Back in January 2017, we wrote of an exciting new venture involving a church, a team based in the Arab world, and our online ministry team. The church formed a group to uphold the project in prayer, while our team worked with those on the field to plan a way of reaching a specific people group online. Members of ours and the field based team provided the church group with regular updates to keep them in the loop.
Over a three-month period, we all worked together in a partnership of prayer and strategic online content. The goal was to link up the field based team with some local seekers.
Two members of the field based team recently dropped by to catch up with us. We took the opportunity to interview Hannah* and learn about her experience of this new way of collaborating…
How did you begin working out who you were wanted to reach?
We did everything as a team, which was difficult because our team was split between two cities. We ended up focusing on three different cities and we chose to focus on Shia Muslims.
We probably should have made it more specific, but because we had women and men at different ages on our team, if we focused only on women then half the team wouldn’t have been able to follow-up. So we made our person really broad, which we shouldn’t have done. And we ended up only getting responses from men.
Do you find that Shia are more open to the gospel?
I don’t think so. They do tend to be more critical thinkers, at least in our country, because they are more discriminated against. About half of their school classes are [Sunni] Islamic and that’ll be directly against Shia, so Shia kids will go home and get re-taught. They learn that not everything they hear in school is true, which is a skill that most locals here don’t have.
They also tend to read more, though I’m not sure why. They tend to be more interested in learning, which is perhaps because they’re more discriminated against. It’s hard here for Shia to get jobs. They’ve don’t have the same connections as Sunnis, so they tend to work harder for what they get. That’s partly why we picked them.
How did things work out in connecting up with the church? How did that relationship work?
We did this through Facebook. My job was to put up posts. The project leader would post about responses – specifics of numbers and how many clicks we had, which was encouraging for us too. Almost every day, I would post a picture that one of us had taken around our city with a verse.
How did people respond?
In our city, three men responded. One of them was just interested in learning more. He hadn’t said Islam was false. He just wanted to explore things. This was a good learning experience for my husband, Daniel. He thought the goal was to read the Bible with someone. Looking back, he says that he probably should have waited a little bit before asking about that. They still text back and forth. They even met up a few times, though not recently.
The second guy was hostile – he pretended to be interested. He met up with Daniel and listened to him for an hour and then tried to convert him. Nothing bad happened, but he was trying to convert Daniel.
The third man was Sudanese. He ended up accepting Christ, which was really good. He loved talking about Jesus and he loved reading about him. He ended up going back to Sudan and we connected him with someone there.
Are you planning to do something again at some point?
We actually have. We were a little bit frustrated at the response of women. Our team has seven girls, so we decided to focus specifically on women. The words we used had the female ending and pictures that would appeal to women. And we did a lower ask, so rather than asking, ‘Hey, do you want to meet up?’ we said, ‘Do you want to receive daily messages of hope and freedom?’
We funded this ourselves. It was great because we learned from it. We got several clicks and we got about fifteen [mobile] numbers. A few turned out to be guys who wanted to talk to girls, but there were three who seemed pretty genuine. Again, we were also learning. We were sending them messages of hope. Later on we realised we needed to make the messages more personal.
Will you do this again? How can we pray for that?
We would still love to see women reached better, but it seems like media, across the board, doesn’t reach women so well. Pray that we will be able to figure out what the problem is and actually reach women.
This was our first partnership of this kind. It resulted in contact with 49 individuals. Of these, seven met with a team member, three started a regular Bible study and two professed faith in Christ. We have since worked with other teams in different locations, and we’ll share more about these later in the year.
We’d really love for you to pray that these collaborations would continue to be fruitful. You could also make a donation to our ministry, which would enable us to continue covering the cost of reaching seekers online and providing them with personal support on their journey to faith in Christ.
*Names have been changed.