On a recent flight from North Africa to Turkey, I met an elderly Middle Eastern man who is a prominent architect and businessman. It became quickly apparent that he is also a “man of peace.” The previous day, he had met with the Minister of Cultural Affairs of a North African country to propose renovating the abandoned historic Jewish synagogue in the capital city and turning it into a cultural center. He was on his way to meet the Chief Rabbi in Eastern Europe to offer to restore Jewish cemeteries in the region. That might seem reasonable if this man was Jewish, but he is a Muslim!
I talked to him about the peace camps that we have been supporting in the region, and about the one that was taking place that same week with Syrians, Turks and North Americans. He asked if we had ever documented the camps. So I pulled out my laptop and showed him a video from last summer. He watched the images of peace and heard testimonies of forgiveness and reconciliation. Before it was even finished, he turned to me with tears in his eyes and asked, “Who are you?” He was very curious about where this vision for peace had come from, and so I talked about Jesus as the Prince of Peace. The man immediately offered to help in any way he could to open doors in the region. He had seen too much violence and bloodshed, and now he was crying out for peace. The very next day, he texted me and quoted from the Book of Ruth, “your people will be my people, and your God my God.”
My prayer is that this man will meet the Prince of Peace and that God will use him to bring the love and hope of Jesus to his people.
Several years ago, David Bosch, a missiologist from South Africa, said, “In the future, peacemaking will be evangelism.” This is the reality of global mission today, and it’s happening all over the world. People are desperate for peace, and they are finding hope in an encounter with the Prince of Peace. When it gets very dark, the light shines brighter. As a mission rooted in the historic peace church with clear evangelical convictions, we believe peacemaking is introducing others to the reality of Jesus in our lives.
I was recently in Iraq hosting a series of outreach meetings with a co-worker. The meeting hall was filled with survivors of civil war, many of them refugees. Hundreds of people received prayer and encountered the power and presence of Jesus. One man, previously a prominent Muslim teacher, told me about his recent conversion and asked for prayer. He was formerly an advocate for the violence legitimized by religion, but Jesus has transformed him. He said that there are many leaders like him who are deeply questioning their religious beliefs because of widespread violence and the lack of integrity among their leadership. There is a spiritual shaking happening throughout this region and around the world in these days. We are praying for the strongholds of darkness to fall and the light of Jesus to shine!
During several days of ministry in refugee camps in the region, we interviewed many Yazidi women who had been tortured and abused by extremists. Their stories are being told around the world. In a peace camp setting, where principles of forgiveness were taught, courageous Yazidi women were able to tell their stories and then publicly declare their forgiveness toward their abusers. Forgiveness is God’s way for the cycle of violence and revenge killing to stop. If the Gospel is a house with many doors, the door marked peace and forgiveness has a long line outside of it with people waiting to enter.
Jesus instructed his disciples, “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him, if not, it will return to you” (Luke 10:5-6). This simple strategy of Jesus describes his peace as the value added that we bring to new relationships, homes and communities we enter. It’s still our best strategy in global mission today!
The Gospel of peace, which is full of God’s grace and mercy in Christ, has been transforming lives since Jesus defeated sin and death on the cross. This past year, we were entrusted with over 1300 short-term mission participants who served on assignments for as short as a week and as long as a year. They served in locations around the world alongside 120 long-term cross-cultural workers and over 300 national workers in various community transformation strategies. We believe there are many more Christ followers looking for ways to serve and learn in global mission, and we are here to serve you!
New models of mission like peace camps for youth in conflict zones have been amazing in their effectiveness to quickly establish trust between Christ followers and people from other faith backgrounds. The accessibility of these short-term opportunities for a broader cross section of the Church, combined with their strategic role in bringing a message of healing in conflict zones, means more fruit in the lives of many more people.
In North America, we continue to look for more integrated approaches to mission strategy with immigrant people groups, both in their new countries and in their countries of origin. Additionally, as our society becomes more secularized, we recognize that we are as much a mission field as anywhere, in need of missionaries from other parts of the world.
This is the new reality of global mission, which is “from everywhere to everywhere.” Our vision and passion continues to be global church planting among the least reached. As with Paul, it is our ambition to preach the Gospel where Christ is not known (Romans 15:20).
We want to see the global Church mobilized into global mission. We want to see Christ followers from everywhere responding to where global needs are greatest, whether that is in war-torn regions of the Middle East or in the mega-cities of Asia or in the rural Midwest of North America. We want to see more of God’s servants engaged globally as peacemakers, church planters, and community changers, so that the Gospel of Christ will continue to bring transformation, healing and hope. Together, we are working with the global church to embrace one mission – local, national and global.