To many people both within and outside the U.S., the words “Islam” and “Muslim” immediately elicit suspicion and fear, especially following the horrifying events of 9/11. But while many shrink back in wariness and avoid anything to do with Muslims, Sam (last name withheld for security reasons) has spent his life pursuing relationships with Muslims so he can show them the love of Christ. He serves as Foursquare’s area missionary to MENACA (Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia).
Growing up in a Christian home, Sam knew from around age 10 that he would someday be a missionary to Israel. He assumed, at first, that his calling was to minister to Jews. During his junior year at Life Pacific College (then called LIFE Bible College), however, as he was preparing to take time off to live on a kibbutz, his plans changed when he took a class taught by John Amstutz called International Evangelism.
In the class, he learned how few missionaries were working with Muslims. So he immediately changed course, and instead of spending a year on a kibbutz, he volunteered with a ministry that reached out to Muslims in Bethlehem. From that time forward, he says, he knew God was calling him to work among Muslims.
“Many Christians are afraid of Muslims and terrified to witness to them,” Sam says. “The flip side of this is that many Muslims also live in fear. Many Muslims have a fear of the spirit world and jinns (spirits), and curses. Other Muslims fear death, because no one in Islam can be 100 percent sure if they will be accepted into paradise.”
Other Muslims are dissatisfied with Islam, Sam explains, noting that they do not leave the religion because they are afraid of the potential fallout with their family and community. Still, he says, despite the fear many Christians have of Islam and the fear within Islam itself, more Muslims are coming to Christ than any other time in history.
“God is moving through visions, dreams and healings in an unprecedented fashion to bring Muslims to Himself,” affirms Sam, who currently lives with his wife and daughter in the Midwest. Prior to their recent move back to the U.S., the family lived 10-1/2 years in Israel and 2 years in Jordan.
“We are seeing signs of a great revival of Muslims coming to the Lord,” Sam continues. “The church should reach out to Muslims with boldness, yet with sensitivity and love. We have nothing to fear, because in the end of all things, all the kingdoms of this world—including the nations that are now Muslim—will become the kingdoms of our Lord.”
And little by little, it’s happening. Though security risks make inadvisable the publication of specifics regarding how the gospel is spreading through Foursquare works in many of the countries throughout the MENACA region, we can celebrate some of the general highlights. Most notable is the fact that in 2009 alone, 1,192 people in this region gave their lives to Christ—an astonishing number considering the challenges believers face in spreading the gospel in what are typically very hostile environments.
Additionally, there are 88 Foursquare churches and meeting places throughout MENACA. In some countries there are no churches, but short-term missions teams regularly travel to those countries to minister. The denomination also reports 588 water baptisms in 2009, as well as 515 Holy Spirit baptisms.
Other ministries in various countries include a language school, medical clinics, sports clinics, an orphanage, a school, a soup kitchen, drug rehab centers, outreaches to street kids, prostitutes and abused workers, leadership training programs and more.
Although the MENACA region poses unique challenges to evangelistic efforts, Muslims are coming to Christ—some in truly miraculous ways—vividly illustrating that there are no limitations the Holy Spirit can’t overcome.
One woman, for example, had a mystifying dream in which she saw a rod in the sky and heard a voice telling her to take it. She was frightened, but felt the urge to obey. When she grabbed the rod, it broke apart, and she put the piece she had grabbed into her pocket. The rod itself made her think of Jesus being her shepherd.
She told a Foursquare missionary about the dream. The missionary told her God was speaking to her through it, and that when she had grabbed the staff, she had taken a hold of Jesus. The woman gave her life to Christ, and both her and her husband have been baptized.
“My greatest joy is witnessing God drawing Muslims to Himself, often through dreams and miracles,” affirms Sam. “God is doing such wonderful things in the Muslim world through the hands of servants who are sacrificing much to share the gospel.”
So how may those of us in the U.S. pray for these incredible men and women, and their work in the MENACA region? First, Sam asks, pray for the protection of churches, national leaders and missionaries, whose lives are often under threat. Second, pray for open doors to reach into closed Muslim nations that do not allow entry to traditional missionaries. And third, pray God would raise up a wide variety of workers to serve as traditional and non-traditional missionaries, from Western as well as non-Western nations.
“Islam” and “Muslim” are not words we should shrink back from or ignore, and Sam offers a particular challenge to believers in the U.S.
“Islam is growing in the West, as are other non-Christian religions, such as Buddhism, which is the fastest-growing religion in the U.S.,” Sam explains. “Increasingly, the U.S. is becoming a mission field that the church will not be able to reach unless it transcends culture and language barriers.”
To facilitate believers in the U.S. reaching the various cultures within our own nation, Sam is helping to organize and make available seminars called “Nations Among Us,” which will equip churches and individuals to reach out cross-culturally to Muslims, Buddhists, Hindu immigrants and international students. For more information on these seminars, email Sam, or visit the 4sqmuslimministries.org blog.
For information on helping FMI works around the world—including how to support the Global Missions Fund, a missionary or project, or to donate toward disaster relief—log on to http://give.foursquare.org. One hundred percent of every dollar given to the Global Mission Fund goes directly to the mission field. FMI’s website also provides detailed information on short-term missions teams.
By: Bill Shepson, a Foursquare credentialed minister and freelance writer in Los Angeles