God is transforming Muslims’ lives in the Mediterranean
Great Sea Initiative leader
On a recent visit to the Middle East, I had the opportunity to travel to a refugee camp with a couple of our workers. We traveled with an interpreter from the local church — the only Protestant church in a city of over 1 million people — who spoke the language of the people that they were going to serve.
This camp is made up of about 205 families. We met with the key leader from this unreached people group, and he shared some of their urgent needs. First and foremost was food, then critical medical concerns — the need for a couple of wheelchairs and assistance for two blind members of their community.
After this, we visited three homes and heard from people as they shared stories of fleeing for their lives. Walking for weeks through rough terrain and being exposed to the elements had left a few people with physical impairments that will affect them for the rest of their lives. We delivered food cards for each of the families.
These people have been persecuted for generations. They have survived 74 genocide attempts, always at the hands of Muslim military forces and radical groups.
Meanwhile, God was orchestrating the beginning of reconciliation right in our midst. He had planned for us that day a meeting that only the gospel could create.
Our translator, a former soldier whose people had been persecutors of these refugees, shared about his background as a former Muslim. He then shared about the work God had done in his life through Jesus.
This young Muslim-background believer humbly and sincerely asked for forgiveness for what his people had done to these men and their families. How else could this happen except through the amazing grace of God through the blood of Jesus?
The leader of this refugee community has now received an audio Bible. Let’s pray that he listens, responds and that a gospel movement transforms many hearts in this community.
But that’s just one of many stories of how the gospel is changing lives in this region where 300 million Muslims live.
I’m amazed how God has changed the course of one family’s future through one young man. He is one of the many immigrants to whom we minister. Immigrants in Southern Europe provide us a unique opportunity to share the gospel with individuals who have little to no access to it in their home country.
The young man arrived in Europe from the Middle East to pursue a Ph.D. He and his wife encountered Jesus for the first time through a movie they watched during Easter week. They saw Jesus and were drawn to him. His love and the power to heal were extremely appealing to them. You see, they had been unable to have children. Doctors had repeatedly told them that this was not possible for them.
Jesus gave them hope, and they said to themselves, “If Jesus can do all of these miracles, then we should pray to him.” And that is just what they did. The following Easter they were holding a little girl of their own. Jesus answered their prayers, and they gave their lives to him in response.
This was just the beginning of the story. This young man responded to Jesus by sharing about the great things God had done for him. His desire turned to his family. He believed his family could be reached if his father could make a trip to visit and hear about Jesus from a believer in Europe.
During that time, God brought one of the faithful Converge workers in the Great Sea Initiative. She met this couple after seeking men and women of peace through persevering praying and action. She spent time with the family but also introduced the man to another Converge worker so that he could spend discipleship time with another man.
After a few months, this student saved up enough money to fly his 70-year-old father to visit him. One week later, I received a call from the young man to meet him and his father for coffee.
He introduced me to his father and said, “This is the first time that my father has ever been outside of the Middle East. This week, he stepped foot inside a church for the first time. He saw Christians worshiping God for the first time. A week ago, my father would not have had coffee with an American. I would like you to tell my father about Jesus.”
For the next 90 minutes we talked about Jesus. The meaning of his birth, death and resurrection. What it means that Jesus is the Messiah. The Holy Spirit did an amazing work in the father’s heart that very day. He kissed me on the forehead and thanked me, saying, “You have shared the truth with me. I have learned more today than in 70 years of teaching from the religious leaders in the Middle East. You have showed me the straight path.”
The next two months saw father and son search the Scriptures together. Then the dad left for home. For 2½ years, they did not talk about faith. I was told that is because all communications are monitored, and it would put them both at risk.
After a short visit back to his home country in the Middle East, the Ph.D. student returned to Southern Europe to finish his thesis. One night, two other Converge workers and I met him for dinner. I asked him how his father’s faith was doing, and he told me, “He just won’t stop talking about Jesus!”
We give God glory for these examples of his saving grace, and we look forward to the great things he is going to do through the Great Sea Initiative in the days to come.
Jeff, Great Sea Initiative leader
Jeff is the leader of Converge's Great Sea Initiative, which is starting and strengthening churches among the 300 million Muslims living in the Mediterranean Region. We are asking God for a gospel movement among Muslims in each of the 21 countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.