by Mr. Augustus, former Middle East missionary
When I was a boy, my grandfather, who loved to do wood working, told me something that applies to today’s situation in the Arab World. He said that a fire that burns beneath a large pile of wood shavings cannot be seen or extinguished.
Spontaneous combustion is defined as combustion of a material that occurs in the absence of forced ignition. When the wood decomposes under the pile, it generates a heat trapped deep beneath the surface that gets hotter and hotter over time. A small change in an external factor can trigger a dramatic rise in temperature that leads to wood chips igniting. You cannot see the heat at first because it just smolders and becomes hotter until one day it bursts to the top of the pile of wood shavings and explodes into a full blown fire. The process takes time, but when the time comes, the results are dramatic.
In 1977 my wife and I were asked to start a work among students on a major university campus in a Middle Eastern Muslim country. The Lord gave us amazing friendships among these students who took us in warmly and came to love us dearly. They were students of engineering, medicine, law, liberal arts, chemistry, physics, etc., and were learning to think, explore, create, and dream.
Often we would sit and listen to their hopes and dreams, as well as frustrations with the lack of personal freedom, regular government surveillance, government corruption, high unemployment, and other issues in their country. These conversations were conducted in whispers and confidentiality right under the picture of the ruling monarch of that country. With occasional glances at their king’s picture, they would talk softly knowing that the very words they were saying could land them in prison or worse.
During those years working among university students, we saw glimpses of a fire burning deeply within the pile of wood shavings. During the last 34 years, my wife and I have discussed those conversations, and wondered when the smoldering fire would erupt into a full-blown blaze that would set the entire region on fire. The time was spring of 2011.
Recent and ongoing events in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have received the attention of most of the world’s population. Historically, that part of the world has been one of the most difficult places on earth to share the gospel and see any measurable success. For many years Christ’s followers around the world have been urged and pleaded with by missionaries to pray for the MENA. In the past two decades or so there have been systematic and global prayer efforts for the unreached people groups of the MENA.
Throughout history there have been reports of God using persecution and difficulties for the advancement of His Kingdom. He has demonstrated that He works His purposes even through bad circumstances. Along with the prayers of many, technology has flamed those smoldering fires beneath the “wood shavings.”
In the MENA 74 percent of the population has a cell phone, and 20 percent has access to the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, and the Web. These have been key components in each of these recent events. These advancements in communications have allowed large revolutionary communities to be born very quickly, behind the scenes, and potentially away from the watchful eyes of the secret police. Many essential aspects of effective organizational planning and implementation can blaze up in real time. The younger generation has proven itself very effective in utilizing new communication advances.
There have been reports that Muslims and Christians boldly knelt together in one of the main squares in Cairo and prayed just as Egypt’s revolution began. Scripture tells us that God brought the walls of Jericho down with only the blast of the trumpets; today, utilizing technology instead of trumpets, He is bringing corrupt governments down. This is a God thing. Do we want to see a glimpse into the mind of God? We only need to look at what He is doing and how He is doing it. The blaze has erupted, and no one will be able to put it out.
Many have been praying that God would “plow the hard ground of the MENA” and make it more receptive to God’s love as revealed in Christ. History tells us that the Church grows and the Lord works in mighty ways during persecution and difficult times.
Those young students in the Arab World are no longer afraid to express themselves, and they are willing to die for the very same things our student friends spoke of in 1977.
The fear of death carried out by the government, religious leaders, and family members has been the biggest barrier among Muslims when considering accepting Christ as their lord and savior. Once the fear is removed, the door is wide open for the Holy Spirit to do His amazing work. These uprisings are showing that the fear of death is not the impediment that it has been in the past. It may be that we will see the Spirit of God work in biblical proportions in this region during the next decade and beyond. Now that God is answering the prayers of millions, what are the proper responses that the believing community should make? Consider:
Yes, the smoldering fire has erupted, and only Christ can fulfill the spiritual needs in the MENA. Our part is to pray that the people will hear about Him and be exposed to Him.
Join with me in praying for the ethnic groups throughout the Arab World this month.
Pray for the implementation of fresh and creative processes among the Christian community that will result in new wine skins full of fresh approaches to share the love of Christ.
Pray that the demonstration of reduced fear of death among the younger generation in the MENA will be the open door through which the Holy Spirit will transform their lives for the Kingdom of God.
Pray that God will call forth modern day “Pauls” from among this younger generation of MENA revolutionaries.
Pray for effective strategies that will utilize Facebook, email, Twitter, and the Web in sharing the love of Christ in the MENA.
Pray that God will continue to work through dreams, visions, and power encounters in the MENA.
Mr. Augustus and his wife served for 12 years (1976-1982 and 1994-2000) in the Middle East. He has a BS and Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering, and a Master of Divinity degree. He was ordained as a Baptist minister for the purpose of doing work among university students in Jordan and Israel. While working as a full-time engineer, he also worked as a pastor.
by Keith Carey
Dear Praying Friends,
This is one editorial that I knew I would write months in advance. We are praying for the unreached people groups affected by the “Arab Spring” which is still changing the Arabic speaking world. The background article in this issue will explain why it happened. The Western media has gushed about the desire for “freedom” and “democracy” in the Arab World. I am not a prophet, but I can tell you that freedom and democracy will not transform this Muslim part of the world. Given time, Arabs will be trying to overthrow whoever replaces Mubarak and Gadafi. There will arise a new set of leaders who will use their positions to enrich themselves and their families at the expense of everyone else. This has been the way of leadership in this part of the world for over one thousand years.
The wound is open, but it is not clean from what caused the wound in the first place. The wound must be cleaned before it can heal. The only thing that will clean it is the transformation which only comes from submission to Jesus Christ. When His disciples argued over who was the greatest, Jesus responded by washing their feet. This was a shocking revelation to them. They were used to leaders being “benefactors.” Jesus offered the world’s only true revolution, one which meant transformation of the individual, the society.… and the leaders.
How will the Muslim Arabs respond? They might make the same excuses for not accepting Jesus’ answers as they have for centuries. Or perhaps they might decide that He actually does have the answers. That is where you, the prayer intercessor comes in. Pray fervently that the Holy Spirit speaks to the Muslim peoples of the Arab World this month. And give Him praise when tomorrow’s headlines look different than today’s.
Keith Carey, managing editor, GPD