EXPLORING THE MIDDLE EAST
In August a small group from Uncharted and two of our partner churches traveled to the Middle East to explore the possibility of future work in a particular country (we won’t publicize the name for security reasons). Though it was a short trip we covered a lot of ground, visiting five different cities over the course of four days and meeting with a number of ex-pat believers who are living and working there.
While we were there four realities hit us hard:
1. There is an incredible need for the Gospel. Through our numerous conversations we learned that among the local population there are thought to be only about 30 believers in the entire country! As someone who deeply believes Jesus is the hope—the only hope—of the world, this statistic feels like an unescapable call to action.
2. Making disciples in this country is incredibly hard and incredibly slow. One initiative we learned about had been around for nearly 30 years and had given an evangelistic platform to a large number of intentional ex-pat workers over the years, yet there still was not a single believer in the city of around 100,000 people where it was located. In addition to the high level of social pressure to conform (becoming a believer would likely mean losing a job and being cut off from family), most people are living comfortably from a material standpoint and see little reason to question their faith.
3. Even so, some we met with have begun seeing small openings in people’s hearts and believe if something happens to shake up the status quo (such as a transition in the country’s leadership), it may create an opportunity for the Gospel to take root.
4. There simply aren’t many Christian workers. Though it is relatively easy for Americans to get jobs or start businesses, and the standard of living is quite high, relatively few believers have chosen to move to this country as cross-cultural Christian workers/missionaries. There are entire cities without a single person actively trying to share the hope of Jesus. As Jesus said in Luke 10:2, the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.
Uncharted exists to make disciples and plant churches in forgotten and overlooked places. That typically means going where the work is hard, where progress is slow, and where few others are going. There may be few places in the world that embody this more than the various countries in Middle East, and our country of focus in particular.
We are still very much in the phase of trying to prayerfully discern the future. This trip was just one part of a long process for determining whether or not to officially list this country as an Uncharted Community. For now, though, we are going to keep moving forward… slowly and intentionally.
Right now the partner churches who participated in the August trip are discussing the possibility of leading 1-2 prayer trips in the early part of next year, which would be done in partnership with someone we met during our visit. One of Uncharted’s strategic priorities is to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit. We aim, in all things, to be Spirit led and to move forward trusting completely in the power of God rather than our own abilities. Based on that priority, we believe there may be no better way to begin working (or potentially working) in a new place than with intentional, strategic, focused prayer.