In the 12 plus years Victoria lived in Hungary, she had never seen such desperation and chaos. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians, Iraqis and other refugees arrived en masse at Hungarian borders, bus depots and train stations. The crowds of hungry, tired migrants set their eyes on the safety of Western Europe, and Hungary stands between them and their longed-for sanctuary.
Children roamed the sidewalks as their parents sat on cardboard and flattened mattress pads. Young men read graffiti from other travelers written on the walls. All awaited the next leg of their journey. Would it be by bus, train or perhaps another tiring day on foot while being exposed to the rain and cold?
One day at the station, Victoria and her coworkers noticed a woman sleeping at the base of a stairwell in the overcrowded train station—now operating as a makeshi migrant camp. As they started a conversation, they learned the woman was sick, pregnant and unsure of when she would be able to leave. Without blankets or a jacket, another bitterly cold Hungarian night seemed impossible to endure.
Victoria, having seen God work one miracle after another for these migrants, listened and offered to pray for her in Jesus’ name. The woman gladly accepted the prayer, grateful that someone would care enough to sit and listen to her story. Victoria also prayed for blankets or sleeping bags.
Five minutes later, Victoria got a call from a teammate. They had just received a cash donation from some friends and used it to buy sleeping bags for the refugees. They bought hundreds. Victoria was shocked. Her teammates could not have known she had prayed only minutes earlier for this exact need!
Victoria returned to the station and found the woman. Her eyes lit up as she saw the sleeping bag. Of all the people struggling through this crisis, God specifically heard her prayer and provided both healing and a sleeping bag. She shared her gratitude.
This is only one of countless stories of how God is revealing Himself and His goodness in spite of a truly terrible situation.
God’s love is moving among the unreached and we praise God for the heartfelt response thus far to our Love Moves initiative. Gifts to Pioneers Love Moves initiative will help in three key areas: sending more missionaries to the unreached and supporting those already serving, providing security training to those serving in hostile regions, and serving refugees. Find out more at www. pioneers.ca/lovemoves. If you would like to give to this effort, please call us at 866-268-8778 or donate online at pioneers.ca/give.
By a Pioneer in Canada
The scene is dramatic. Mary, on the donkey, very pregnant and starting to go into labour. Joseph, frantically going from inn to inn trying to find someone, anyone, to give them a place to stay for the night. But there is no place. As the scenes are re-enacted many ask, “Didn’t they see that she was about to give birth? Why didn’t they have compassion on them?”
The answer was simple – “There was no room for them in the inn.”
Jump ahead to the year 2015. The news footage shows massive movements of people as they try to escape ISIS, different governments, and look for a safe place for their families. And now it is time for us as Christians to answer the same question – “Will we make room in our inn?”
Across Canada, many churches are answering “yes” to this question. One of these churches is in the Owen Sound, Ontario area. In late August, they were part of a sponsorship program which brought in a refugee family of four from Eritrea.
“When I heard of the refugee crisis, I knew I had to help,” explained Christian, a church member. “Imagine … leaving all your belongings, getting on a rubber dinghy with your children, as you pray that you make it to the other side. No one does that for no reason.”
The refugee committee is made up of 6 couples who each take different responsibilities that include fundraising, translating, medical, education, paperwork, ESL and driving.
“It is important to realize that sponsoring a family is more than just a money thing. Anyone can give money but the time commitment is huge, especially in the first year,” explained Diana, a refugee committee member. “But it is worth it,” she quickly added. “It is what Jesus wants us to do. We are blessed so we can share our blessings. How can I not share all that God has given me?”
Many firsts have taken place for the Eritrean family over the last 4 months such as seeing snow, riding a bicycle and swimming. “For me, a highlight was watching Grandma write her name for the first time,” explained Jeff, the pastor of the sponsoring church. Grandma, who was married at 11, had never had an opportunity to go to school but is now studying English five days a week.
When Grandma was asked what she would say to refugees waiting to come to Canada, she smiled and said, “Tell them Canada is good and the people are kind. Come, you are welcome here.”
Would you like to learn how you can help the unreached peoples that are coming here to Canada? Consider sponsoring a refugee family. More information can be found at www.theEFC.ca/MiddleEastRefugees. Pioneers also has several teams that are ministering to Canada’s newcomers. If you would like to learn more about joining our full-time missionary work here in Canada, you can talk to a mission mobilizer by calling us at 866-268-8778 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We were in the Kurdish Autonomous Region (KAR) of Northern Iraq to assess what God is doing among the local people and the refugees flooding in from Syria, and other regions devastated by ISIS. The meeting room held about a dozen Christian leaders, who were working in various cities. It was the first time that all of them were able to meet together. These brothers are ministering in cities that are under the threat of ISIS and the threat of persecution from those who oppose Christianity. Most of them are new Christians themselves.
