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The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship | April 2019


Dear friends,

The Islamic Center of Johnson County is located directly across the street from the library I frequent. So for two full years I had prayed for the people there and had felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to pull into the parking lot and talk to someone. And for two full years I didn’t. Which is fairly troublesome for a pastor who claims to support and encourage missions.

The Holy Spirit had also convicted me to reach out to Muslims in my area, but I had no idea how to start. I had met dozens of our EPC missionaries who had traveled to faraway places in order to share their faith with people who were indifferent at best, and governments who did not want them there. Yet how many Muslims had moved right into my backyard – people who were much more accessible (in every sense of the word) than those in foreign countries.

Enter Mark. Mark had introduced the concept of reaching Muslims to our presbytery (Great Plains) and moreover, to me, personally. Mark and I had been forming a good friendship over the years because of our mutual desire to see God reach the unreached.

For at least the last year Mark and I had tried several times to go to ICJC in Overland Park so that I could take that first step and meet some Muslims there. Finally the day had come and we walked in together to a midday prayer time (Salat al-zhur). Mark was his usual calm, yet gregarious self; I was beyond nervous, yet thrilled to finally initiate this first step, and so we began to converse with several men after they had finished their prayer time. They were quite gracious and receptive to our presence and interest.

Although at times it was somewhat awkward – as you might expect – Mark paved the way toward good relations by simply sharing personal information, asking questions and appreciating their faith in various ways: Mark: “That’s a beautiful prayer rug. Did that come from overseas or from here in the US?” Reply: “Yes, this came from Turkey!” Mark: “How many different countries are represented at your mosque?” Reply: “Somewhere between 30-35 countries. Therefore, we have to conduct our services in English.” And on it went.

After 20 minutes or so we were actually exchanging phone numbers and email addresses – which, I must admit, freaked me out more than a little! And yet, there again was the Lord’s peace, joy and purpose – that feeling of being stretched far out of my comfort zone and right where God wants to take me; and not just for me, but so that I could eventually invite others to this engaging process, this clarion call to honor and obey him. Which I am now beginning to do.

Over the course of time following our initial encounter, I then pursued a relationship with the imam of that mosque. Mr. D and I now meet weekly to continue our friendship and learn from one another about the commonalities and differences of our respective religions. Over the last three years I have learned as much about my own faith as I have about his faith. My favorite encounter was the time that Mr. D told me that our Christian religion is unfair. He explained that, as a Muslim, he will stand alone before God to be judged; but that we believed that Jesus would stand with us to pay for our sins. After I thought for a moment, I replied, “You know, you’re right.  That’s not fair…that’s what we call grace.”

Mark’s example and leadership, including walking with me into the mosque, has stretched me in my faith, and also emboldened me to lead my friends, family and congregation in the same way. Our church – Lighthouse Church in Paola, KS – has now completed our first Bridges Course with a good degree of success. And I believe that the Lord will continue to not only make us more aware of Muslims around us, but He will move us to initiate bridges of friendship with many in order to win some.

by Brad Buescher, Executive Pastor of Lighthouse Presbyterian Church 

Community Life

Meet Pastor Mark

Interested in hearing more about Mark and how he shares the love of Christ with Muslims? Read his blog or visit his youtube channel!

COMMA Consultation 2019

Attend COMMA 2019 and become better equipped to reach and share with Muslims here, in our own neighborhoods.

World Outreach Events at GA

EPC World Outreach is sponsoring numerous gatherings at the 39th General Assembly. Check out our schedule here – we’d love to see you!

Summer Mission Jam

Join the EPC on a one-of-a-kind mission endeavor!

What are you doing this summer? Don’t miss out an a unique mission opportunity for your high school students. Summer Mission Jam is a new, entry mission and outreach equipping conference for students, serving among Lebanese, Bangladeshi, Yemeni, Iraqi, and Pakistani peoples in America’s most diverse neighborhoods of Dearborn and Hamtramck, Michigan. 

Students will learn how to ‘bridge the gap’ with Muslims and be the fragrance of Jesus through supportive and instructive teaching and service outreach opportunities. Summer Jam starts Monday evening, July 8, and wraps up Saturday, July 13. Registration is $450 per student and includes delicious meals, comfortable accommodations, and the best missions training you can receive. 

If you already have plans for this summer, consider bringing a few student leaders to check out Summer Mission Jam for future summers (Fremont, CA in 2020 & Michigan in 2021). 

Summer Mission Jam is an amazing opportunity for churches, big and small, to invest in their students as they learn more about Muslims and how to interact in a way that is loving and beneficial for the Kingdom. This summer, step out and be a part of something new with the EPC denomination. We are positive it will impact your world and give you new ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus in your own communities. 

