A Window into a Closed Country - Part One

June 26, 2024 | Pamela Ackerman

ZPC MISSIONS MOMENT – Learn. Reflect. Help!

(Names and locations are withheld for the protection of underground believers.) 

Imagine living your life, never having heard about Jesus. Never meeting a Christian or reading a Bible. Experiencing a vision or dream about a man in white in your bedroom, but having no one to tell you who that person is. That is the reality for many living in Muslim countries closed to Christianity, where speaking against Islam means life imprisonment or death.

J and K, ZPC-sponsored missionaries who were recently expelled from the country in which they were serving, know too well these realities for many people who are Muslim. J and K learned that 99% of resources are sent to places where the Gospel has already been shared, but nearly half (40%, the majority of which are Muslim) live where only 2% of missionaries are sent. They answered God’s calling to help with this grave imbalance by sharing Jesus with the unreached.

Missions work with Muslims, especially in a closed country, can take years of building relationships before seeing any fruit. J and K spent 2.5 years learning the language so that they would be able to capably have deep conversations with friends. As K strived to disciple women, she realized that her fluency was still not enough. God answered their prayers for language help by sending a pastor and his wife with whom J and K became very close. As they partnered together, J and K learned of their friends’ experiences in which an entire town had the same dream and vision about Jesus in the same night. The town greeting became, “Have you seen him?” J shared that such dreams and visions are happening on a massive scale, but people still need someone to explain the Gospel to them. 

In this culture, worshiping and studying the Bible together is difficult and dangerous. There is a compound solely for foreigners where religious groups are required to register with the government for a slot to worship. In this manner, the government is able to watch what you’re doing. You are given a slot and whatever slot you get, whether it be 3 am or 7 am, is the slot you have to take for worship. K says, “To be a Christian is to be an evangelist. That’s not a negotiable….that is a call for every Christian. (But the government) essentially makes it so that you can’t practice your faith as a believer in these countries because you’ll be arrested, or expelled from the country, kicked out of your job.”

A covert Bible study in the pastor’s home was necessary in order to worship and teach local friends. While there, participants took measures to protect themselves and each other. The gatherings were shared solely by word-of-mouth. Phones were turned off and left upstairs in case they were turned back on. (The government can put software on your phone to track you, something that J and K experienced.)  

On a seemingly ordinary morning, J and K received a text from the pastor’s wife saying, "do not come. The police have arrested (her husband). They searched the house. They took everything in the house. Don’t come here. Don’t call me. Don’t text me or (my husband). Pray for us… Give a little time before you meet together. Pray for us. Pray for your sisters… We love you all. We’ll try and contact you when we can.”

Watch this space for Part Two detailing J and K’s harrowing experience of unwillingly having to leave the country.

How to Help

Reflect-Ask yourself, "What is God asking me to do?"
 J says, “There are approx. 6,000 unreached people groups that have no Gospel representation. With everything going on, it feels like time is getting short. We should each be looking at ourselves and asking, ‘What are we going to do about this?’”

Pray-Commit to praying as a church. 
Set a period of time to pray about this issue, then set a time to again gather and discuss what came up for each person during this time of prayer.

Learn-Take The Perspecitives Course.
J and K highly recommend taking The Perspectives Course (www.perspectives.org ). Provided both in person and online, Perspectives is a course about world missions, as well as a study program rooted in scripture, clarifying each believer’s opportunity to join God in his global purpose. 

Seek Opportunities
God is bringing people from closed places to us and they want to know about him. Saudi, Syrian, Somali, and other refugees live in Indianapolis. Many wander into Mormon temples or Jehovah Witnesses find them. Connecting with refugees in our area may be as simple as striking up a conversation when shopping or while out in the community. Spending time near mosques and Arab grocery stores can also provide such opportunities.

Students from the least reached places need to be hosted which provides great opportunities to share the Gospel. USA Homestays is one organization that provides assistance with placement. www.usahomestays.org