As SBTC Mission Service Corps missionaries, a husband-and-wife team named Carl and Kerry (last names withheld for security reasons) recall their initial fear of working with Muslims in North Texas.
“When we first came to Dallas, we were scared of them,” Carl, a former music minister, recalled. However, the fear of working with an unknown culture soon dissipated.
“Our view of Muslims has changed tremendously,” Carl said. “We find them the most delightful, hospitable people you’ll ever meet. They’re some of our very best friends.”
These newfound Muslim friends are international refugees?individuals and families who flee their country because of conflicts such as war, persecution and ethnic cleansing. Displaced from their homeland and often aided by the State Department, refugees to America arrive with little or no personal possessions.
They must transition to a new way of life quickly, forced to learn a new language and secure a job within months of their arrival. They must learn how to use public transportation and shop for groceries as well as adapt to cultural differences.
“A lot of our ministry is in meeting those needs,” Kerry said. “And while we meet those needs, we develop relationships with them. They’re very open to it because somebody’s there to help them and love them.”
The couple teaches English classes, provide transportation and aid refugees in finding employment.
As friendships develop, Carl and Kerry turn conversations to spiritual matters.
“The key is not coming in trying to tell them what they need to hear but asking questions about what they believe and just being friends,” Carl said.
“Through asking questions, many of them become open. They want to talk about their faith, and some of them ask questions about our faith. We’ve found that they are very open to discuss it.”
Carl and Kerry evangelize through chronological Bible storying, Bible study groups in apartment complexes and “Jesus Film” viewings for groups in their native languages.
“When they see Jesus and who he was and what he did, it really impacts them,” Kerry said.
While most Muslim refugees are open to learning about Jesus, social and cultural persecution from within the Muslim community often dissuades them from making a commitment to Christ.
Some pray to receive Christ but refuse the public testimony of baptism for fear of harassment from their Muslim family and friends.
Sharing the gospel with Muslims does not generally produce immediate results, but this does not discourage the couple. “It takes a lot of time,” Kerry said. “But the more we work with Muslims, the more I realize that it’s all about God and the Holy Spirit at work. We’re just messengers, and the spiritual work is done by God.”
Carl and Kerry also speak to churches and groups about how they can minister to refugees. They encourage churches to adopt refugee families and train Christians how to teach English language classes.
For those concerned about their ability to teach English, Kerry offers reassurance.
“It’s not about English. It’s about relationships. We use English to build a bridge into their hearts so that through those relationships, we can share Jesus with them.”
The couple believes every Christian can minister to Muslims, be they neighbors, co-workers or international refugees. Along with prayer, they recommend developing friendships, asking genuine questions, and pointing them to Jesus.
Carl expects Christians will experience the same transition from fear to friendship when they begin to minister to Muslims.
“People just need to realize that all you have to do is be a friend, ask a lot of questions, show a lot of love, and you can have a ministry to a Muslim family.”