You can register and learn more about Summer Mission Jam by going to our website: www.epcwo.org/summermissionjam or reading below!

If you know of anyone that might be interested in attending Summer Mission Jam,  we invite you to pass it along and share on social media!

Learn More about Summer Mission Jam

Meet our Speaker: Steve

Watch this video to meet Summer Mission Jam’s teacher and theologian: Steve W. Steve will be working with us and sharing from the scriptures – speaking towards a call to follow Jesus no matter the cost!

Register for Summer Mission Jam

Learn about God’s mission, how the global Church has responded, and what the greatest needs in the world of evangelization are today – and how you can be a part of God’s story as he redeems people from the nations to himself.

Download our Leaders Guide

The Leader’s Guide will give you more information about the types of service and outreach projects we’ll be completing, our lodging for the week, who we’ll be working with, our schedule, and more!

You can download it by clicking the button below.

Have questions? We’d love to hear from you! Shoot us an email here.

Making Disciples of Jesus | January 2019

Dear friends,

Imagine a country with (officially) zero churches and zero Christian citizens. The country’s laws permit the employment of foreign Christians, but don’t allow those foreign Christians to practice their faith openly. Citizens of the country can hear the gospel via satellite tv and the internet but have no access to what is absolutely essential in most people’s conversion – the opportunity to talk over questions with another person. The only way that can happen is if a non-citizen comes, overcomes the obstacles, and starts talking about peace with God through Jesus.

Several years ago, Jim and Shannon were appointed by World Outreach to go and make disciples of Jesus in such a country. As Jim completed his professional credentials in order to qualify for job openings, he and Shannon began World Outreach’s TAG internship in Detroit. There they met people who were immigrants from their target country. They soon became close friends – so close that when Jim accepted a job offer in their country, those neighbors made sure their relatives back home gave them the warmest of welcomes on arrival.

Over the next several years, Shannon developed deep friendships with the women of this extended family. She talked with them about Jesus, and shared stories about him from the Bible. Last Christmas, Shannon told the women that she had a special gift for each of them – the most valuable thing in her possession – and gave a (smuggled) Bible to each woman of the family, so that they could read the stories themselves. As the women read about this Immanuel revealed in the Bible, they sensed God speaking to them. And, earlier this year, the first of this group took the brave step of putting her faith in Christ. Soon, she was joined by another – two sisters in Christ, captured by His love for them!

Jim and Shannon’s neighbors are like millions of others around the world whose only hope to have their deepest questions answered is that some outsider will come to them. That outsider could be a Filipino Christian housekeeper, a Chinese Christian construction worker, or an EPC engineer/businessman/English teacher. It could be you.

Why not devote 2019 to putting yourself in a posture to hear God’s answer to the question, “What do you want me to do about people without access to the gospel?” Here are a few ways to start: watch this short video about the task that still remains; take the Perspectives course to understand God’s mission, how the global Church has responded, and what the greatest needs in world evangelization are today; or join the TAG internship, like Jim and Shannon, to take part in Kingdom living among those that don’t yet know the love of Christ. Make 2019 the year you find your part in declaring God’s glory among people walking in darkness!

Community Life

Perspectives

Learn about God’s mission, how the global Church has responded, and what the greatest needs in the world of evangelization are today – and how you can be a part of God’s story as he redeems people from the nations to himself.

T.A.G.

TAG is a 10 month missional community of believers living among Muslims in Dearborn, MI. Together, you will immerse yourself in the culture and traditions of your Dearborn neighborhood, learn how to build bridges with others, share Jesus stories, and start a house church. TAG’s goal is to equip you with the skills necessary to take the gospel of Christ to places where the church does not yet exist. 

Reaching the Unreached

There are 3 billion people who will live and die without hearing about the love of Christ; that’s 40% of the world. Learn more about the task that still remains by watching this short video. Consider sharing it with your friends, family, and congregation too.

The Reach with World Outreach | December 2018

Dear friends,

Are missionaries really necessary today? After all, as one YouTube video puts it: “Since the world is becoming a global village, Christmas is now celebrated in every part of the world!” But the worldwide spread of Christmas paraphernalia actually does little to communicate the Christmas message. As one of our WO colleagues writes:

“The only signs of Christmas in our town are the made-in-China, blow-up Santas that appear for sale in the street market in December (they’re cheap novelties that puzzle our neighbors), and the signs in some restaurant windows for Noel Specials.  If they notice it at all, our neighbors assume Christmas is some kind of Western New Year’s celebration. When I walk around my neighborhood on Christmas morning, there is nothing to indicate this day is different from any other work day, and certainly nothing that sets it apart as the day God was born into our world to save it.”

