The Greater Middle East Initiative
By Kate Berkey - December 21, 2017
Posted in Partnerships, Stories from NMC
He doesn’t allow fear to live in his heart.
As a father and husband, he knows he has a responsibility to model courage even in the face of persecution. His family is one of the minorities in the town, despised, mocked, ridiculed, looked down upon. They are harassed, sometimes violently. They hardly go unnoticed, especially on Sundays.
On that day, they leave together, dressed in their best attire. They wear necklaces with crosses and carry their large Bibles out in the open. Sometimes he clutches his to his heart, reminding fear that it has no place to live there.
They travel with a few of the other minorities in the town. They are Christians who live in a Muslim nation. Sometimes the harassment and the hatred isn’t violent, but lately, one day each week has become particularly violent –Sunday.
That’s when they are together. Sunday they can worship and pray and read the Word of the Lord as a group. And the extremists know this. They know where to find them. Entire churches have been bombed. People have died, innocent people. Their only crime is following Jesus. He tries not to be bitter toward Muslims that he passes on the street. After all, they’re not all terrorists. Daily, he has to forgive those who have caused so much hurt and pain. Daily, he has to choose to love those who want to hurt him. And on Sundays, he has to preemptively forgive, because he knows that somewhere Christians will lose their lives, and it could be him or his family.
Yet, he doesn’t allow fear to live in his heart. He trusts the One who saved him, the One he found after a Christian neighbor shared the Gospel with him. He has hope because he used to be like his Muslim neighbors, but in Christ, he found redemption and love and grace and forgiveness. So even though he or his family members might lose their lives on this Sunday, they will go to church and worship the Lord. And without shame, he will share the Good News with those who are far from Christ, because they need God’s love, grace, and forgiveness as much as he does.
Michel Khalil can tell story after story of lives that have been transformed in the Middle East. Some of these stories are of people like you and me—business owners, bank tellers, mothers, fathers, and the like. Some of these stories are almost unbelievable. They are stories of terrorists who encountered the love of Christ in a radical way. They are stories of people who, like Paul from the Bible, killed Christians then later found Jesus. Even in one of the darkest and most dangerous places in our world, the Lord is at work.
For Michel Khalil, reaching these people has been a life-long mission. He has focused his daily life on evangelism, missions, leadership training, and discipleship, especially in the Middle East. In more recent years, he and his wife, Roula, started an organization that trains and equips leaders in the Middle East, coming alongside them as they share the Gospel. And now the Lord is calling NMC to come alongside Michel, his family, and their mission.
If you were in our services Sunday, December 17, you heard about our newest partnership—the Greater Middle East Initiative. This is an incredibly exciting partnership, one that is beginning even as other organizations are leaving the Middle East en masse.
This partnership is spearheaded by Michel, a man who was born and raised in the Middle East. From a young age, Michel was exposed to the violence of radical Islam. His uncle was killed by a group of them when Michel was only eight years old. From that moment, bitterness and hatred toward all Muslims, whether radical or not, lived in his heart. Yet, as his relationship with the Lord grew, Michel experienced deep healing and developed a love and compassion toward all Muslims, even those who had killed his uncle.
Michel’s story is not uncommon for many who live in the Middle East, whether they are Muslim or Christian. There is disdain between the two religions that causes incredible tensions and often leads to violence. Yet, we believe that the Lord desires to bring healing through the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is the heartbeat of this partnership—reaching people for Christ and making fully committed disciples of Jesus. Through Michel’s leadership, this partnership will focus on five areas: training leaders, discipling converts, equipping national missionaries, serving churches who are serving refugees, and evangelizing. At the core of what we do is sharing the Gospel. Sometimes this will be incredibly dangerous work, yet we do not allow fear to live in our hearts.
If you were in service on Sunday, you also remember that we were joined by Bob and Lynne Andrews who prayed a special prayer of commissioning over Michel and this partnership. Bob and Lynne, directors of the Devon Oasis Center in Chicago, are tangible reminders that the mission field is not just thousands of miles away. They also remind us that the mission field isn’t just to radical Muslims. Rather, it is to men and women who are living their everyday lives so far from the Lord.
We are honored to link arms with so many partners around the world. Will you join us as we venture with Michel and his family into the dark and dangerous places? We know that the Lord desires to do world-changing things as we walk with Him in love and grace.
How will you join us?
- Fill out a response card here. Here you can commit to praying, sign up for email updates, and more.
- Give toward the Greater Middle East Initiative. You can do that online here and even set up a reoccurring gift. You can also give in service by simply marking your gift “Greater Middle East Initiative.”