Overcoming Fear in Order to Love
Islamaphobia – fear of Muslims. It’s real in America as well as in many parts of the world. Why? Perhaps it’s because radical/radicalized Muslims often have the loudest voices and whose horrific actions often target civilians, making it easy for media to identify and condemn.
Former AG world missionaries David and Sue Hartmann are now AG U.S. missionaries with Intercultural Ministries. They have found, both overseas and in the United States, that nominal Muslims — those who call themselves Muslims, but don’t adhere to a strict interpretation of the faith — abound and are curious about Jesus.
Beginning in 1993, the Hartmanns served as missionaries in Albania, establishing relationships and ministering to Muslims in that region. They became keenly aware of refugees in 1999 when 500,000 mostly Muslim Kosovar refugees poured into Albania as a result of war.
“Our hearts were deeply touched by their plight,” David recounts. “We began to pray for them and soon the Lord opened doors of opportunity to share the gospel. A key part in showing Jesus’ love to them was in helping to meet their many heartfelt needs. It was a joy to see many Muslim Kosovars come to our church and some give their lives to Jesus.”
Then, in 2011, the Hartmanns’ ministry to Muslim refugees was redirected to a new mission field — a major urban area in the southwest region of the United States.
“Some immigrant refugees come from people groups that are totally unreached by the gospel of Jesus Christ,” David says. “All of them have suffered from horrendous trauma and are in need of Jesus’ love.”
The Hartmanns have partnered with other ministries to specifically reach out to Middle Eastern and North African Arab Muslims who came to the U.S. either as refugees or on a Special Immigrant Visa. Most are Iraqis and Syrians. “They have come to the U.S. to start their lives anew,” David explains. “Without exception, they express appreciation for the peace and freedom they find in the U.S.”
Sue says that, as a woman, effective ministry to Arab Muslim women includes dressing modestly and greeting women with a kiss on the cheeks. “But what is most important is simply value and respect each life by being their friend,” she says. “I go to where they live, I don’t debate Islam, and I focus on loving them with Jesus’ love.”
In developing relationships with these Muslims, the Hartmanns have also come to hear their stories. Many are filled with horrific examples of the atrocities ISIS committed against their homes, businesses, and family members. Life for many was tenuous at best.
Many of the Muslim refugees who come to the U.S. have been traumatized and need help. But now they are living in a foreign land, that speaks a foreign (to them) language, has foreign laws, and they have no American friends — those who could help them adjust or be an advocate for them.
“These are wounded, broken souls in desperate need of Jesus’ saving and healing power,” David says. “Our ministry is based on God’s Word from Leviticus 19:33-34: When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don’t take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own (The Message).”
Taking that Scripture to heart, the Hartmanns do what they can to befriend Muslim Arabs. They teach weekly ESL (English as a Second Language) classes, using the Bible as a source document. “For example,” David says, “we are now doing lessons from the New Testament about the miracles of Jesus.”
The Muslim ESL students, the Hartmanns have discovered, are very open to learning about Jesus. David shares how one woman felt “goose bumps all over her body” when they read about Jesus healing a person; 10 of their Muslim ESL students now attend a Bible study, and many of their Muslim students and friends are wanting to learn more about Jesus.
The Hartmanns create the opportunity to visit their students at their homes and pray for them. Each student has also been presented with a gift of an Arabic New Testament and an Arabic DVD version of The Jesus Film — the prayers and gifts have been greatly welcomed and received.
“We have discovered that not one of our newly arriving Muslim friends has ever hear a truly adequate presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” David says. “And now, the Lord has brought them to our neighborhoods, but more than that — to our hearts!”
The Hartmanns believe the key to seeing a great harvest of Muslims souls is intercessory prayer for their salvation. David has a prayer list of about 100 Muslim Arab refugee friends that he prays for daily. As he was driving home one day, the Lord spoke to him, “David, you may be the only person on this planet that is praying for their eternal salvation. Keep praying for them.”
If the Holy Spirit is already making a huge impact and opening doors into the lives of Muslim refugees through the prayers of David and Sue, one wonders what might take place if a few dozen, scores, hundreds, or perhaps even thousands joined them in their prayers for these Muslim refugees?
There’s only one way to find out.