As a member of our response team, Mira* spends her days talking with and discipling Muslim seekers and believers. Last year, for the first time, Mira led a DMM** (Disciple Making Movement) group in her city in the Middle East. In this interview, we talk to her about this new experience, how it went and what lessons were learnt along the way.
Hi, Mira. How are you today?
I’m fine, thanks.
Good. Tell us how long you have been a member of the Media team.
I think I started working formally in February 2016.
What led you to join our team? How did that happen?
I was waiting to work in a role like this, that involved speaking with people. It started when I met Adel* [another team member] at a conference in my city. I asked some questions and he saw that I would be suitable for this job. He asked me to come and work with the team here.
Tell us about what happened last year with the DMM group. How did it all begin?
I tried to launch some groups of Muslim people to study the Bible together. We asked people in our city, through our website, to let us know if they were interested in studying the Bible. We had some requests, so I started to call them and we met together to begin the first group.
Whose idea was this? Was it something you wanted to do?
The first time I heard about DMM was at a conference in Europe that I was invited to attend. I learned about a team in North Africa that had started these groups. They talked about how they got started. At the time, I thought this would be difficult to do back home, but after a few months I thought some more. I then asked my team leader, Rafik*, to arrange for me to attend another another conference on DBS [Discovery Bible Studies] to help me learn what to do.
How did you select people for the group?
The idea is to help them to be Christian but to still be themselves. The Christian background Arab has a certain DNA. The Muslim background Arab has different DNA. When I teach Muslim people, my DNA affects them – they start to think like me and speak like me – but this will not help them to affect society.
I selected people with a strong personality. People who can be themselves and also have an effect on society. Someone with the personality of a leader. For example, I chose an imam.
Were they all believers before you met? Or were they just really close?
No! Some of them came along to try and convince me to become a Muslim. None of them were believers.
Was it just you and them? Was that difficult in a society where men are more dominant, more free to lead things?
Well, in the beginning, I needed to prove to them that I was someone worth listening to. For example, that I could speak about politics. When they saw that I had this kind of knowledge, they realised I deserved to be listened to. It wasn’t easy.
Where did you meet?
We met down on the street. One of the points of this group was to make people feel that you are on the same level as them. Where I am, Christians are more wealthy and eat in specific cafes and restaurants. I realised this is not helpful. If I want to help this group, I need to be like them.
In the beginning, I started to meet with them in a cafe, but it didn’t work. The first group didn’t multiply. I wondered why. What was the problem? I found that by meeting in a cafe, they thought I was rich, or something like that.
With the second group, I started to meet them down in the street. By then, most of the cafes had asked us to not come again anyway. They didn’t like what we were talking about. One cafe asked us to come back after they changed management.
Can you remember the first meeting and what you said?
I first met with everyone individually. That was the first meeting. The second meeting was everyone together in a group. When we met as a group, I remember I gave them the first chapter of Genesis. We read it together and I asked them what that chapter teaches them about God, about us, about our relationship with God. We discussed it together.
How often did you meet?
Normally, every week, but some groups wanted to meet twice a week.
How many of the people you met with went on to profess faith in Christ?
All of them. They became believers after the third or fourth time, and two or three months later, they were baptised.
All of them? Wow! How many would that be?
I formed the first generation group and this first generation made their own groups. I taught five people to study the Bible and they began groups with their families or friends. There were second generation groups and then there were third generation groups.
So, by second generation, do you mean the friends and family of the first group?
Most of the time it was friends, because when someone starts to speak with their family, it causes problems.
How long did you continue to meet with them?
I didn’t meet with them after about the fourth time. I would begin the first, second, third meetings, but by the fourth they could lead themselves. In the first two or three meetings, I could see who would lead the group. He became the leader without anyone asking. I started to withdraw, gradually, but I would visit them every month.
Do they continue to meet now?
No. One of the group members started to tell his cousins about Jesus, and the police found out about the whole network. I asked them to stop meeting, but they are still believers and they call me each month. I call them a lot, but the group has stopped.
So you’re in touch with each individual?
Yes. But also some of them call each other and assure each other that they are safe and nothing has happened to them. They function like a church: they start to help each other and look out for each other, encourage each other. You can see this when someone is weak and has doubts. The others encourage him to speak.
What lessons did you learn from this whole experience? What stands out?
There were a lot of lessons. Firstly, that it’s so important to work as a team, not alone. Because I was working alone, when persecution came, I stopped the group. If I had been part of a team, it would have been better. If I do this again, it will be so important to have a team with me.
Secondly, I realised that the group became stronger in their faith after persecution, so I think it was a mistake to ask them to stop the group. If I help them to start meeting again, even if there’s persecution, they will become stronger.
Thirdly, making groups is very easy. The difficulty is only in our terminology. What makes people refuse Jesus is not the idea itself but our terminology. We use western terminology as Christians. I helped them to use their own terminology about God, and this will help them to make groups and multiply.
Would you do this again? Do you plan to?
Yes, but I need to prepare myself. I need to prepare for persecution. If it happens again, I need to know what is the best way to handle it. I need to prepare some lessons on this subject, one more academic and one that is simpler.
How can we pray for you?
You can pray for me as I prepare these lessons. I am working on them now. Please also pray for the writing of some systematic ideas on all topics of the Christian faith in a terminology suitable for people from Muslim background.
*Names changed for security.
**DMM is the acronym of Disciple Making Movement. It involves finding a person of peace to begin a group with their family and/or friends. (A person of peace is someone who’s receptive and welcoming, among other things. See Luke 10.) These groups are self-led, using Discovery Bible Studies, where people are encouraged to share what they have learned in a passage of the Bible.