This past couple months has provided some great opportunities to go to places all over the country, see what God is doing, and partner with Him there.
Here’s a few stories from that those adventures:
In February, a couple friends and I left our city of 20 million people to go to a nicer, slower paced, small-town-vibe city of just 1 million. ????
The city was one which my friends have been praying about moving to for a while, so we went down to scout out the area, see what God’s doing, and see how we could partner with what was going on. Currently, there is only one small house-church in the city, and very few believers. (Imagine a city the size of Calgary with only a dozen or so Jesus-followers in the whole region, and you’ll have an idea of what it’s like.) In spite of that, God is moving in really cool ways. We got to meet with some of the people involved in the house church, and join in on some of their Bible studies. This city is a common destination for students from all over the country and all over the region. We met people from at least 4 different Muslim-majority nations. Some of them had just come to Jesus within the last couple months, and some who appear to be on the verge of committing their lives to Jesus. Seeing the hunger, excitement, and passion in some of these young people who have just come to know the Love of the Father for the first time is such a beautiful thing.
Along with that, our friends there were aware of some areas outside the city where there were refugees living under tarps on the sides of roads (similar to some places I’ve worked in the past). That is to say, they knew the general area they would be, but not a specific place. We headed to the grocery store, picked up some food stuff to share with whoever we met, jumped in a car, and started heading towards where we thought refugees would be, praying for direction and listening to Holy Spirit as we drove.
After some searching and a bunch of praying, we stumbled across about half a kilometer long stretch of of makeshift tarp tents along the edge of a farmers field, outside a small village. We ended up walking by one of the tents, and saw some kids playing on the road (calm farm road; they were safe). One of our Arabic speaking friends started talking with the kids’ mother, and we were instantly invited to sit with them for tea. They were Syrians. They had fled from the war over 8 years ago, and have been living in these tents basically ever since. We ended up spending most of the day with this family. My friend brought his guitar with him, so we played and sang some songs together. The children’s father invited us to eat with them. As we sat, our Arabic speaking friend got to go into a deep conversation about the effects the war in Syria had had on their family and the country, and eventually he got to share the gospel, and how Jesus wants the war to stop, and for their to be peace in Syria.
Our friend got the chance to share the gospel very clearly and powerfully with this father and his family. Before we left, the the father asked us if we had a Bible in Arabic that we could give him so he could read more about Jesus himself; a request which we happily obliged.
About a week after our trip above, we another city, which we’ve been engaging with for several months now.
Last summer, several from our team had gone to this city of about 250,000 people, under the impression that there were no Jesus-followers there.
When they got there, our friends started talking to people on the streets to see if they could get into any conversations about Jesus. They were asking people they met a simple question: “Hey, we’re Christians, and we’re looking for a place to pray. Do you know if there’s any church around here?”
Obviously, the answer they always got was no. So my friends would reply, “Oh, ok. Well, since there’s no church here, is there anything you need prayer for? We’re Christians, and Jesus loves to answer our prayers”.
They started several conversations like this, and things were going well for most of the day. However, their script got somewhat thrown off in the afternoon. My friends approached one man, and like the several dozen instances before, asked him, “Excuse me sir, do you know if there’s a church somewhere in the city?”
“Yes, there is.”
“…. Wait…. what?”
“Yeah, we’re having a prayer meeting tonight; do you want to come?”
My friends end up meeting this guy later in the day and go to the prayer meeting, where they find about 100 Iranian refugees all passionately worshiping Jesus and praying together.
After asking around, the confusion was answered. It turned out that, while there were no known local believers in the city, there were a lot of refugees who had either fled their home countries because of persecution, or had come to this city and gotten saved here.
One of our friends who could understand what was being prayed translated. Instead of prayers like, “God, give us jobs, provide for our needs, help us get out of the country into a better place, etc.”. they were praying things like, “God, You’re so amazing. You’re so wonderful. You love the people of this city so much. Jesus, You love this country. Move in this place! Let your kingdom come here. Holy Spirit, draw the people of this city to you. Bring revival. Let the Muslims here see you and turn to you.”
Because essentially everyone in the church was a refugee, many of them aren’t legally allowed to work. So instead, the church holds 4 hour prayer meetings every weekday. And when I say “Prayer Meeting”, it’s the real deal. Think, 4 hours of nonstop intercession, people calling out to God 10-15 minutes per person. It was such a beautiful thing to see and experience.
Our team originally went to this city and saw this church last summer. Since then, we’ve been back 4 different times, and we plan to go again in April for a big outreach to see local people encounter Jesus’ love.
It’s been amazing to watch and see the change God is doing in the city in even just the last few months. For years there was no known local believers in the province (we actually found out there was one, but he wasn’t even from this city; he was just running a business there). But since we were originally there, several people, including one or two families, have confessed their faith in Jesus. Even more have expressed interest in knowing Him.
There was one man in the church who we first met in the summer, who’s local language skills have been getting better and better every time we meet him. I asked him this past time how he’s been able to learn the language so fast. His response: “For the last 4 months, I’ve been going to all the villages around the city to meet people, share the gospel with them, and give them New Testaments. I do this as often as I can. Every day, if I don’t have other responsibilities. I’ll take whatever opportunity I can. If I see an old lady on the side of the street selling milk, I’ll go up, by a bottle of milk, and start asking her if she knows who Jesus is. I’ve gotten to share the gospel so many times, and give so many people New Testaments”.
I asked him how many New Testaments he had given out. He replied, “In the last four months, I’ve been able to give out 250 New Testaments face-to-face to people I’ve met. I was hoping I could get out more like 400, but it’s been about 250 this past 4 months.” We were amazed, and got to pray with him for even more passion, boldness, language, and resources to be able to share with people around his city. He called me a few weeks later and shared that he had the opportunity to lead someone to Jesus.
Please mark your calendars for April 21st, and pray for us as we approach that day and prepare for an outreach that we hope will impact thousands of people in the city.
While I was on one of these trips, I got a call from my friend Mohammed, whom I met last year. Mohammed and I had been chatting fairly frequently after we met. We had read the bible together occasionally, and talked about different things going on in his life, but over the summer we had lost contact. It was about 6 months since we had last met when he called. After some of the formalities, he said to me, “So, I’ve been thinking, we should get together and sit down for a tea sometime.”
“For sure”, I reply. “Let’s do it next Tuesday when I’m back!”
“Sounds great, see you then!… Oh and Josh?”
“Bring your Bible”
Mohammed and I meet up the following Tuesday, and we chat for 10-15 minutes catching up on the last 6 months, before he kind of sheepishly asks, “Hey… so… do you think we could read the bible together a bit?”
We open up, and for the next 4 hours, deep dive into the word of God. It’s such an awesome time and passes so fast we’re amazed. He asks if we can start meeting together and reading the bible every week together, to which I replied, “Of course!”
So it’s been about a month and a half now that we’ve been meeting, about four hours a week to read through scripture and talk about it together.
Mohammed’s dad is an imam, and he told me at one point that he had a conversation with his dad recently where he told his dad that he wasn’t a Muslim anymore. He’s not sure what he is, yet, but he’s not a Muslim.
He’s told me on several occasions that he loves the stories of Jesus, and that just reading His words brings new life to his week. He wants them to be true, but he’s hesitant to say yes without seeing any evidence with his own eyes. He’s very logic and reason driven, which is awesome because he asks fantastic and difficult questions, to which Jesus always has the answer.
Please pray with me that Jesus, who opens the eyes of blind men and the ears of the deaf, would open the spiritual eyes and ears of my friend, and that he would give himself wholly and passionately to the Jesus that he’s been so hungry to read about and study these past weeks.