Being a missionary in the Middle East is a unique ministry.
A group of youth at Redwood Alliance Church learned that Feb. 9 when they met with an individual who has been serving in northern Iraq for a decade. That missionary, who asked to remain anonymous for safety purposes, talked about the work that has been going on in that nation, which is primarily Muslim.
Yes, people are coming to a saving faith in Jesus Christ there even though in some cases making that decision means facing the potential of persecution.
A missionary does not enter Iraq with that designation, adding they typically go through a different opportunity, such as teaching English.
While in that setting the opportunities to share faith do not become apparent, the reality is God opens doors. People are listening and want to talk about God.
Unlike in some other nations, the Christian church has been part of Iraq for centuries, but the problem is that those of the Islamic faith have a bad taste for “Christians” going back to the time of the Crusades when Europeans under the banner of the cross and Christianity came in and killed more than 1 million people.
Distancing itself from that, those who serve in Iraq use different terminology calling those who make decisions to follow Christ “believers.”
The numbers are increasing, but there is still a lot of work to do. In one city of more than 1 million people there are 200-300 Christians.
The group of youth was encouraged to think about the mission field, adding, however, no matter what career one chooses there are options to share one’s faith with others. If serving God is what one is supposed to do the pieces will come together, the youth were told.
As a missionary, the question that is often posed to people is “who is Jesus?”.
That is a question every person must answer.
Is he some legendary person? Was he just another person who lived and died in history? Is he, as believers have come to accept, the son of God who died on a cross and rose from the dead offering all who accept his sacrifice forgiveness of sins and eternal life in the presence of God?
Students also heard that following Jesus does not mean a life of ease, but those who put their trust in God can know that he will never lead them astray.
Miracles are happening in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, the students were told, and that is happening because people have answered the call of God to go and share the Gospel message with people who have not yet truly heard it.
“When God says go, he will be there on the other side,” the youth heard.