Even here at home, cultural unease often limits us to sharing the Christmas message only with people who already know it.  WO global worker, Susan, cries a little thinking back to the day she moved into a predominantly Muslim neighborhood of Detroit, to participate in World Outreach’s 9-month TAG (Training Apprentices to Go) internship. She remembers looking at the robed and veiled women in the park across the street and thinking, “They are so different. How could I ever become friends with a Muslim? I wouldn’t know where to start.” When asked why she’s crying, she says, “Because now those same veiled women are such dear friends, that I can hardly bear to leave them!”

As Susan pushed herself to spend time with Muslims, they changed from a scary, nameless crowd to distinct individuals she could love. The same thing happened to a small group of EPC folks who attended an Encounter World Outreach event to investigate missionary service with WO. One evening, the participants timidly went out Christmas caroling in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood. They came back full of joy, and a Muslim neighbor posted this on Facebook:

“Hello Admin, perhaps a change of vibes would be appropriate with all the animosity going on lately. This video was captured at my humble home. It features a group of wonderful carolers spreading the joy of the holiday spirit. My family and I invited them in for some tea, and a fresh batch of cookies. An extraordinary exchange of love and respect took place. Conversing Muslim-Christian pairs filled the room. The difference of religion was overcome by a more common understanding, HUMANITY! I hope this sheds even the smallest glimpse of light in these dark times. A special thank you to everyone that was caroling that night. Thank you for stopping at our house. Thank you for spreading the love. Thank you for your presence. May Allah bless!”

Christmas reminds us that God so loved us that he came to us with good news, and that being a Christ-follower means doing the same. Next summer, WO is inviting up to 100 EPC high school students to spend a week with Muslims in Detroit, sharing good news with love and respect. It can be a life-changing experience. For information on how students from your church can be part of the 100, visit us at www.epcwo.org/summermissionjam.

Grace and peace to you, this Christmas season.

Phil Linton
EPC World Outreach Director

Summer Mission Jam

An entry mission and outreach equipping conference for High School youth groups among Muslim peoples, alongside a partnering EPC church. Taking place July 8-13, 2019 in Hamtramck, MI

Cross Conference

Cross Conference is a global missions conference for college students, focused on the reaching the unreached peoples of the world. If you are attending Cross Conference, EPC World Outreach wants to connect with you or your college group. Let us know if you plan on coming!

Urbana

This global missions conference is a great place for your college students to learn more about mission sand discern God’s call for his/her life. If you plan on going to Urbana, we invite you to join EPC World Outreach for a free lunch on Saturday, December 29th! We’d love to share with you about our missions opportunities. 

FOLLOWING THE LIGHT INTO SIERRA LEONE

FOLLOWING THE LIGHT INTO SIERRA LEONE

By Steve Woodworth, Associate Coordinator of ITEN

The paved highway ended and we turned onto red dirt roads made slick by the rainy season. Two lanes soon become one and turned upward through a potholed maze of boulders and washed-out trails, that twisted our truck higher and higher into the thickening canopy. When the trail stopped, we faced a swollen river and a weary ferry driver unable to navigate our vehicle across the water atop his wooden raft. With hippos grazing along the banks downriver, we boarded dug-out canoes and turned our bows upstream to let the current point us towards the far bank.

Greeted by a throng of villagers eager to catch a glimpse of white visitors, we quickly saddled awaiting dirt bikes that carried us deeper and deeper into the jungle. We raced our way along battered paths, trying to beat the setting sun. Pouring rains had caused local rivers to spill their banks and fill our shoes as the bikes tore through the water into the coming darkness. We gripped the sides of the bikes and learned the rhythms of shifting our positions on the back seat when climbing the root-littered embankments, or plunging down a sudden drop.

Our drivers travel this same path dozens of times each day, their expertise proven when swamped headlights went black and memory and moonlight was the only thing guiding us. For twelve hours we pushed deeper and deeper into the forests of Sierra Leone until the cycles came to a stop just 50 miles south of Guinea.

We had made this journey to meet a family.

Nestled in the heart of this Muslim village was a man named Dominic who had left his job as a lab technician at the University of Sierra Leone in order to bring the gospel to a people who are trapped in a syncretistic world of witch doctors, animism, Islam and folk religion. For over a year, he and his family lived on the concrete floor of a small schoolhouse until the locals pushed him out into the borders of the community.

Eventually, Dominic built a home and signaled to the village that he was committed to staying, to preaching, to living the gospel before their very eyes and loving them into the Kingdom of Heaven. Dominic and his family have made sacrifices that both humbled and inspired me. He is desperately alone ministering 23 miles, through the thick jungle, to the closest church in the region. And he has surrendered every comfort his family once knew in the city of Freeport. During our meal after worship, Dominic’s wife removed the bare chicken bones from my plate and placed them on her own to try to remove anything I might have missed.

