Tell Me You’re With Us
By Kate Berkey - April 12, 2018
Posted in Partnerships, Global Impact, Stories from NMC, Discipleship
On their website, Open Door USA lists the 50 most persecuted countries in the world. These are closed countries, closed to speaking about Jesus, closed to the gospel. The list includes places like North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and India, among others. Also on the list are Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria, and Syria. 1
In these countries, to speak the name of Jesus could mean abuse. In these countries, evangelism could mean imprisonment. In these countries, conversion could mean death. These are countries so afraid of the truth that they have cut themselves off from life and have recruited violence as the way to suppress the name of Jesus.
But these countries are on the move. In February of this year, World Vision reported the five countries that account for the most refugees—Syria, Afghanistan, four countries near the Lake Chad Basin (Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, and Chad), South Sudan, and Somalia. 2 Leaving these countries are men and women escaping violence, oppression, starvation, and thirst. These are men and women who never imagined leaving their homes, who find themselves in a foreign country trying to rebuild their sense of security. These are men and women escaping to the border—any border—to find safety.
Some of these refugees are met by family friends or acquaintances. The fortunate ones are met by family members, but most are met by strangers or no one at all. And still others are met by people like John Rad.
John and his wife are missionaries on the Syrian/Lebanese border. They are one of many who are missionaries in our Middle East Initiative. Day after day, they welcome refugees into Lebanon. They care for them and try to provide for their very real physical needs. They show them the love of Jesus and tell them about a God who sees them and loves them and weeps with them.
Only miles away in Syria, these words would mean imprisonment at best, but in Lebanon, there are no laws against sharing the gospel. So John and his wife share any chance they get, because they realize they are talking with people who are starved for truth, for light, for life, for a Savior to rescue them.
Around the world, the Middle East Initiative funds missionaries in Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon, Syria, Spain, Holland, and Jordan. These missionaries are on the front lines, reaching groups of people who have never encountered the love of Jesus. It’s not easy or glamorous work, but it is work they feel honored and privileged to be part of.
NMC, this is the work that you are also a part of.
When we first introduced this newest partnership to the NMC family, you rallied behind the vision with hearts full of love and compassion, and the work God was able to do through your obedience was immediate. John and his wife have served on the Syrian/Lebanese border for five years, but near the end of last year, they thought they had reached the end. Their hearts still burned with a passion to love on and serve refugees, but their pockets were empty. Yet, through the obedience of people in Nappanee, Indiana, this couple was able to stay on the border, fully funded to minister to men and women who desperately need to know about the God who sees them and knows them, the same God who created them and gave them life.
Not everyone who walks across the border is happy to be welcomed by someone like John. As the fighting increases in many Middle Eastern countries, even ISIS members are beginning to flee. They cross the border looking for a new place to call home. John can pick out ISIS members in a large crowd, and when he sees them, he is not filled with hatred or anger or fear. He is filled with love.
Even when his life is threatened by these extremists or simply refugees who do not like the work he is doing, he responds with grace, “I know who you are, but I love you. If you kill me, that’s fine.”
Every day, our missionaries wake up and prepare to work among their enemies. They don’t know who or what they will encounter that day. They don’t know if they will be met with gratitude or with guns. Even still, they go. They have conversations. They build relationships. They share the truth. They give Bibles. They care for those with no home, no family, and no hope, because they can see God at work.
In watching the actions and hearing the words of missionaries like John, people notice a difference. One man, a member of ISIS, threatened to kill John, but still John showed him love and compassion. He continued to provide for the man’s needs. He continued to greet him and build a relationship with him. When the man asked why he was treating him kindly even after the man threatened to kill John, John simply said, “I am doing this because of the love of Christ, and I am willing to give my life because of this love.”
The man didn’t become a Christian after John shared those words with him, but he did start asking more questions. This man, a member of ISIS, is now engaged in one of the most difficult and important battles of his life—the battle between truth and lies, good and evil. He is searching for the One he has run from his whole life—Christ.
NMC, this is the work you are a part of.
You may find yourself in a small town in Northern Indiana. Maybe you are a teacher, trying to communicate with a group of students. Maybe you are a farmer, wondering when the ground will finally thaw. Maybe you are a business owner, working hard to make enough money to continue to employ the men and women who work for you. No matter who you are, you probably feel so very far away from the Middle East, from the refugees flooding across borders.
But you are with John and our other missionaries. You are with them in this fight. Through your prayers and support, you are giving them the courage to wake up every day and continue the work.
John once told Michel Khalil, our key partner in this initiative, “As long as you are praying for us, standing with us—as long as we know we are not alone, we will continue to do it.”
NMC, may we be a church that prays for, stands with, and reminds our brothers and sisters on the front lines that they are not alone.
How can you come alongside the Middle East Initiative?
- Pray for our missionaries in Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon, Syria, Spain, Holland, and Jordan. Pray for safety. Pray for opportunities to share the gospel. Pray for courage and wisdom. Pray for their families. Pray for their spiritual wellbeing.
- Pray for the refugees coming across the border. Pray for soft hearts as they hear the gospel. Pray against violence. Pray for them to recognize the truth. Pray for them as they search for the One they have been running from—Christ.
- Give toward the cause. John and his wife and other missionaries are only able to continue their work because of the generous and faithful giving of people in the NMC family. Through your gifts, we are able to fund existing missionaries, as well as send out more missionaries. Would you consider joining the partnership through a financial gift? Click here to give toward the Middle East Initiative.
- Sign up to receive updates from Michel Khalil and the Middle East Initiative. Click here to join the mailing list.