God provides exciting new mission opportunities through a Christian from South Asia.
“Put the best minds in World Missions in a room. Tell them to come up with a plan for outreach to this Muslim nation. And they could not come up with a plan as good as the one we have.” So said a longtime worker in WELS World Missions. “The plan we have,” he added, “fell into our laps.”
Fifteen years later, this mission to Pakistan has distributed nearly a million pieces of Christian literature, opened 59 churches, started a Bible Institute, operates 24 Sunday schools for 1,000 children, and produces a weekly 30-minute satellite broadcast to much of the Muslim world.
Surprisingly, God is giving us another “heaven-sent” opportunity for outreach in a second predominantly Muslim country in South Asia. And it began in America!
The heaven-sent opportunity
Haris*, a Christian young man from this Asian country, came into contact with the pastor of a WELS congregation in a large Midwest city. Haris has a passion for outreach to Muslims and before meeting this pastor had already gathered six study groups and one worship group of Muslim-background believers. This man and his wife went through an instruction course and became members of this congregation and WELS.
Haris expressed the desire to share the gospel with more Muslims, both in his new city in America and in his homeland. With his pastor’s help, he enrolled in our synod’s Pastoral Studies Institute. He loves his classes with area WELS pastors who graciously take the time to instruct him. He is amazed by the depth of the scriptural teaching he is receiving. “I have never experienced anything like this. It is wonderful, and I want to learn more,” says Haris.
God is doing the impossible and opening doors for gospel outreach, even in the world of Islam.
Close to this time, Haris’ father passed away. His father was from a prestigious Muslim family and was the oldest son in his family. He converted from Islam to Christianity many years ago and became a strong evangelist, founding and overseeing two Bible schools for the training of evangelists in this Muslim country. After his death, his Muslim relatives came to the hospital to demand the body for burial, even though Haris’ father had converted to Christianity more than 40 years earlier. Haris prevented this so that his father could have a Christian burial.
According to their culture, Haris now oversees the two Bible schools his father started. He has asked WELS to provide solid scriptural training for the teachers and the students. He says, “We are planting many churches, but the graduates of our schools do not know the Scriptures well. We have quantity but not quality. They do not know how to be pastors. The WELS men I meet know how to be pastors.”
A plan for outreach
Since then, WELS representatives have made three visits to this country in the last 12 months and are hoping to provide training for the teachers and the students in the Bible schools. The schools have a long list of graduates who are eager for more training as well. Most of the students do not belong to any denomination. The two Bible schools also have vocational training so that the men learn a skill to supplement their income while they serve as leaders in their churches.
But that is only the first part of our plan to reach out with the gospel in this country. The second part is to use these graduates to plant new churches in the northern part of the country, where there are practically no Christian churches. In this Muslim country, only 1 in 300 people is a Christian.
We also want to reach out to Muslims who live inside a large camp for refugees. (See the extra content below for more information.)
Finally, we want to provide a ministry center for outreach to Muslims in America. Since this young man has his father’s passion and gifts for reaching out to Muslims, we want to partner with him. Our hope is to purchase a home in a thoroughly Muslim neighborhood in this Midwest city and use it as a friendship center to befriend Muslims and, in time, to introduce them to their best friend, Jesus. We hope under God that this and the International Friendship Center in Wisconsin will become models for outreach to Muslims and South Asians in America for other WELS congregations.
Already God’s blessings for these plans are abundant:
- We have ready-made relationships in this South Asian country through Haris. It would take decades for a WELS missionary to build the relationships we have now, according to Larry Schlomer, administrator of WELS World Missions.
- The church in this country is already registered with the government. For many years it has been impossible to register a church there.
- We have official permission to provide help to the refugees. It is exceedingly difficult to receive this approval.
God is giving us another “heaven-sent” opportunity. He says, “See, I have placed before you an open door” (Revelation 3:8). God is doing the impossible and opening doors for gospel outreach, even in the world of Islam.
*Name has been changed.
Oh, for a faith . . .
In 2016, over one million Muslim refugees fled from Myanmar. Over 700,000 of these refugees were settled in camps in this South Asian country. A WELS representative visited one of those camps. He shares the story of a Christian leader we’ll call “Asad” below:
Oh, for a faith that will not shrink
Though pressed by many a foe,
That will not tremble on the brink
Of poverty or woe.
(Christian Worship 405:1)
Asad was happier than he had ever been in his life.
A visitor to the camp had brought a DVD—The Jesus Film. Asad watched it with amazement. He had never seen such love as he saw in Jesus, who was willing to die for his sins. He had never experienced such joy as he now had knowing that he was a child of God. He had to share this joy with everyone he could. Within the next months, his family, his brother’s family, and several others believed.
Then the troubles started. As the families gathered at his brother’s house for worship and prayer, neighbors started to throw bricks over the corrugated metal wall, hoping to hit those gathered. Amazingly, the bricks all missed. One night they attached burning rags to the bricks, and the house burned to the ground. Miraculously, no one was injured.
Asad and his family kept sharing the joy they had—the message of Jesus—and soon more than one hundred families believed.
Then one day a mob gathered at Asad’s own makeshift house. “You are no longer welcome in this camp,” they told him as they tore down his walls and barred him from returning.
And yet, Asad was happier than he had ever been in his life.
Two weeks passed and Asad traveled to visit his brother’s house, a half-constructed shell that had been rebuilt from the fire. No sooner had Asad greeted the family when he was called out to the road—an elderly neighbor wanted to meet with him. It was a trap. The thin metal wall couldn’t block the sounds. Women screaming, men yelling, now women crying. Then the sound of a heavy thud—Asad’s body being thrown against the wall as bamboo sticks struck his body. They took his phone and smashed it, sending their clear message: Stop gathering Christians together.
Still, Asad is happier than he has ever been in his life. “If Jesus died on the cross for me,” he reasons, “what is some suffering in my life?”
The next day, he gathered with a small group of local believers. They sang a quiet song, shared messages of God’s promises, and prayed together. Asad’s only thought: How can we show our people God’s love? How can we teach more people the message of Jesus?
Lord, give us such a faith as this,
And then, whate’er may come,
We’ll taste e’en now the hallowed bliss
Of an eternal home.
(Christian Worship 405:6)
Plans are in the works to train and support Asad and other Christians so that they are able to reach more refugees in this camp with the saving message of Jesus.
Author: Withheld to protect those sharing God’s truths
Volume 107, Number 02
Issue: February 2020