stories from the field

Church Planting for the Long Haul

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 or Kairos They will change your life. The courses may even compel you to join a church planting team among the unreached!

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