Email Fellowhsip in Middle East
“In most Arab countries you can’t just walk into a church and say ‘Hello, I’m new here.’ Changing your religion to Christianity is something very delicate and it can be very dangerous when it is revealed. On top of that, there aren’t many churches, and even if there are, they are mostly quite isolated from the Muslim society and not easy to walk into for a former Muslim.”
Open Doors has partnered with the Global Response Management System (GRMS), a group of several organizations that handle the inquiries to Christian media in the Arab region, in providing a connection with local believers and circumventing these restrictions; giving them desperately needed spiritual nutrition and fellowship. Through this system, believers from one of the most persecuted areas of the world can not only find someone to talk to about their newfound faith, but also establish vital connections with local believers. “We hope we can help them to find a home in the local church,” explains one GRMS worker.
While working in North Africa, this GRMS worker – who has 30 years of experience working with Arab world believers – began seeking innovative ways to reach the local people with the gospel and to provide follow-up if they became believers. Before the Internet became available, he began to correspond with these new believers. “We would receive long letters from, send them back a letter and then wait for weeks for an answer before we could continue,” he explains. Technological advances have now made correspondence much easier. “I just log into the system and find my messages there,” he says. “I find many genuine questions from seekers and new believers.”
GRMS workers also field many negative responses. “Why do you say Jesus is the son of God? He is just a prophet!” and “The Bible is a corrupted book; why do you read it?” are among the most common responses he receives when opening his inbox. “Although most of the people asking us these questions want to protest about what they’ve seen in the Christian media, we do try to answer even the negative comments in a gentle way, in the hope that it might touch the people’s hearts.”
“It’s hard to communicate from a distance and sometimes you seem to get no answers,” he admits. When he opens his email and finds even one reply to his message, however, he feels that it is all worthwhile. “It’s the most rewarding thing to see that I could encourage someone in his faith and sense that I’m part of something bigger.”
Political and social situations in the region frequently influence the correspondence work. “For instance, we don’t get many responses from Syria these days. People have other things on their minds, like surviving the war.” He remembers well the time when Muslim extremists were in conflict with the military government in Algeria in the nineties. The ruthless slaughter of entire villages was among the many atrocities committed during the struggle. People were saying to themselves, ‘if this is Islam, I don’t want to be a part of it anymore,'” he recalls. In the chaos of civil war, hearts were turned to Christ. He is hoping that recent upheaval and political changes will cause Muslims in the region to reevaluate their faith in the same way. “Now that the Muslim brotherhood has taken over in some areas, ruling countries with the ideas of Islam, the political, social and economic situation in the countries is worsening. This will surely challenge Muslims to ask themselves whether these ideas are true or not.”
Since most of the several hundred current workers in the GRMS network are locals, he now coordinates the local staff, traveling into the region as much as possible to meet with them. He is inspired to continue by seeing the positive impact of the GRSM network in achieving the ultimate goal of connecting new believers as soon as possible with their fellow believers and churches, if they exist, in the country.
“God gave us the Christian media as a door to the people in the Arab world and we have the responsibility to care for those who walk through it. Not following up on those new believers would be like leaving a baby on the street to die.”
Thank You, Father, for the powerful work of Your Spirit to draw people to Yourself in the Arab world against all odds from a human perspective. Thank You for the means of electronic media that You use spread Your gospel to places otherwise unreachable. We pray for the many GRMS staff who work tirelessly to respond to inquiries as a result of Christian media programs and to connect new believers with the Christian community that they might have fellowship with them and grow in knowledge and faith. Protect them, give them opportunity, take their offering of service and use it to strengthen and grow Your church. In the name of Jesus, who loves and strengthens His bride, the church, Amen.