The older gentleman who made the above statement went on to explain three things God is using:
1: Education – More Muslims are able to read today than ever before. This allows them to read the Koran for themselves, rather than simply relying on what the Imams are teaching. When people are able to read, they are able to think more for themselves and find the truth.
2: Internet – Since more people are able to read, they are able to find things that are written online. As a result, more Muslims are not only hearing the truth about Islam, but encountering the Gospel on their phones and computers. (Arab World Media, an online ministry of Pioneers, is proclaiming the Gospel in Arabic.)
3: Muslim Extremism – ISIS is only the most recent iteration of terrorist groups that claim that they are the true Muslims. The atrocities being committed by groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS are causing Muslims to question their faith. First, they believe that the Extremists must be wrong in their understanding of Islam. But as they dig deeper, by reading the Koran itself, they are realizing that the Extremists’ brand of Islam is true Islam.
The leaders around that table all voiced their strong belief that God has brought about an unprecedented opportunity for the Church to reap a harvest among the Kurds.
This conviction was shared by a long-time pastor of a Kurdish church, whom we met the next day. He drew us a map of where some of the ethnic or religious groupings of Kurds were living before the crisis, and where God has moved them to, and told us:
The Kakais (a minority group – the men of this group have a distinct moustache) were moved from their territory to a different location due to the ISIS insurgency. The Yazidis, yet another minority group, were also moved. The Kurdish Catholics living in Baghdad were told by the ruling Islamic party to move out of their home with only what they could carry. They trekked north to the KAR on foot. As they resettled in different places, their only help came from evangelical Christians. Many people from these minority groups have recognized their need for Jesus as they were taken away from the comforts of their home to a place where they needed someone to save them. So, the Kakais and Yazidis are meeting Jesus for the first time, and the Catholics are saying that they are re-encountering Jesus in a new way.
I asked the Kurdish evangelical Christian leaders, “Would you leave if you had the opportunity?”
Their answers were varied, but had the same conclusion. “I did leave, but I came back.” “How can I leave these people behind?” “My in-laws are trying to take my wife away from me because they are angry that she has left Islam. They want to marry her off to a Muslim man to wipe away their shame.” “My children are no longer able to attend the local schools, because they are children of a Christian. I have ruined their future.” “But if we leave, who will show these people the love of Christ?”
The three of us, visiting from North America, were humbled by the love and dedication of these men of God.
“What would you like to tell the Christians in North America?” I asked them.
“Thank them for helping us with relief supplies. We don’t have much, but we are sharing what we can with those who have less than we do. We are grateful that people like you are coming to help us. Please keep sending help. Tell them to come also. We need the entire church of Jesus Christ to stand together. As the Bible says, if one part of the body is hurting, all of the body is hurting. We are hurting. Help us!”
On the plane ride back from the KAR, my mind wandered to what Job said at the end of his trials. “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you…” (Job 42:5, NIV). Minority groups in Northern Iraq are going through an extraordinary time of suffering. However, the Lord is opening their eyes to see who He really is. They are in need of the Body of Christ to stand with them. How is the love of Christ compelling you to move?
Please pray for these refugees and for those who are risking their lives to serve them. May Christ’s love move us all to action! Perhaps God is moving you to give financially. Maybe He is nudging you to take a step of faith to go and join God in what He is doing across the ocean.
By Donnie Scearce, Director of Personnel
When a missionary family begins the long-term journey, with an irresistible passion to see a church planted among an unreached people, they usually begin with little more than a dream and a hope. A few years ago, 2009 to be exact, a colleague and I visited a small Pioneers team in the heart of Damascus, Syria. The team was in the final stages of Arabic language learning and cultural adaptation. While everyone knew that this learning was just the beginning of a life-long process, it was still a time of excitement as it would form the foundation of their growing ministry.
The team plan was to continue ministering in Damascus and watch how God would use them to see churches planted. Then through a series of unforeseen circumstances their plans were challenged. First, one family was required to relocate to a nearby country due to health issues. Then, in the spring of 2011, the unthinkable happened. Tensions in the country erupted into full-on conflict. This was the beginning of the ongoing Syrian civil war and refugee crisis. As the team was forced to leave they wondered, ‘hadn’t God called us to serve these people?’
This example highlights one of the lessons missionaries learn along the way: God tends to call us to serve Him among a people more than to a land or a geographical location. Just as the Syrian people spread out between Jordan, Lebanon and other neighbouring countries, so did the workers. The work and purpose that had begun in Damascus continues today among the thousands of Syrian refugees pouring across the borders.