But there was laughter and there was joy. There was vibrant worship, and abundant fruit from the labor.

In the years since Dominic first made the journey to these people, the local Muslim Chief has given permission for parents to allow their children to become Christians. When we preached at Dominic’s church the following morning, this same Chief made his first appearance at the worship service. The village’s Muslim Treasurer asked for our prayers simply because “the prayers of Christians are powerful.” The congregation Dominic shepherds is full of young faces who signal a change sweeping through the jungle, a new era when the demonic powers of Secret Societies, spells, and spirits are finally broken. An age in which the Spirit of the living God comes to set the prisoners free, casts out all fear, and allows the people of Sierra Leone to finally cry out “Abba, Father.”

There is no darkness in this world through which the gospel cannot shine.

THE STORY OF ABDA

She pointed to her brightly colored hijab (head covering) and said, “back in Syria I would have been killed by Isis for not wearing black!”

This is the story of Abda.  I interviewed her while in Lebanon. For this story, her name has been changed and the image here is not factual but her story is very real.  Our visit was almost 25 minutes so this is a condensed version of her story. She was a very attractive young Syrian woman, a mother of nine and almost a widow.  But “almost” is the story…

 
Abda came to Lebanon three years ago to escape Isis when her house was bombed. When Isis had come to her home, she and her husband hid in the mountains with several of their nine children. Other family members fled to Lebanon. Abda and her husband eventually worked their way to Lebanon leaving a daughter in Syria. She did not know if her daughter was alive or dead.

 
They got to the Lebanon border and they were stopped and told by the guards that they would not be allowed to get into Lebanon and they would have to go back to Syria. While the guard was inspecting their papers, he came across her son’s name, Isa.  Isa is Arabic for Jesus in the Quran. She said, “I named him after Jesus although I did not know Jesus yet.” The guards told the family that they could enter Lebanon just because she had a son name Isa!

 
When they got to Beirut, hungry and with very few possessions, she met-up with her sister.  Her sister told her they could get some food and clothing at a church nearby.  Abda went to the church, received some food and then someone at the church prayed for and with her. She said, “I was just there for the food, I did not know how to pray.”

 
The second time she came to the church for food, the people began sharing their hearts about how they had met Jesus. Abda was touched. She knew she did not want to live the way she was living but she also did not want to become a Christian. But she became curious to know more about God and she accepted an invitation to come to a worship service.

 
Shortly afterwards, her husband got very sick. He was always tired, could not walk and so could not work. Abda took him to the doctor and they ran tests, discovering he had a severe of lack of blood in his body. They had to go to the hospital so he could receive some blood but finances were obviously a problem.  She wondered with the lack of blood and a lack of oxygen to the heart, how he was even living.  Some of the people from the church and her family volunteered to give blood, so the hospital admitted him. He received four bags of blood and began feeling better.

 
A month later, he began feeling tired again. After re-testing him, the doctor said that all the blood given to him was gone from his system. The hospital gave him some medicine, other friends gave more blood. But his body would not take the blood and the hospital told Abda that he was going to die.  The doctor told her, “I can’t do anything about it, just take him home.”

 
Abda was crying and watching him die in front of her but she could do nothing. She knew the church was praying for her and they told her to have faith. The pastor told her, “If you have faith in God, your husband will be healed.” After she went home, she found her husband laying on the floor, unable to move. She grabbed her husband and told him, from the bottom of her heart, “Have faith in God and He will heal you.” “Don’t believe in anything else, just believe in Jesus Christ.” Abda prayed to God, “I believe in you and if you exist like you are saying, give blood to my husband.” “God I know you are alive and the doctors could not do anything, but I believe in you and I know you can do it, you can heal him.”

 
Within a month, her husband was healed. His blood was completely restored. The doctors were amazed. They told Abda that this was impossible but her husband told the doctors that God was alive and he had healed him.
It’s been a year since God’s healing touch and God has been helping them with everything. Abda said, “I and my family are serving God and putting all our lives in His hands. I am teaching my children about the love of God and the peace that He gives us. Even with war and everything else happening around them, He is never going to leave them. And the best thing He has shown us, is that we will be with him at the end of the world.”

 
She concluded, “We did not know Jesus in the Islamic world, but now we know how loving and how peaceful he is. I thank God for saving us from the war and letting me know him. I have no fear and will keep talking about God and serving him. I hope that anybody that is away from God will meet him and know how loving and peaceful he is.”