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Training for Muslim Missions

New center to be located in Islam-dominated city.

When most folks reach retirement age, they focus on hobbies, travel, and spending time with family. But Paul P. Hancock III (known as Trey) isn’t like most people.

“I don’t know anything about retirement,” he says, “But I do know about ministry, and that's what we’re going to do until Jesus takes my breath away.”

The ministry that Trey, 65, knows so well is outreach to Muslims. As pastor for 21 years at Springwells Church in Dearborn, Michigan, he teamed with his wife, Becky, to connect to the city’s Muslim-dominant community. But on Oct. 17, he officially resigned as pastor. Now he and Becky — both Assemblies of God U.S. missionaries in Intercultural Ministries — can focus on starting a training center for missionaries to minister to Muslims. The effort is in cooperation with Assemblies of God World Missions.

Becky, 64, says that ever since they came to Dearborn three decades ago, they had contemplated opening such a center. Years ago, the Hancocks purchased two office buildings in Dearborn, believing one day they would house the training center.

That day has come. The training center is well situated in the city of 110,000, which is 40% Muslim and has the largest Islamic per capita population in the U.S. In the east Dearborn neighborhood where the Hancocks live, virtually everyone is Muslim.

Intercultural Ministries Senior Director Wayne Huffman lauds the center’s uniqueness.

“What better way to get training than to go to where we have one of the highest concentrations of Muslims in America and be able to learn from those who are doing it and not be alone?” says Huffman. “It's a tremendous tool.”

Currently Trey and Becky are traveling and recruiting for the center and organizing staff. In partnership with Live Dead, a church planting organization among unreached peoples, the effort will include classroom teaching on such subjects as the Arabic language and culture, spiritual warfare, and Christian theology.

“Trainees will have extra time to interact with the community,” Becky says. “They can’t just be in the books while they're here. They’ve got to be out in the neighborhood.”

And that’s where missionaries will find their greatest challenge. Obstacles preventing Muslims from converting to Christ include separation from family, losing jobs, and even endangerment to lives.

Huffman describes the Muslim mission field as “a lot of plowing, but not a lot of fruit.” Trey knows this firsthand.

“For them to find Jesus is a struggle,” Hancock says.

The center will be a vital help with this. Becky says that experiencing the realities of hard evangelism soil will build the missionaries’ character and develop their endurance so they don’t give up on their assignment.

“Muslims are people just like us, except they have a religion that’s all encompassing,” he says. “It wants to keep them away from Jesus.”

The Hancocks are well aware that some missionaries may go through their program and decide this mission field isn’t for them. And that’s OK with the Hancocks. But it won’t change their “retirement plans” in ministering to the Muslims they’ve grown to appreciate and enjoy.

“We can’t leave our friends alone,” Trey says. “That’s not an option for us.”

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Sherri Langton

Sherri Langton, associate editor of Bible Advocate magazine and Now What? e-zine, is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Focus on the Family, Decision, Upper Room, Today’s Christian Woman, and other publications. Langton, who lives in Denver, also has contributed to book compilations.