These workers are involved in relief and development, both of which are necessary to demonstrate the love of Jesus in times of dire need. However, the long-term objective of seeing a movement of churches sparked is never absent from their hearts, minds, and actions – it is a mission that has migrated with the people. We celebrate the formation of 50 Bible study groups of Muslim refugee families and 62 believers trained in church-planting principles. Seeds of the gospel are being sown and Christ-followers are coming to maturity. Despite the unexpected changes to their plans this team continues to work towards the vision of seeing churches planted among the Syrian people. In the DNA of their vision is a core belief that ever since Pentecost, the church has been the primary agent of God’s redemptive love and grace to a hurting world.
While it may require years – sometimes decades – and detours across borders, the Gospel is on the move and the church is expanding. It is our blessing to play a small part in what God is doing in our generation!
Would you like to learn more about God’s heart for the nations? Consider taking a missions course with Perspectives www.perspectivescanada.org or Kairos www.kairoscourse.ca. They will change your life. The courses may even compel you to join a church planting team among the unreached!
Many times I have reminded fellow gospel messengers of the hope and confidence we have that God will finish His mission. My go-to text is Revelation 7:9 and the beautiful image of the great multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language gathering around the throne in worship. The news these days often paints a completely different picture–one punctuated by images of terrorism, the refugee crisis, and so-called Islamic State.
You may wonder, what is the state of global missions and how should we reconcile the tension between these different images? As you read the stories from this Issue of One Ambition, I hope you will be encouraged by glimpses of how God is at work through the refugee crisis. I personally witnessed how God is using the devastation caused by ISIS for His Glory when I travelled to Northern Iraq in December, 2015.
It is also my prayer that your hope will be strengthened as together we endeavor to faithfully serve the one who has promised to remain with us ‘to the very end of the age’ and whose ways we can’t always understand.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
In His Mercy,
Do you hear the movement being played on the instruments of the nations as orchestrated by the Divine Maestro? Listen. It’s playing next door. In his address on Mars Hill, Paul was attempting to share the gospel with the Athenians. In the middle of his address, he made a brief but very important statement related to the sovereign will of God and the nations:
“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26—27).
What is clear from this passage is that the Creator is sovereign over His creation. All the nations of the world have a bloodline running back to Adam and Eve. God is Lord over the history and habitations of His people. The practical reality of these theological truths reveals the outworking of His salvation history among the peoples of the world as they migrate across the planet in search of a home. The book of Revelation reveals the fulfillment of His work as the faces of the nations are observed around the throne (Rev. 7:9).
From a sociological perspective, there are various push-pull factors in play as to why people migrate. Push factors move people out of their homelands. These are often negative and may include war, famine, persecution, poverty, and disasters. Pull factors draw people to other locations. Generally, these are more positive matters such as the hope for a better way of life, material wealth, better education, safety, and freedom. While these factors operate throughout the world, the reality is that a Divine Maestro is working through the good, bad, and ugly so that the nations of the world may find Him.
While it is easy to get lost in the numbers from across the globe, we must remember that each one represents someone created in the Image of God in need of salvation or to serve on mission with Him. In light of the work of the Divine Maestro, the church must ask how she should respond in the age of migration. This pressure point creates many challenges and opportunities.
Not only has the Lord told us to go into the entire world but He is also bringing the world to our neighbourhoods. Some of these represent the world’s unreached people groups. Reaching them with the gospel and partnering with them to carry this good news along their social networks across the globe is an opportunity for mission that the church must recognize and seize.
Used by Permission. Pressure Points: Twelve Global Issues Shaping the Face of the Church, J.D. Payne, July 16, 2013, Thomas Nelson. Nashville, Tennessee. All rights reserved.
Have you heard what Pioneers is doing to help Syrian refugees?
Pioneers actually has several teams ministering to refugees throughout the Middle East. This infographic shares the results seen by one team that has been caring for refugees since 2013.
If you would like to get involved, we encourage you to pray about supporting our Love Moves Initiative.
Where does a Muslim go for answers? Raised in an environment that actively discourages questioning of any kind, more and more are turning to the internet. As the Middle Eastern world goes through ongoing upheaval, our online Arabic website is inundated with inquiries. Live chat sessions and our chat rooms are also full of activity. Muslims are increasingly disillusioned with Islam. This year’s events throughout the world – the attack on Canada’s Parliament Hill in October, the hostage taking in Australia’s coffee shop, the beheadings of tourists in North Africa–are causing Muslims to reconsider what they have always believed to be the truth.
