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Arlington church goes deep in Muslim community
IMB staff
August 09, 2011

Arlington church goes deep in Muslim community

Arlington church goes deep in Muslim community
IMB staff
August 09, 2011

ARLINGTON, Texas

— Jason Thibeaux said he wasn’t really afraid of Muslims. But he definitely

didn’t love them, either.

“I was indifferent to Muslims, and that broke my heart,” he

said. “That was almost the worst scenario — that I would treat them as though

they weren’t even there. You go have your life, and I’ll have mine, and

hopefully we never interact.”

But Thibeaux, Sunday School director of Lake

Arlington Baptist

Church in Arlington,

Texas, began to notice God at work in his

heart. He started noticing Muslims.

His community was full of them.

God “very much convicted my heart,” Thibeaux said. “(My

attitude) needed to change and I needed to do something since He’d brought them

here to my back door. I needed to be a part of His mission here locally in

making sure that they got to hear the gospel.”

A young Kurdish girl wearing a Froot Loop necklace and handcrafted bracelets she recently made in a weekly crafts time hosted by members of Lake Arlington Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas.

So he and his Sunday School class — which had been focusing

on missions — decided to build relationships with their Muslim neighbors in Arlington.

“We (the class) had some really good discussions about what

is missions and, you know, it’s not just those who do it as a career — it’s us.

It’s supposed to be us, at least,” Thibeaux said.

Thibeaux began training to teach ESL,

and he and his wife and another Sunday School member connected with a local

ministry to begin classes in an area of town where a number of Muslims lived.

At first, no one came. For weeks.

“That was somewhat heartbreaking,” he said.

But then they began to see children coming, and though some

won’t participate when the group shares Bible stories, some will. “Some of them

are getting it,” Thibeaux said.

Todd Virnoche says the same thing.

His kids participated in Lake

Arlington’s backyard Bible clubs

and came home saying they couldn’t believe the mission field was so big in

their own hometown.

“They were surprised that kids hadn’t even heard of Jesus

and they were living here in Arlington, Texas,”

Virnoche said.

Since then, Virnoche and others have been knocking on the

doors of their Muslim neighbors, taking them school supplies, giving them

financial help, teaching them English.

Kurdish children play kickball with members of Lake Arlington Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas during their weekly Sunday afternoon recreation, crafts, and Bible story time.

When one little girl, Joanne, got critically injured in an

accident, Virnoche went nearly every day for 72 days to pray with the family in

the hospital. She lived, and because of his investment of time and

relationship, she and all her family and friends welcomed him in as a close

friend.

“There was a trust that was established there by God’s grace

— the fact that we (the church) were able to be there and to help and minister

to them a little bit, Virnoche said.

Thibeaux said that long-haul relationships are what they are

all about.

“The thing that’s been different about this is it’s not just

an event to build up to. It’s not just ,‘OK, I’ll take a week off work and I’ll

do my duty of missions and then I’m through,’” he said. “It’s really been a

thing where God said, ‘You’re here, I brought them to you. Why not love them

and make that part of your life?’ We’re called to love them. God’s brought them

here, He’s put us here for a reason. It’s not an accident. We’re supposed to

love them because they are our neighbors.”

For more information on how to reach your Muslim neighbors

with Christ’s love, visit lovingmuslims.com. Lovingmuslims.com offers a

two-week small-group study and an eight-day prayer guide for use with the 10th

anniversary of the 9/11 attacks this September. It also offers sermon outlines,

feature stories and videos and additional resources.

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