Students awakened to challenges, opportunities in North Africa, Middle East
This year, Southwestern Seminary’s annual International Church Planting Week, Sept. 8-11, focused on North Africa and the Middle East, awakening students to the tremendous challenges and wonderful opportunities for Kingdom work in this region of the world. Speaking in chapel on Sept. 8, Scott Baker,* a missionary from North Africa, informed students and faculty of some of what God is doing in this part of the world.
One story related by Baker entailed a missionary walking down the street one day and feeling the nudging of the Holy Spirit to speak to the man walking beside him, who was carrying a large book. Although the missionary initially resisted out of a desire to hastily return home, the Lord would not let up on him. So, the missionary finally turned to the man and said, “That’s a heavy book you’re carrying.”
“Oh, yes,” the man replied. “I’m a high school philosophy teacher.”
A conversation began, and the man eventually asked the missionary, “Are you a follower of Jesus?” “Yes, I am,” the missionary replied. The man continued, “I’ve been praying for you. I’ve been reading the Bible for 10 years. I’ve been praying for the last year to meet a follower of Jesus. Can you tell me what it means to be a follower of Jesus?”
The missionary happily obliged, and at that time, the man became a follower of Jesus. He then informed the missionary that he had a student who frequently asked him questions about Jesus. “Can you meet with him?” the man asked. “Yes,” the missionary replied. So the missionary proceeded to meet with the student, and by the end of their encounter, he, too, had become a believer.
Following this encouraging story, Baker related another experience that took place in a different North African country. In a particular village in this Muslim country, the warm weather causes people’s huts to burn. Recently, this occurrence led members of the community to seek the help of local missionaries. These missionaries agreed to help, provided they could also share with the villagers “the Good News.”
So, in addition to assisting the villagers with repairing their huts, the missionaries also shared the Gospel. Initially, they presented their message to 10 men, who, following the completion of the presentation, said they needed time to think about what they had heard. They later returned to the missionaries, bringing with them five more men. “Share it again to us … the Good News,” they said. The missionaries did so, and the 15 replied that they needed yet more time to think about it.
These 15 men later returned to the missionaries a second time, this time bringing with them their prayer rugs and prayer beads, which they promptly threw onto the ground. “We’re done with Islam,” they said. “We want Jesus in our hearts.”
These stories, and others like them, served to illustrate the work that is transpiring in this part of the world, which has relatively little exposure to the Gospel. After informing them of such works of the Holy Spirit, Baker proceeded to encourage students to consider international mission work.
Preaching from 1 John 4, Baker reminded students that there is no need to fear. He placed particular emphasis on verse 4, which says, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them [that is, the spirits of the antichrist], for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”
“We have the Holy Spirit inside of us,” Baker said, “and so as we go out, whether it’s in Dallas/Fort Worth, North Africa, or the Middle East, greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. To realize that, to grasp a hold of that, you can walk in places like never before.”
Beyond this chapel service, International Church Planting Week also provided multiple opportunities for students to interact with missionaries and learn about Southwestern’s missions programs, including the International Church Planting 2+2/3 degree plan. The week concluded with One Magnificent Obsession, which featured a special prayer emphasis on North Africa and the Middle East.
*Name changed to protect mission work.