Throughout our years in the Middle East, our family has been welcomed into countless homes during Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. We've been invited to enjoy iftar--the meal marking the end of the day's fast--with Syrian refugees, our next door neighbours, and even a large family in a neighbouring city.
Most of us are familiar with the story of Paul and Silas in prison when the earthquake struck and the jailer, fearing the prisoners had escaped, prepared to kill himself. As soon as Paul reassured him they were all present the jailer fell trembling at their feet, asking the question evangelists would love to hear, "What must I do to be saved?" I love Paul's reply, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, you and your household."
Yunas' lives in his childhood home, a small town surrounded by snow-capped mountains. His parents raised him to follow the teachings of Islam.
As a young man, Yunas moved away to a large city in the region. He struggled to find work. Then he got involved with a gang and quickly rose through the ranks to become a leader.
Kyran, a farmer and a Muslim background believer, is used to persecution. His Muslim neighbours rejected him when he started following Christ. The neighbourhood mullah, or Islamic religious teacher, speaks openly against them. Occasionally, zealous Muslim men are sent to try to bully Kyran into coming to pray at the mosque.
What do the visual arts have to do with bringing the message of Jesus to peoples and places previously unreached with the gospel? What place is there for artists in the global mission of God? I don't consider myself to be an artist, but these are questions I've been chewing over as I've encountered young artists who want to use their talent for the kingdom of God.
Churches and governments in the West have played critical roles in helping welcome and relocate Syrian refugees.
But the majority of these refugees have remained in neighbouring countries in the Middle East. Governments in the region continue to face severe challenges in responding to the needs of millions of displaced Syrians.
I believe that classical music of any group carries remarkable heritage and is something locals are proud of. Learning their music is therefore an explicit expression of respect and love for the culture. Music is (as we all know) a universal language, something that touches all regardless of age or background. Sharing, playing and discussing music is always something to start off conversation... conversation which then has the potential to develop and move into other topics.
Hospitality is a matter of honour, life, and death throughout much of the Muslim world.
Frontiers workers new to the field quickly discover just how important it is to visit their Muslim neighbours and friends. "Failing to visit your neighbours means that you don't respect or honour them," says Robert, a long-term field worker in East Africa.
A few months later, Layla was diagnosed with terminal cancer. This woman, the direct answer to prayer that we sought for so long, had already made such an impact that we were certain God would heal her as a powerful example of his healing care. "There's no way that God will let her pass," we reassured ourselves. "She has a mission and a vision. God wants to use her."
If you haven't heard of the Caucasus before you wouldn't be alone. This lesser-known mountainous region sits between the Black and Caspian seas. It includes southern Russia and several of its territories. It has a long history with an incredible diversity of people groups and languages. Across the rugged and beautiful landscape are some of the world's most unreached peoples.
In the ten years I've been living in the Middle East, one of the enduring problems I've observed is a lack of boldness in those who come to faith. We can show them as much as we want about becoming bold and sharing their new-found faith in God, but if he doesn't move in them to prompt it, they will always be trapped in fear.
When my Muslim friend Jemal came to our home he wanted to talk to me about the spirits that had been bothering him in his bedroom. We'd only been living in Jemal's country for less than a year, so aware of my limited language ability I decided to point him to some Bible stories showing Jesus' authority over spirits. As we started reading he shut the Bible and said "I don't want to talk about spirits. Tell me, who was Jesus and why did he come?"
In the wake of the terror attacks in Manchester this week, you may have been hit by a wave of emotions, I know I was. Great sadness for those, and their families, who have been killed and injured, shock at the attack on innocents, many of whom were children and young people; probably anger at the evil acts of those who have done this. Maybe fear that it might happen again.
What do we do with these emotions? The article below is one Frontiers worker's experience of wrestling with issues like these and how the Lord spoke to her:
Thomas walked along the oil-stained street, passing welders, metal shops, and dozens of trucks in various states of repair. The neighborhood was a bit rough around the edges, but Thomas knew its people well. He stopped and greeted several hard-working Muslim men who had welcomed him into their community.
