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Mideast’s Christian workers move forward amid tumult
Alan James, Baptist Press
March 24, 2011
6 MIN READ TIME

Mideast’s Christian workers move forward amid tumult

Mideast’s Christian workers move forward amid tumult
Alan James, Baptist Press
March 24, 2011

RICHMOND, Va.

– Being ready at a moment’s notice to board a plane and evacuate a country is a

reality for many Christian workers in North Africa and

the Middle East.

Trying to share the Gospel in nations with unstable governments is difficult in

the best of circumstances. But as refugees flee the crisis in Libya,

and other nations such as Yemen,

Egypt and Syria

continue to struggle with political unrest, the task is increasingly

challenging. Though people are turning to Jesus during this time of conflict,

Christian workers say the environment is far from ideal for ministry.

“It really is challenging trying to minister in this climate,” Christian worker

Sam Morgan* said. He and his family have served among Shia Muslims in the Middle

East and the Arabian Gulf since 2005.

In recent weeks, the Morgans have seen an increase in political protests.

“There are news cameras everywhere,” Morgan said. “If you go to downtown where

everybody is protesting, and you’re the only American, immediately people are

attracted to you because they feel like you’re there to stand behind their

cause.”

BP Photo

As unrest across North Africa and the Middle East continues, Christian workers go about their daily lives, building relationships and showing the love of Christ. Many in the Arab world, they believe, are open to hearing about Jesus.

Some of the people Morgan meets with and ministers to have pleaded with him to

join the protests in their country. But Morgan always declines.

“We’re not here to fight for [that] cause,” he said. “We’re here to fight for

the cause of Christ.”

Morgan said his biggest concern is whether he and his family may have to

evacuate and leave behind years of ministry at the ring of a telephone.

“There have been moments … where I wonder if we’re going to be on a plane

tomorrow morning,” he said. “One day you’re in a country, the next day you’re

not. All those friends and that whole life you had, it’s gone.

“It’s hard.”

While tensions in the Middle East have been front page

news in recent weeks, Morgan said political protests and conflict often are a

way of life among his people group.

“In our country, they burn tires every Friday, and they have since we [moved]

here,” he said.

“Then it’s over, and Saturday goes on and everybody is with their families and

we move on and do our ministry.”

Avoiding awkward political conversations can, at times, be nearly impossible,

said Marshall Jackson*, who has ministered to people in the Middle

East for the past six years.

“Their questions are often fairly pointed and opinionated,” Jackson

said. “Most of the time, they’re not asking you to find [an answer]; they’re

asking you to let you know what they think.

“If you feel someone really pushing your buttons or you’re getting hot under

the collar, just walk away.”

When groups from the U.S.

volunteer a Mideast outreach, Christian workers advise

them to avoid wearing clothing and hats with American flags or political statements

on them. And above all else, don’t start a political discussion.

“We’re not there to convince people that American foreign policy is correct,” Jackson

said.

“Usually [volunteers] don’t have enough cultural background to handle

disagreements in that culture and to do it appropriately without being overly

defensive or giving someone the impression you agree with them when you don’t.”

The best – and typically most successful – way to handle difficult questions or

discussions is handling them in a loving way.

“Just simply say, ‘but you know Americans love [the people in that country],’” Jackson

said.

Ultimately, Jesus is the best example of how to handle difficult questions, he

added, saying, “None of us would be as good as Jesus [with tough questions].”

Amy Jones* has found that the Middle Eastern women she ministers to are open to

hearing about the hope Jesus can offer them. She and her husband Justin* have

worked among Middle Eastern people for more than six years.

Jones befriended a single mother, Amal*, and her 11-year-old son. Jones met

Amal in 2004 through the help of Christian volunteers from the States. Amal,

who is an Arab Muslim, eventually became a believer in Christ.

But life for her has been difficult. Others often look down on single mothers

in that part of the world.

“She has a horror story a mile long,” Jones said. “She’s been beaten by her

brothers. She’s been held at gunpoint by her neighbor. She had to evacuate

during two separate times of war. She’s been without a job, just barely making

ends meet.”

Though relating to Amal’s challenges has been difficult, Jones said the two

have remained friends through the years. The Joneses gave her a Bible; they’ve

studied Scripture with her; and they occasionally have bought her groceries.

Amal, in turn, taught the Joneses how to share their faith in Arabic.

Despite times of uncertainty, people’s hearts throughout North

Africa and the Middle East are more open to

the Gospel than ever before, Jones noted.

“People are hopeless, and the things … that they’ve put their faith in are

kind of falling apart around them,” she said.

“It makes them more prone to ask questions and to seek a deeper kind of hope.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – *Names changed. James is a writer for the International

Mission Board.)

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