Our Arabic language social media sites continue to see a surge of activity every month. In November alone, the Facebook page had 28,261 new fans, and there
were 73,053 views of the content on our YouTube channel. More than 8,500 Arabic language Bibles and pieces of Christian literature were downloaded from the website in November. An encouraging article from Christian Aid talks of the growing demand for Bibles by refugees who are fleeing the violence of ISIS.1 This on-the-ground reality is clearly reflected by what we see happening online.
All comments on social media and the website are followed up by our responders who answer questions, lovingly engaging individuals in dialogue. Wherever possible, they eventually seek to connect them with a national believer in their own country who can help them to grow in the knowledge of His Word.
We would like to share with you some of the questions and comments we have received. May you be encouraged as you see that behind the dreadful headlines in the media, God is at work drawing Muslims to Himself.
I’m fed up with the misery we live under because of Islam. Female, Algeria
I have been thinking about the Christian religion for the past year. Does it offer true life? I feel I haven’t known life and I haven’t found anything in Islam. I wish
I could live in a truly Christian society in order to understand what Christianity really is. Male, 26-35, Morocco
Good evening. I have a question which I don’t know how to answer. I’ve been reading the Bible for a few years now and have believed that the Lord Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life. I haven’t told anyone about this. I am weary of not making it known that I am
a Christian. I don’t know how to handle this. Please help me. With my warmest greetings. Male, 36-45, Egypt
I have a friend from a Muslim background who has become a believer. He is very afraid. What should he do? Male, Egypt
Please tell me how I can get some genuine information about Christ. I want to know. I love Christ and I feel that he is there wherever I go. I feel that he is calling me. I don’t know how to explain it. Please help me. Male, Egypt
Could you send me the basic information which a Christian should know about their religion? Female, Gulf
We wish to express our gratitude to those who responded to the ‘Love Never Fails’ initiative. Your support helps Arab World Media respond
to questions online and engage in spiritual conversations and online discipleship. This initiative continues to need support so that those in the Arab world can receive living water. If you would like to give to this effort, please call us at 866-268-8778 or donate online at www.pioneers.ca/give/give-online.
It is a genuine test of faith. The spiritual darkness that sits over the country seems almost palpable at times. It’s as if there is a dark ceiling under which only brooding shadows reside, obscuring the view of anyone who seeks to find their way. We are desperately praying for a shattering of this darkness and for the Light of God’s Love to burst into the lives and hearts of the people we have come to know and love.
Perhaps one of the most difficult things for a missionary’s heart to bear is the separation that results from legitimate security concerns. Separation, that is, from new believers.
Our first experience with this distinct test of faith involved a small study group fifteen years ago. The members of this group had accepted Jesus and were conducting discussion style teaching on a regular basis. An entire nuclear family would gather around Christian TV programs to learn and worship together. How thrilling to hear! Then two brothers and a cousin began to walk with Christ and joined in.
Regrettably, as a few foreigners would visit fairly often, the police became aware of the illegal “activities”. In fact, two of the men from this group were thrown into prison, and remained there for three grueling months. We do not know what horrors they endured.
Being fearful upon their release, they isolated themselves and asked that Christians and foreign brothers not visit. We often wonder if they are experiencing the great and gentle healing by God’s loving hand, or if they knew His joy in the midst of their suffering. We don’t know. We are now cut off from communicating with them, but we pray that this story is not finished. We need to have faith.
Our second experience involved dear friends whom we’ve known from the beginning of our time here: a barber, his lovely wife, and four beautiful daughters. The entire family accepted the Lord as Saviour and were baptized eight years ago. They had joyfully received the Christian picture books for children, songs, Bibles, and TV programs we have shared with them over the years.
Unfortunately, the family moved to another town, where they have no Christian fellowship. They live with family members who are strong Muslims, and the children are in an Islamic school. When we last visited them, there were more Islamic strongholds in their home than Christianity. We are saddened, and yet, we have faith that their story is not finished either.
We often wonder if they are experiencing the God of all peace and comfort as war rages just down the hill from their town. We pray that they hold fast to the truth of Christ. We are now cut off from being able to communicate with them, but God is not. We pray that their story is one where they remain true to Christ.
Our recounting our experiences would not be complete if we did not share about how some are not separated, but brought together in Christ. We know a dear man who has been walking with Christ for about ten years now. With many ups and downs in life, he has always returned to his love for Jesus, reading, praying, fasting and sharing verses that have spoken to him with us. Through the internet, he has met another national who loves Jesus. Please pray for these two, and give thanks with us for God’s grace in their lives.
