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Open Doors in the Middle East

“The visit was too short,” said Nasser al’Qahtani, upon returning recently from a trip to the Middle East. “There are just too many new believers now, and too much work to do.”

It’s a wonderful problem, especially in a region that has been very closed to the Gospel over the years. Nasser was overjoyed with how discipleship opportunities have multiplied recently. As a result, he is not only eager to return to the region soon, but he is also excited to see others respond to the call for help. 

Nasser, who is himself from that part of the world, has been a follower of Jesus for twenty-five years now. He grew up in a strict Muslim home and became a dedicated jihadist as a young man. However, after coming to faith in Jesus while living in the US, he is now regularly being invited back to his homeland by local believers and foreign workers alike who desperately want to hear his perspective on what it means to follow Jesus in a Muslim culture. 

“The new believers are so hungry for God and for the Scriptures,” said Nasser, “but the teaching and discipleship they are receiving often comes from a very Western perspective, so they struggle to understand what it looks like in the framework of their own culture.”

Due to the fact that Nasser speaks their language and understands their cultural and religious background, he is able to explain things in a way that connects deeply with their worldview and allows them to embrace Jesus within their unique context.

When asked about the greatest need of the Church in this region, Nasser stated simply, “With so many newborn followers of Jesus, the Church needs spiritual fathers and mothers to invest in this new generation, to disciple these young believers and help them raise up their own spiritual families. That’s how I see my role, and that’s how I see others who are willing to come and serve in that way.” 

According to Nasser, the call for outside help is qualified by the reality that foreign workers in the region have historically not lasted long. “Missionaries don’t stay for more than a year or two,” he said, “and there seems to be three common reasons for why they don’t stick around.”

Those three factors, Nasser explained, are first, that the foreigners lack a strong sending church in their homeland that understands their call and perseveres with them; second, that they lack a strong team on the ground to provide spiritual care and support; and third, that they lack the commitment or ability to learn Arabic. “When I’ve seen foreigners thrive in this region and stay long-term,” said Nasser, “they have all three of these components.”

Nasser gave an example of one man and his family that came to the region more than ten years ago and have flourished. “He has become my key contact and my closest collaborator, not to mention my dear brother,” said Nasser with affection. “We communicate with each other at least once a week, and we share our hearts and pray together.” 

When Nasser recently facilitated the sending of a new worker from the US to the region, he made sure that the young man was received by this man and his family and was embraced as a part of their team.

Nasser is hopeful that many more will hear the call and come to the region, although he is well aware of the commitment required, and the cost. “People who serve in this region need spiritual maturity,” said Nasser, “not only to survive in a very oppressive spiritual environment, but also to walk alongside local believers who are paying a high price for their faith in Jesus.”

Despite various forms of opposition in the Middle East, the Gospel is spreading like never before. “On my latest trip, I met so many people who were so eager to talk about Jesus,” said Nasser. “The doors are open. People are hungry for the Gospel. Who will join me in embracing these opportunities?”

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Are you ready to respond to Hakan’s invitation? To speak with someone about current service opportunities in Central Asia, please call your local Regional Mobilizer at 1.866.964.7627. 

To be inspired by what God is doing today in Central Asia, to read an amazing testimony of life transformation among Hakan’s people click here.

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