I recently had the privilege of adding some colour to the canvas of my imagination regarding ministry to the Muslim world, after spending a week visiting a team in North Africa. If you haven't had much experience of what life on the field can look like, it's easy to picture this change of lifestyle as a country mile from what you're used to.
From Frontiers field family Brian and Trisha Richardson.
Over the course of our years in South Asia, we have seen God move in the hearts of Muslims in our city. Many of them have chosen to follow Jesus Christ.
But about 100 miles away, there is a Muslim region that has no Gospel witness--not a single follower of Jesus trying to reach the local people with the Good News.
Frontiers worker Michael was discouraged. He and his family had given so much to bring the Gospel to Nahrayn, a village they had lived in for several months while providing disaster relief following an earthquake. Despite broadly sharing the Word, they saw no spiritual fruit.
Michael was ready to give up. Instead, he committed to a week of prayer.
Join us in a 2-part series on Sohail's journey of faith.
Sohail had grown up in Nahrayn, a South Asian village, believing that Islam was the one true religion for the world.
But the petty injustices he saw among his fellow Muslims troubled him. One day, he realized that he didn't know a single person who would do anything selfless for anyone else.
When we moved back to the UK recently, we decided as a family to try out the nearest church to our new home. The church had a vision statement on the news sheet we were handed at the door: 'We exist to be God's transforming presence at the heart of our community.' We soon discovered there are many ministries in place where members can put this vision into practice, and they really are blessing the community! In fact, we've since discovered numbers of churches involved in all kinds of excellent ministries across our town.
My son was almost born in Bethlehem - my husband and I had recently moved to East Jerusalem and, due to complications in my pregnancy, I was rushed into hospital 6 weeks before he was due to be born. This was not part of my plan - I had intended to travel back to Jordan, to the doctor I had known when I lived there, to give birth in a place that wouldn't involve my visitors having to cross a checkpoint to get to me.
As we walked through the streets of our city, I started to wonder if, and when, we would ever see Muslims giving their lives to the Lord. My wife Sara and I had left our home three years before and moved to this desert place to share Jesus' love with the people in this city, and now, after a hard week, doubts were starting to creep in. This thought led me to pray a simple prayer asking the Lord to give me a glimmer of hope. About a hundred metres further down the road the Lord answered my prayer. Hallelujah!
Cars sped by on the pot-holed road. Most of them were battered old taxis full of passengers on their way to the market.
Irena, a long-term Frontiers worker, stood at the side of the road, squinting into the oncoming traffic. She stuck her hand out and waved it limply, signaling drivers to stop if they had any space left for her.
A clean white Mercedes stopped in front of her. Irena knew this wasn't a taxi. The car was well cared for. And the clean-shaven, smartly dressed driver was clearly on his way to work in some office in the city center.
A continuation from the previous blog post, 3 Syrian Widows:
Tears streamed down the three women's faces as Cassie finished praying for the Lord to comfort them.
They were running out of time.
Amira's husband had already been killed in the Syrian conflict. So had her father and her sister's husband.
The three Muslim widows--Amira, her sister Rama, and their mother--quickly packed what little they could carry. With their five small children, they fled their crumbling homeland.
Farzan had come to India desperate for a way to get medical help for his son.
The child had been out playing with his cousins back in Afghanistan, their home country, when they accidentally tripped a land mine. The explosion had left his son blind.
Farzan had sought every avenue for his son's healing. When those failed, he started saving to bring the boy to India--a short flight from Kabul. Surely more options for healing existed outside of Afghanistan.
"I have a spirit living me," said Asma, a Syrian refugee living in a large refugee settlement. "It causes me to fall down and makes me say things I don't mean to say."
Joni, a long-term Frontiers worker, and her colleague, a skilled nurse, sat in the crowded tent as Asma related how she suffered from fainting spells.
Rakhmet was desperate. The middle-aged man had just finished a 5-year prison sentence. With no place to go but the streets, it wasn't long before he back fell into a vicious cycle of drug addiction.
Rakhmet had grown up in a Muslim home, but he had left both his home and his religion long ago. He figured God had abandoned him, just as he had turned from his family.
The imam stroked his beard, listening with a steady gaze. He was measuring our words carefully.
