By a Navigator Leader in the MENA Region
In recent months, about 30 men showed up in front of a small business in a war-torn Middle Eastern town to harass the Christ-follower who owned the business. The men were sent to threaten the businessman so that he would stop his activities.
Unbending to fear, the businessman stepped outside and explained his work to help refugees by supplying them with food and household necessities. He added that he also gave people the opportunity to learn more about the Bible. By God’s power, each of the men retreated.
The businessman, who helped to pioneer the Navigator work in this town, decided the next day to spend time with the leader of the men who had threatened him the day before. I was concerned about this meeting, but he told me this: “I am praying for this gang leader to become my friend because if he receives Christ as savior, can you imagine how the Gospel will advance?”
Many Navigator pioneers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are expanding God’s reach into very difficult situations. Because of war and threats, many people have been displaced from their homes. In May, one of our friends was going home when a bomb in a garbage bin exploded. Had he passed by that spot a few moments earlier, he could have been killed. His response to this terrible event was to say, “I raised my family and others to love Jesus and walk with Him. I know where I am going if I die.”
Our pioneers can’t make it alone. They need support. Thankfully, the Navigator movement in the MENA region has mature leaders who are willing to place their own lives on the line to uphold the pioneers. The Navigator term for this type of leader, which is modeled by leaders in the New Testament, is “alongsider.” It means that we come alongside those who are laboring for Christ, providing them with the physical, emotional, material and spiritual help they need to be fruitful.
Although fulfilling this role in dangerous areas is especially challenging, the Lord has protected us. Crossing country borders and moving through checkpoints keeps us in constant prayer. One time, just 100 meters from where we were staying, a rocket was launched at insurgents.
Taking these risks, however, is essential to the success of our work. Alongsiders are able to lead pioneers through the Scriptures, teaching biblically about how to move the Gospel from a generation of new believers into future generations. We listen to them in love as they share about family needs. We help them think through big decisions. We supply them with ministry materials that are relevant to their contexts. And we deliver supplies, such as blankets, food and heating fuel.
Mostly, we keep them encouraged in Christ. After all, He is the great “alongsider,” the God who promises to always abide with us. One Saturday morning, we shared a rich time in the Word with our pioneering friends, encouraging them to sustain a lifelong intimacy with Jesus. This intimacy with Christ is the inner fuel needed for persisting in the Great Commission through hardship, fear and opposition.
Paul expressed this truth in 2 Thessalonians 3:5. May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.
God is giving our pioneers generational fruit. My friend the shop owner is living proof of this. His father led him to Christ. When war forced him to move to a different city, the shop owner led four families to Christ. Two of those families are discipling other families. Now there are three generations of Christ-followers in just that town, and the work continues to expand. Recently, two university graduates and a young couple came to Christ.
Please pray for the Navigator work in the MENA region, that we will see God protecting pioneers and the alongsiders who support them. Pray that God will establish more local laborers who can carry the Gospel into their relational networks, and into future generations.