More are being Converted despite ISIS atrocities…

Iraq (CAM/MNN) — Atrocities by the Islamic State
(ISIS) are softening the hearts of Muslims to
Christianity, and evangelistic techniques and
technologies are proving effective. But locally-
based missionaries say the main reason for the
spike in conversions in the Middle East is simply
that former Muslims are finding that God is real.
Steve VanValkenburg, Christian Aid Mission
Director for Southeast Asia and the Middle East,
says, “Muslims that have been affected by ISIS are
being confronted with their beliefs; and when they
hear that there is a God who cares, a God who
loves, and a God who forgives, there is something
foreign to that–and they’re very intrigued.”
In war-torn areas of Syria and Iraq where ISIS is
fighting to establish a caliphate, Muslim refugees
to neighboring countries, Internally Displaced
People, and people remaining at home are learning
about Christ from native aid workers, pod casts
and broadcasts. Tent churches among refugees
are sprouting like mushrooms. Disillusionment is
growing with Islam because ISIS claims the
atrocities they are committing come from the
Koran.
Muslims–who were previously taught to pray by
rote to Allah who by Koranic definition was
unknowable–can feel the difference of having a
relationship with God through Christ. The biggest
difference is found in mercy and grace.
VanValkenburg explains, “One ministry leader
wrote that when they tell the story of the woman
who was brought to Jesus to be stoned, in their
minds they know that Mohammed would say
immediately: ‘Stone her.’ But they can’t believe that
Jesus would offer forgiveness. Those kinds of
things are totally life-changing for them.”
Partly, the discovery of freedom comes from
having freedom. “As displaced people or refugees,
they no longer have the inspection; they don’t have
the imam watching over their shoulder, watching
who’s doing what. Those kinds of strictures are no
longer there. It allows them to investigate Jesus
Christ and not be in the same situation that they
would have been before.” It’s discovering that they
can pray to a personal God whom they can call
Father. Wonder follows. VanValkenburg says,
“When they have a sense of ‘there is
forgiveness’ [and] there is a merciful God and a
caring God’ who takes care of them, the contrast is
great between what they’ve always been taught
and indoctrinated with and what they find out when
they hear Christians sharing about Jesus Christ.”

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Former Muslims, who once prayed five times a
day as a duty, say they don’t quite know how to
describe the difference. “They say, ‘Now with our
relationship with God, we see a huge difference;
something has changed in our life,’” said the area
director. “You can see it on their faces. They say,
‘Every time we pray, there’s a difference.’”
Tailoring evangelism to the Muslim worldview has
also played a part, and one way of contextualizing
the gospel for Muslims, ironically, involves the
Hebrew Scripture. Middle Eastern Muslims are
familiar with the blood sacrifice and prophets of
the Old Testament, and Christian workers build
bridges with those references. They talk about
why Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son,
animal sacrifice and the meaning of blood in
ancient times: Moses and the saving-blood
smeared on doorposts in Egypt, and then Jesus’
shed blood.
“So we go from the Old Testament to the blood of
Jesus that saves us. 99% of the people I know will
use this method,” the ministry director said.
The deity of Jesus and the Trinity, by contrast, are
the most problematic issues for Muslims.
Imparting these doctrines takes time, and although
the director and his teams teach the Father, the
Son and the Holy Spirit, he said earthly teachers
have little success.
“How do you convince them?” he said. “We were
never able to convince them. Only when they read
the Bible does it come. And then suddenly they
say, ‘Now I understand. I get it!’” VanValkenburg
says, “In the past, they’ve not had any hope, but
now they do have hope.”
Christian Aid Mission’s Middle East director said
the ministry directors and their workers are
ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances
who need prayers for safety and endurance, both
emotionally and physically. The ministry director
who lost team members last month spoke of their
human frailty, even as they exercise immense
faith. The reason they stay? “Even among the ISIS-
controlled areas, there’s still openness to the
Gospel. God’s Word is still going out, and lives are
still being changed.”
It’s painstaking work–emotionally and physically
exhausting–because it boils down to one person
meeting needs, one person at a time.
VanValkenburg explains, “The displaced people are
very cautious and wary of anybody who comes to
meet with them. But when you reach out with a
blanket or food, then there is a bond that begins to
develop; and so they’re very, very open to hearing
what the person says and why they’re doing what
they’re doing.”
To help indigenous missionaries to meet needs,
you may contribute online using the form below, or
call 434-977-5650. If you prefer to mail your gift,
please mail to Christian Aid Mission, PO Box 9037,
Charlottesville, VA 22906.

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