Missions: Are we ready to reach Islam?
October 31, 2001
Ministers, missionaries talk about challenges and opportunities in the Muslim world.
The Christian Chronicle - BY ERIK TRYGGESTAD
THE CHRISTIAN CHRONICLE
Its time for churches of Christ to start thinking about mission work in Afghanistan.
That may seem odd while U.S. war planes are dropping bombs on the countrys mountainous terrain, but Mark Woodward said Christians should be ready to move in after military actions end.
We werent prepared for Eastern Europe when Communism collapsed there in the late 1980s, said Woodward, founding director of Ft. Worth, Texas-based Lets Start Talking Ministries. We ought to be thinking about the Muslim world.
Lets Start Talking teaches the Bible through English-language classes. Workers cannot ignore Islam when sharing their faith, Woodward said, because it is among the fastest growing religions in the world even in the U.S.
Everywhere we go, we have Muslims we read with, he said. Theyre in Thailand, Germany, Holland
all over the world.
But in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, Christians are reluctant to talk to Muslims especially those of Arabic descent because of Islams association with terrorism, said Evertt W. Huffard of the Harding University Graduate School of Religion in Memphis, Tenn.
We need to be sure that we do not treat all Arabs as Muslims (and) not assume all Muslims are terrorists, he said. This was the work of an evil, extremist group. We need to show hospitality to (Muslims and Arabs)."
Huffard did mission work with Palestinians in the Israel area for nine years. There are misconceptions about American Christians in the Islamic world, he said. Muslims tend to view them as dishonorable they dont respect their elders or honor their marriages. While Christians focus on Gods love, Muslims focus on his honor, his glory, and submission to his will. The word Muslim itself means one who submits.
Ive never met a Muslim who chose to become a Muslim, Huffard said.
Several missionaries interviewed by The Christian Chronicle said that increased international interest among Americans because of the attacks could lead to future mission work in Muslim countries. But some feared that Americas current economic woes could cut the funding needed to get these missions started.
In our work in the Philippines, we are not only losing prospective missionaries, summer campaigns, medical mission workers, visitors, but financial support also, said Salvador Cariaga, a missionary with the Mactan Church of Christ in the Philippines.
The hardest part of starting new mission work is getting the money to get to the mission field. Therefore, cuts in funding could be especially detrimental for new missionaries, said Tex Williams of World Bible School, the Cedar Park, Texas-based organization that produces Bible correspondence courses for students in 141 countries.
Charles Caudill, president of World Christian Broadcasting, said that donations to his international radio ministry have declined since the attacks. Nevertheless, his organization plans to move forward on an Arabic broadcast.
The events of Sept. 11 will cause us to (consider) changing the timing on our plans and moving forward now to broadcast to the Middle East.
Any ministry done in the Arabic world or among Muslims anywhere should be handled with an attitude of sincere love, Huffard said.
If the love of God can make you want to go to teach Muslims in a time like this
you can understand Gods love (for us).