We typically only see refugee headlines of heartache and desperation. Today I want to tell the story of one refugee from the Middle East who is creating a fantastic new chapter in his life that is bringing the light, love and life of Jesus to these lost and maligned souls as they filter out of the Middle East and into the West.
For decades refugees and migrants from Africa and the Middle East have been illegally pushing up into Europe. We once met one on a bus in northern Greece and chatted for hours. He was a Christian from Africa. His sister had been granted refugee status in Australia. He, however, was not accepted. When we got off the bus to go into the Greek/Albanian customs offices he and 15 others on the bus, disappeared around the back and headed down into the scrub! So he was on the refugee highway trying to get to England. Heaven only knows where he is today. He is one of millions.
Daniel was also one of those millions. He was a young, single Muslim man and a member of the Kurdish people, the largest people group in the world not to have their own country. The Kurds live where the corners of Turkey, Iraq and Iran collide and are badly treated by all three nations. Daniel was caught up in war and was on the run for his life. He made his way to Turkey, joining 4 million refugees already in the country. He was so disgusted with the violence and brutality of ISIS that he had given up on Islam. He adopted atheism as his new creed. Go to this link and fast forward to 7.40 seconds to hear his story on podcast format. I have also written it out below.
While in Turkey Daniel began to have significant and repetitive dreams over five nights or so of himself walking up to a crossroad and asking a man which way he should go. For the first week this man would not tell him the right way. This made Daniel angry! In the next week the dreams continued but this time the man at the crossroads held out his hand and on that hand was a tattoo of a cross. The dreams eventually progressed to the point where the man at the crossroads finally spoke and said I am the way.
Daniel then began to do some research into the life of Jesus and eventually found a church through facebook. The Turkish pastor was justifiably very skeptical about his story, and it took a long time for him to gather the courage to meet with Daniel. Daniel quickly gave his life to Jesus and became a witness for Christ in this hostile country.
Daniel ultimately made his way to Turkey’s west coast and caught one of those boats over to Greece that we have all seen on TV. In the first six months in Greece he led four families to faith in the refugee camp where he had been placed. Then he heard about the ministry of an American, William Burnham and his team, who were also trying to bring people to Jesus but then to train them to be rapid disciple makers and simple church planters inside their camps. Daniel met with them and asked to be trained so he could do what he was doing, but better.
William says they actually found about six people like Daniel in and around the Athens refugee camps. They were specifically praying to meet these insiders in whom God was already working. The six came from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Greece. All were recently saved and already winning the lost when brought together. Now they have all been trained in how to multiply disciples and churches using simple, reproducible systems and tools that were first of all pioneered by Jesus in the Gospels. William says the synergy of the team was amazing. These men then saved many in the camps and then taught them all how to reproduce their own faith in others straight away, start simple churches quickly and take these skills to their new host countries all through Europe. A movement has now begun that is very much under the radar, but nevertheless vibrant and growing in refugee communities across Europe.
Some of these new believers have even decided to go back to their country of origin as missionaries bringing Good News to their families and peoples. William says that these leaders of this new church planting movement are almost always new believers rather than existing Christians.
This story sounds a lot like the New Testament. Jesus also identified the right people, trained and discipled them and then sent them out to reproduce themselves in others. Over time they changed the world. Please pray for Daniel and these amazing and growing movements of Muslim-background believers in Europe as they silently go about seeding the Gospel back into the spiritually sick old man of Europe.