Reaching the Muslim World with the Message of Peace – By Tony Simon
The Adventure Begins
I had left early this particular morning hoping to get an early start, but I managed to miss the bus anyway. However, if I’ve learned one thing during my two decades of missionary work, it’s that God’s plans are always better than mine. I knew He had something very special in store for me.
My plan was to travel to Jordan to share the Gospel with the many Muslims who had been pouring over the border from Syria as refugees from the deadly violence that has been ongoing there since March of 2011. In sharing Christianity with Muslims, it is crucial to build bridges by establishing cordial relationships. The longer you engage Muslim men and women in conversation, the stronger the bridge, creating an open door with which to talk with them and then handing them spiritual literature they can read at their own convenience.
On this day, I took a taxi to Jordan’s capital of Amman, where I visited the Jordanian Bible Society store. Part of the purpose for my visit was to order study Bibles for Iraqi pastors so they could be better equipped to share their faith with their fellow citizens. Another objective for my visit was to send money to a missionary friend in Lebanon so that he could purchase Arabic-language Bibles for distribution among Muslims. From Jordan, it was a simple task to send money to Lebanon.
While at the Bible Society store, I met with a fellow believer as we sat and had coffee. We discussed a current trend in Islamic countries referred to as the “Insider Movement.” This is where converts from Islam to Christianity are encouraged to conceal their new faith for fear of retribution from family, friends, and associates. They live an outwardly-appearing Muslim lifestyle while keeping their Christianity on the “inside” – hence the term “Insider Movement.” Though Jesus encourages believers to “Let your light shine before men” (Matthew 5:16), we must remember that Muslim converts to Christianity often face serious consequences for their decision, sometimes even death.
While walking around Amman, I had many opportunities to hand out numerous New Testaments and talk with people about issues of faith. Those I engage in conversation consist of Muslims, nominal Christians, and foreigners living in Jordan.
We travelled north from Amman by bus to a town on the Iraqi border. Next to the town there is a refugee camp established by the Jordanian government. There are currently more than 235,000 registered refugees with the United Nations and another 100,000 who are not registered. The camp I visited, called Zaatari, is a huge tent city which is home to about 80,000 refugees. This influx of refugees has created humanitarian nightmares in Jordan, which is not a wealthy nation. Medical clinics are strained, food and medicinal supplies are sparse, essentials are hard to come by, and Jordanian schools are struggling to meet the needs of the flood of children who are swelling their overcrowded classrooms.
The Christian presence in Jordan is small (ranging from 3 to 6 percent of the population), but these faithful believers are trying their best to help meet the overwhelming needs confronting their nation. There is a small church is the city of Mafraq that provides mattresses, blankets, food, and other necessities. These faithful believers are frequent visitors to the refugee camp, ministering to needy families and sharing their faith in Christ.
I, too, had wanted to share my faith in the Zaatari camp, but my plans hit a snag when I and a friend who accompanied me reached the entrance. I’ve been told that I have Arabic features, and in this case the guards were willing to allow me to enter; however, my friend must have looked too “foreign,” and was turned away. I did not want to leave him on his own, so we went into Mafraq and visited a local church. There, a nominal Christian invited us to his house where, using Skype, I had an Arab brother explain the Gospel to our host. As it turned out, the gentleman had no interest in spiritual things, excusing himself by saying, “My brother is a priest, and my wife goes to church.” He was more interested in watching sports on TV. However, he was hospitable, and we were grateful for that.
Young Father with a Need
As we returned to the church, we met a man standing on the street corner and struck up a conversation with him. He told us he was a Muslim from Homs, Syria, the place where the Syrian uprising began. As we spoke, he showed us a picture of his newborn baby. I prayed for the little one and gave the man an Arabic-language New Testament. We then began walking together, and he told us that he was in need of milk and diapers. We told him we would ask the church for help, and went our separate ways. We ran into the man a little later, and he mentioned again how much he needed the items. My friend and I decided to buy them for him, for which he was very grateful.
The Syrian man invited us to his home, a modest one-bedroom apartment he shared with his wife and baby. He offered us coffee, which we accepted, and as we drank together we were able to explain the Gospel message with him and his wife, and encouraged him to read the New Testament we had given him.
As he began to feel comfortable with us, he shared his story. He was just 22 years old and had fled the government of President Bashar al-Assad. According to the young man, the Syrian army is composed of mercenary soldiers from different countries. The man had witnessed the deaths of many people, family members included. Furthermore, his 10-year-old brother is behind bars in a Syrian jail. Like many refugees in Jordan, the young man is not permitted to work and must live on charity, but he and his wife are grateful to be alive.
Sadly, there are many like him as nearly every refugee family suffers from disease, injury, sickness, and has horror stories of their own concerning the death of friends and family members.
The believers of Mafraq are doing what they can and deeply covet your prayers. Also, please pray for the Syrian refugees, they will open their hearts and minds to the saving Gospel of Christ.
Planting Gospel Seeds
On returning to Amman in Mafraq, we met a very open Cambodian convert to Islam who is studying Sharia (religious) law. He would not take any literature from us, but did give us his phone number. Please pray that he will be open to further meetings with us.
The next day, we met a Sudanese man from Darfur and gave him a New Testament. I then went to a cafe where the owner is a nominal Christian who had never read the Bible. I gave him a New Testaments and a Christian DVD. He told me his parents our believers and he had stopped attending the church but that he was planning to start again to attend church with his wife, and I encouraged him to do so.
While in Amman I met Mohammed, a secular, atheistic ex-Muslim who concealed his conviction from his parents for fear of retribution. I was able to speak to him about the Bible.
I found a cheap taxi back to the border , from Amman to Jerusalem it takes five hours . I had to wait for the taxi and sat down for a drink at a cafe and on leaving I offered a New Testament to my waiter, but he refused. However, he did accept an Arabic book about Christianity, and I was pleased about that. The Taxi came to the back of the building , instead of the front where I was waiting and as I was getting into the Taxi , the waiter approached me and asked me for the New Testament he had earlier refused. I was not surprised that he came to me in a more secretive location as it was likely social peer pressure that prevented him from accepting the Bible the first time I offered it to him.
When the taxi arrived, I stepped inside and was pleased to discover that the driver spoke English. We had a good conversation about spiritual matters, and he gladly accepted a New Testament and DVD from me. Furthermore, he asked me for another New Testament and DVD to give to a friend. It was a short but profitable trip!
Help Us Fight the Battle
The Middle East has always been a turbulent arena and will continue to be so until the Lord Jesus returns to bring peace. Until then, Christians must be a testimony in both word and deed, and always prepared to make good on the many opportunities we receive to share the Gospel with our Jewish and Muslim friends.