and conducts as natural.

After Ahmed met Jesus Christ, his attitude changed completely. He tried to practice kindness, consideration, and love. Since then, there have been a series of hardships in his life. Because, in Islamic culture, conversion from Muslims to Christians is a shame. He even escaped from the throes of death.

It is difficult to explain all the hardships that Muslim Based Believers (MBB) suffer. I visited the Middle East after visiting North Africa. There, I met three sisters who were staying country A. It was because they lost their mother from their relatives’ attack. Three sisters’ relatives attacked them for they being converted from Muslim to Christianity in Yemen in 2014. Their mother suffered full body burns because the mother’s younger sibling and older brother poured a pot of boiling oil when she was cooking in her house in June of 2014. She was taken to an emergency room but died in a few days. The sisters suffered the pain of watching their mother burn and die. The three sisters met a Christian community in country A and currently they are living lives of faith by being trained.

Suffering began in this family in 1997 when three sisters’ father, Saed, was reading a newspaper article about Christianity. The article was containing these words of the Bible “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

It was shocking to Saed. As a school teacher, he learned that the word forgiveness, which is hard to find in Islam, is a daily life in Christianity. The Christianity world viewpoint looked different from that of Islam where retaliation and punishment continue based on the concept of a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye. Saed was curious. What doctrine is there in the Bible that allows forgiveness? He wanted to read the Bible. Then, through satellite radio, he got to hear gospel broadcasts in Yemeni for an hour every day. Saed who was a thirsty deer received Jesus Christ. After then, there were some changes in his life. The self-seeker began to love, care for and forgive others. As his neighbors noticed the changes, his conversion was revealed and he was eventually kicked out of his work. It has been clear that Satan loves to kill and perish, and does not want people to love and forgive each other.

After Saed lost his wife in 2014, he could no longer stay in his hometown. He and his family began to live like drifters. 5 years later, now, he and his family live in country A.

As I met Ahmed and Saed’s family, I was curious. What kind of lives are MBBs living? Would there be any church to receive, nurture and serve them?

Currently, the countries where apparent churches are located are Syria, Lebanon and Jordan in in the Levant (which is Palestine that belonged to the ancient Canaan), Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Iran in the Arabian Peninsular and some North African countries. The UAE designated certain areas for religious facilities so that foreigners from different countries can attend churches. However, citizens of most Islamic countries are unable to convert because their religion is described in their ID cards.

The Christian Worldview to be Planted in New Believers who were Muslims

Missionary Song, Yousef who is working in Jordan said: “In Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iran, churches such as Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches have traditionally existed. Some protestant churches are also in operation. However, it is not easy for the protestant churches to accept new comers who were Muslims as members.” Because it could lead to an armed force of Islamic powers that illegalizes conversion to Christianity. Missionary Song added “Pastors serve and associate with these new believers without being revealed but it is difficult for the new comers to settle in the existing churches.”

Actually, missionary B who I met in Egypt said “If a church is open to new believers from Islam, it can be a target of Muslim attacks. Also, new believers who know this may not easily reach the church.”

However, the situation in the recent refugee scene is slightly different. In refugee camps, Christians who converted from Islam are attacked among refugees who moved in, but the Christians can live relatively free lives of faith in the refugee camps.

Paul Jung who is operating a refugee camp in Lebanon said “The number of times he shared the Bible and preached the Gospel while serving in the Middle East for a decade has been small. However, since the beginning of the refugee ministry, the Bible has been freely distributed to them. After the emergence of smartphone, we are even in short of memory cards containing the Bible or materials related to the Bible.”

There is shortage of hands to systematically nurture and serve them. It is very urgent to deliver the good news of the cross to the people who are new to the gospel and make them to be the witnesses of Jesus Christ.

Missionary D who formed a community with refugees to spread the good news said “It is important to create opportunities for refugees who have lost their foundations of lives to become independent. However, constant dialogue and faith training are needed to change their perspective from the Islamic worldview to the Christian worldview.” [Return To The Gospel News]

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