This respected religious leader had never seen Westerners in this part of town before. Usually, they toured historical sites near the outskirts--they never went into the city's heart, where millions of devoted Muslims lived near the mosque where we now stood.
"I never feel full unless I eat some bread," a local Muslim friend once told me.
Bread plays an important part of life here in my Muslim community.
For years, I observed odd treatment of bread in the neighborhood. I would see my friends and neighbors hang carefully tied bags of day old bread on dumpsters. It mystified me, that bread was the sole exception when everything else seemed to make its way into the rubbish bins.
Tarek was encountering Jesus Christ from all sides, it seemed. Meanwhile, we continued to play the part of audience in the amazing story God was writing in his life.
Tarek consumed chapters and chapters of the Bible. Kevin and Tarek still had daily spiritual conversations. And in the Qur'an, Tarek kept discovering verses about Jesus being more than a man, a Person worth following.His faith in Jesus Christ was growing, and we felt like all we were really doing was praying and watching Tarek fall in love with Jesus.
Here's the 2nd installment of Tarek's journey of faith. Click here to read part 1.
I will not soon forget the level of eagerness with which Tarek received his new Bible from my husband Kevin.
Tarek was dropping Kevin and the children off in one location and then would continue on to drop me off nearby. As my husband gave him the Bible, Tarek thanked Kevin profusely.
My children and I stood in the shade of a tree, shielding ourselves from the hot North African sun while my husband Kevin stood on the sunny sidewalk attempting to flag down a taxi. A white car with a band of black and white checkers on the side pulled up in front of him.
The driver, a man in his fifties, leaned toward the passenger window, awaiting my husband's request.
"Garden Shopping Center," Kevin said.
The driver nodded. "Yes, okay. Don't worry. Get in," he replied in English.
"Why are you leaving your country?" I asked Abdul Rahman. "This is your home!"
Abdul Rahman was a new follower of Jesus from a Muslim people group. He was participating in a training and discipleship program that our team in Northeast Africa had started for national believers. In this program, participants were learning how to engage with God's Word through Discovery Bible Studies and to respond in obedience. They were also being coached to start new Discovery Bible Studies in order to introduce even more people to Christ through the Word of God.
We sat around the campfire with five local families, laughing, singing, telling stories, and playing games on an overnight campout in the mountains. If it weren't for the soft desert sand beneath our feet and the cadence of Arabic dominating the chatter, it would have felt like we were back home in the mountains of our home county.
Dalila's father smiled at her. "Sretan 8. mart!" he said--meaning "Happy March 8th" in Bosnian--while handing a bouquet of wildflowers to Dalila and each of her sisters.
International Women's Day on March 8th is a day widely celebrated throughout much of the world, and Dalila's proud father wanted his daughters to know how much he appreciated them.
The plea for Arabic speakers tugged at our heartstrings. Syrian refugees were pouring into the non-Arab Muslim country, and there were no Gospel workers there who could speak their language.
We sensed that God would be pleased to take us from our adopted Arab homeland and have us spend a short season in Little Syria, a neighborhood in a foreign city that, as a major outgoing port to Europe, is quickly filling up with Syrian refugees.
What do you get when you expect the unexpected?
Here's one thing: Muslims playing in the snow!
When most people think of Islam, they think of a desert religion. And that's for good reason-- Islam is a religion that was born in the sands of Arabia and extended its reach on the backs of camels. The most common images of Muslims that come our way include hot sun, tents, and turbans.
Word of Gulzhan's traitorous decision spread quickly through the village.
She had been studying the Word of God with a Frontiers field worker when, one day, Jesus met her in a dream. From that point on, Gulzhan had devoted herself to following Him.
But living in a village where Islam is deeply embedded in the people's hearts and minds meant that she faced stiff resistance from her community.
Frontiers workers Nate and Amber had been praying for months, asking God to give them relationships with men and women who were spiritually hungry.
Amber had met plenty of women who enjoyed talking about religion. Most Muslims do. But Amber didn't want to discuss religion. She longed to spend time with women who were hungry for a faith that searched deeper than religious practices.
Then, Amber met Adeena, a woman who expressed a desire to study God's Word.
