Diyanah felt trapped. She had a difficult decision to make and needed somewhere to turn.
Some of her family tried to understand, but that was not enough. As thoughts of suicide entered her head, she looked over to her cell phone, remembering a text message conversation she had been having with an anonymous person. She had only recently connected with this person, yet the texts seemed to contain exactly what she needed: a message of love.
Like many young Muslims who contact the Arabic staff of Back to God Ministries International (BTGMI), Diyanah was afraid to question her Muslim faith. She knew the persecution she could face and the reaction many in her family would have.
Still she found herself listening curiously when she came across an Arabic-language shortwave radio program produced by Middle East Reformed Fellowship (MERF) in partnership with BTGMI and Words of Hope.
Diyanah was hearing the gospel for the first time.
“The Bible contains a contrasting message to the Quran,” said a BTGMI Arabic ministry leader. “Jesus teaches us to forgive, to love our enemies, and to do unto others what we want others to do unto us.”
As Diyanah’s curiosity grew, BTGMI connected her with Majidah, a volunteer trained to follow up with Muslim seekers through a text messaging response ministry. In her own setting, Diyanah received encouragement and answers to her questions. BTGMI eventually introduced her to other Christians in her area.
Many people in the Middle East are becoming disenchanted with Islam, says the Arabic ministry leader. “They long for the freedom of choice in their religion.”
Majidah serves as one of more than 170 volunteers in the Arabic ministry partnership. She is trained to answer the questions of Muslim seekers in a loving way without attacking the Islamic faith.
As Muslims in the Middle East become more educated, they seem to have more questions about their beliefs. The Arabic team receives more than 360 first-time text message responses each month. That’s where Majidah comes in.
Majidah and other volunteers must respond to followers with caution. Occasionally extremist Muslims will pose as seekers in order to find out the location of Christian groups. This could endanger seekers, believers, and staff.
In some Middle Eastern countries, face-to-face meetings are nearly impossible. In other countries, it often takes more than six months to determine whether the seeker is genuine. To do this, staff members ask leading questions that help determine motives.
Volunteers like Majidah may spend months or even years in patient and consistent teaching before a seeker accepts the Christian faith.
Preaching with Love
Majidah’s attitude of love serves as the most important part of her training. The BTGMI Arabic ministry leader explained, “To win Muslims for Christ we need to listen patiently, pray for their salvation, and be hospitable and caring. What’s most effective is to spread the message of self-giving love. God so loved the world that he gave Jesus to be our sacrificial Savior. This message resonates with Muslim seekers.”
He also cautioned against many of the common practices of reaching Muslims. “I can punch a thousand holes in the Quran or point out many fallacies in the fathers of Islam, but it doesn’t help. With that approach Muslims lock up. Islam is not just a religion of individuals but also a religion of family, community, and nation. When you attack their religion, you attack them all.”
For this reason, Arabic staff often share Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount with seekers like Diyanah. “Jesus’ teachings mesmerize thinking Muslims,” said the BTGMI Arabic leader. “It’s a significant contrast to the more forced Islamic religion.”
Chat about God’s Love
When Diyanah first heard the gospel over the radio, she appreciated the conversational format. In fact, the name of BTGMI’s Arabic program is Dardasha, which means “Chat.”
“Our program features a variety of segments,” explained one of the producers. “In our half-hour broadcast we discuss many topics that are related to the situations Muslim people face. What makes our program special is that we are not a preaching program. We have lots of conversations going on.”
Dardasha broadcasts to Arabic people in more than 22 Middle Eastern countries, many of which are closed to Christian outreach.
“We proclaim biblical truth without compromise,” the producer added, “but also without attacking or offending Muslims or being disrespectful.”
Discipleship Through Social Media
While Diyanah continued learning about Jesus, BTGMI staff also used social media to further her understanding of him. Majidah directed her to the ministry’s Arabic Facebook page that shares the sayings of Jesus. The page is popular among Muslims because of the wisdom it offers.
Using social media is one of the most effective ways to reach Muslims. Because the medium is safe, young people are using Facebook as a link to one another, sharing ideas faster than ever before.
“Arab citizens in the Middle East are demanding democracy and an end to dictatorial regimes,” said BTGMI’s Arabic ministry leader. “Much of this is due to the rapid spread of information with social media. God is also using our social media ministry to spread his gospel of peace.”
Setting Diyanah Free
When Diyanah committed her life to Christ and became established in a local group of believers, BTGMI staff left the discipleship process in their capable hands.
“We want seekers and new believers to be connected with local groups, receiving support from Christian neighbors,” explained the ministry leader. “We want them to stay local and be a witness to other seekers.”
Diyanah has come a long way from her original distraught messages. She has read the four gospels and the book of Acts. Even though her family continues to practice Islam, she finds hope in her newfound faith.
“I have no doubt that Issa (Jesus) connected me with you to save my life and assure me of God’s love and nearness,” she testified.
Please pray for Diyanah and other Christians in Arab countries whose lives are threatened because of their faith. Pray for their safety, but also praise God for the unity among Christians there through the gospel message.
The Beautiful Injeel
Hanif (not his real name) had never read the Bible. Like many Muslims, he was told it was a corrupt book written by Christians and Jews. Still, Hanif wanted to find out for himself.
When Hanif discovered BTGMI’s Arabic programs, he thanked the staff for revealing the gospel to him. He said he found truth in the programs and now has a new attitude toward the Christian faith.
“I cannot express how much the beautiful Injeel (gospel) changed my view about religion and about life itself,” Hanif testified.
Issa Is Enough
After discipling an older couple with a Muslim background, an Arabic ministry leader prepared them for their baptism. “Issa (Jesus) is enough for me!” the woman declared during one of the final discipleship classes.
Words from a Wise Man
BTGMI’s Arabic ministry is blessed by the gifts of more than 170 volunteers who assist with program production and follow-up discipleship with seekers. One volunteer serves as a gifted narrator for a radio segment entitled El A’am Shaaban (Words from a Wise Man). He also takes part in weekly prayer meetings for the ministry, staff, and people who contact BTGMI.
“It never crossed my mind that in my retirement years I would rejoice in being part of such a young team, reaching out to millions of Muslim people. What a blessing!”
A Gold Mine for the Soul
The BTGMI Arabic daily radio program Dardasha (Chat) draws younger listeners to the website with its interactive format. A high school student said, “Thanks for guiding me to your Dardasha website. There is a gold mine for meeting the needs of the human soul.”
A Kingdom of Peace and Love
Christians living in Egypt have experienced political and religious turmoil over the past few years, especially in the last months. But many are finding peace in God’s Word through BTGMI’s Arabic ministry websites and radio broadcasts. After reading the gospel of Matthew, one Egyptian wrote, “I love hearing about Issa’s (Jesus’) kingdom of peace and love; he is the truest messenger of God.”
About the Author
Brian Clark, ReFrame Ministries