At times, we can see glimpses of light streaming into the darkness. However, losing touch with new believers and the loss of follow-up with seekers continue to test our faith. For example, we were excited to meet, but subsequently lost contact, with several individuals who reached out to our partnering internet ministries while searching for the Truth. One man joyfully accepted a Bible, but returned to his town, and has not been heard from since. Another seeker traveled to a different country and has lost contact with us, and we can only hope that he is continuing in his faith. A third young man, riddled with questions about faith and different religions, never made a commitment and has now traveled away. Yet another dear young man met with us at length to discuss his questions, but then having received a Bible, stopped communicating with us and has not been heard from for nearly a year. Still, there are some like the high school senior who met with us several times, enjoying Bible study. Defying threats, he continued to meet and ask questions right up until a violent uprising forced foreigners to leave.
We often feel cut off from these people we love, not being able to reap what was sown, but we know that God is at work. We only see a glimpse, simply an introduction to the story, perhaps without ever knowing how the Lord will continue to move in these lives. We are waiting in faith, and praying that the darkness will be shattered.
Would you join us in praying that the spiritual darkness would be shattered and that faith would remain in Him who will accomplish these things? “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” Hebrew 11:1. If you would like to learn more ways to pray for our workers please visit www.pioneers.ca/pray/join-us-in-prayer.
Maryah’s son, Faruk* , a three-year-old boy, runs into the room, distraught that his rubber ball has popped. He jumps on his two older brothers, punches them both, while ripping apart the deflated ball with his teeth. The two boys don’t return the violence; they sit patiently while attempting to hold Faruk’s fists. Defeated, Faruk continues to run around in frustration. I’m astonished. Throughout the weeks I’ve been in this country, I’ve seen children use violence to resolve disputes. Violence is their norm. “Your brother is hitting you. Why didn’t you hit him back?” I asked. “We don’t hit. Hitting is bad.” For every story of a violent Faruk, there’s often the untold side of patience and love.
In conversations about going to Mid Asia, people often question me, “Isn’t it dangerous?”, “Why do you have to go? Let someone else go!”, “Aren’t you afraid you’ll be killed?” The relative danger is the side of the story that most of us see, and yet I’ve been given a heart that aches for this nation. Despite the potential violence and fighting, I find myself broken for Faruk and his brothers. God has led me here with a relentless tugging on my heart that I cannot ignore. It is because I am sure of His leading, that He is with me by my side, that I go to these people trusting in His protection and plan for me. With the skills He has given me, I believe I am called to tell the less told side of their story: one that’s filled with pain, and yet displays strength and beauty. These unreached people are loved by God and each have a story to tell. How beautiful would it be to have their stories include Christ one day!
1 Peter 1:8-9 says, “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls”. I have so much admiration and respect for the long-term workers, who experience the daily corruption here, but remain hopeful for the joy and glory of God to transform these people. It’s this persevering hope that has kept them here by faith, serving and loving people in the face of danger. In turn, this has given the local people hope as well. Tangible ministries like paving roads, raising awareness about mental health, and introducing art therapy and music education have pointed a dark nation towards a God who cares deeply for them and loves them. On the other side of the violence and danger in this country, I also see this hope—it’s in the beauty of the children playing by the well; it’s in sunflowers adorning the land; it’s in God being glorified through the work He is doing amongst this people.
On my last visit to Faruk’s family, I presented them with Play-Doh. The boys cried, “I’ve seen this on TV but I’ve never played with it before!” They were overjoyed with something so simple — something I took for granted as a child. They carefully opened each container and began to make shapes. Maryah joined in. The boys showed off their creations and laughed; Maryah began to smile too. “The Play-Doh is making a difference. This act of relationship building demonstrates our Father’s love, even if it seems small”, my team leader said. The Play-Doh offered a temporary happiness, repainting their family portrait from one living in the midst of violence and strife to a simple picture of children laughing and enjoying their time together as a family.
I dream of a day when I can present these people with another gift—the Gospel of Jesus. Instead of providing temporary happiness, this gift will offer eternal joy. I long for that day!
We rejoice that the Lord continues to raise up more missionaries, such as the writer of this story, who recently joined Pioneers. In fact, through the help of supporters like you, Pioneers Canada was able to see 15 missionaries sent to the field last year! Thank you so much for sharing in this. Together, we can change the story of the unreached.
Gifts to our Strategic Priorities Fund help us recruit, train, and care for missionaries to the unreached around the world. Currently, we are in need of an additional $50,000 by the end of September. If you would like to give to this fund, you can call us at 866-268-8778, donate online at www.pioneers.ca/give/give-online, or simply mail the enclosed response form with your gift.
*Name changed for security