Fourteen years ago, the news of horrifying attacks on the US swept around the world on the 11th of September. In many nations, this induced tears; in others, shouts of triumph.
Samir's memories of that day include something else: that was the day he turned away from Islam and began his journey toward Jesus.
The number of Syrian refugees now exceeds four million. An additional 7.6 million are also displaced internally, having fled their homes to seek refuge elsewhere within Syria.
With the crisis now in its fifth year, more and more Syrians are abandoning their original hope to return to their homeland.
Frank is a Frontiers worker in a Middle Eastern country where he has had unprecedented opportunities to minister to Syrian refugees.
We have been praying for a man like Jalil for years.
Recently Jalil and I were talking about what it means to live a holy and righteous life. Jalil was captivated.
"Would you and your family like to see what the Bible has to say about living a holy life?" I asked him.
"How could I not want that?" he responded.
In Matthew 28, Jesus commands that all believers become disciples who make disciples of all nations. It was a declaration for us to do more than just grow--but also go. Making disciples of all nations, baptizing them, teaching them to follow after Him, and sharing his message ... with everyone.
If you want to be a disciple, then you must make disciples. Standing fast until all have heard, loving until lives are changed. Losing your life, to find your frontier.
"The time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.
They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me." John 16:2-3
How do we respond as disciples of Jesus to the terrorism at large in the world today? Drawing from the New Testament, here are a few answers.
It had been weeks since our friend Tony had met with Husain, a Muslim in a region with some of the hardest spiritual ground in the world.
Husain was deeply dissatisfied with Islam. When he saw a Christian program on TV, he contacted the network for more information. His contact information was passed on to Tony, who called and scheduled a time to meet him.
It's feeling like the worst of times and the best of times in the Muslim world - growing radicalism and refugee and migrant crises, yet, at the same time, unprecedented movements of Muslims to Jesus. It was said of the people of Issachar that they understood the times and knew what to do (1 Chron 12:32). Can that be said of God's people in 2015? There is no better time than now for the church to respond. But how?
Years of crisis in Syria have left a nation of displaced people suffering from profound trauma. Entire homes and possessions have been lost, family networks torn apart, and social stability deeply fractured. Their memories of violence are fresh.
In the midst of such total loss experienced by Syrian refugees, God's hope shines brightest.
He was intimidating. A well-known warrior, he held his weaponry with expertise and called out his challenge: "Choose your man! Bring me the fight!"
Young David wasn't supposed to be there, on the other side of the battle lines. The book of 1 Samuel tells us he was a mere delivery boy.
But hearing Goliath's challenge stirred him.
In the West, anyone would feel compassion for the struggles, workload, and financial burdens of a single mum, raising four little children under the age of eight. However, what if the mother bore the name 'Fatima,' and she lived among one of the poorest, most despised people groups in India--feeding those children on less than a dollar a day? Her shield of honour, protection from society, and future security ripped away by the untimely death of her husband?
This is not a story of poverty and compassion, however. This is a story of fruitful faith by unlikely heroes and the catalysts that coached them.
(n.) one who loves dry climates and arid lands
Xerophiliac would normally refer to cacti or desert shrubs. But I feel it most aptly describes us--my teammates and I.
The hot season is upon us. And it is hot. It is the season of four showers a day, of sweating throughout the night, of exploiting every inch of shade, of breathing hot air into your lungs, of burning the soles of your feet on the dust of the ground. Welcome to our home!
As we walked into this particular Syrian refugee family's home, one of the daughters was mopping the floors. I lifted the skirt of my clothes, as I felt slimy water fill my sandals. I tried not to visibly grimace. As I entered the home I could see a huge pile of moldy bread that filled one tiny room--the family gathered old bread from the trash heaps around town and repackaged it as animal feed. My two teammates, our translator, and I were led into the other room.
I was visiting the African island next to ours to attend a friend's wedding. In the evening after I arrived, I walked down the street into a nearby town to eat dinner on the side of the road. As I walked back, I sensed God's Spirit speaking to me, telling me to greet the old man sitting outside a café on the street near my hotel. I greeted him, and sat down to chat.