When we step into something we don't know about, God can help transform our thinking and our hearts to align with his.
The other day I joined a one day discovery trip to GoTEN’s campus to see what that team is doing with the communities of refugees we have here in Phoenix. GoTEN stands for GO To Every Nation, a non profit dedicated to fulfilling the great commission in Matthew 28 that says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.”
My first thought after hearing about GoTEN and their mission is if you want to “go to every nation” then… why are you here? Of all the nations in the world you are choosing to plat yourself here… in the US, the country with the most churches in the world, why is that? My answer would soon come.
Early on in the discovery, Bobby Cox and his wife Angie explained how their ministry started with Bobby being a successful youth minister who then felt God pushing him to visit the countries affected by a 2004 tsunami that decimated most of Asia. After going on a single short term mission trip, Bobby was hooked. Bobby and his family decided to pack up, sell everything they have, and move to a country that was considered 100% Muslim. A country where using the Bible as a means to convey the gospel wasn’t much of an option. So he spent the next few years there until the Arab Spring changed the entire 10-40 window.
The 10-40 window is an area of the world that is almost completely Muslim and has been historically completely closed off from all Christian attempts at conversion. Not only was it completely closed off, but it was also exceptionally dangerous. A large population of the planet was closed off from any Christian contact until most of the North African and Middle Eastern countries banded together to have massive uprisings, revolts, government overthrows, and in some places even deadly civil wars. It hasn’t been pretty for sure, but what we learned is that this created quite possibly one of the greatest evangelical opportunities we have ever seen…. The greatest refugee crisis in modern history.
Now in our politically charged and divided country those words bring a sense of dread and fear. Refugees? That’s a mess I don’t really want to deal with. I, like most Christians, know what the Bible says about refugees. In Exodus 22:21 we are told to not mistreat or oppress the foreigner among us. The James 1:27 verse that states that the true religion God accepts as pure and faultless is the one that takes cares of orphans and widows in their distress. And of course there is the famous Galatians verse that says we are all one in Christ, that there are no racial or national differences. I could go on and on about God’s call to take care of the people seeking asylum from well-founded fears of persecution and violence. So the problem isn’t that Christians don’t know what God has asked us to do, I think personally it’s that we don’t care. The question is always about fear. Fear for the safety of me, my family, and my country. Allowing foreign born nationals coming from war torn countries ravaged by Muslim extremists to live among is a danger too great to take right? Right? Here lies the question that Bobby made us pander. What if that crippling fear is unfounded?
We were shown the results of a study done by the CATO Institute called Terrorism & Immigration Risk Analysis 1975-2015. The pivotal part of the study comes when it shows that terrorism by people who have gained access to the United States through a refugee visa is basically non-existent. Since 1975, we have accepted 3.3 million people into the US on this type of visa, and since then only 3 people have died due to terrorism. If you stop that study from 1980 and forward, that number is ZERO. The reason for this? Most refugees spend years, if not literal decades, in refugee camps before they ever are accepted into a country. Not only that, but the US has the stingiest refugee security check of any country. If an extremist of any kind wanted to do something, they would not wait years in a refugee camp just to get flagged by our security checks before they even reach the border. There are far easier ways to do it. So Refugees are by and large, broken hurting people running from violence, just trying to find a way to live.
And Yet, for me, God challenged that notion even more. He reminded me that even if there was a little danger, even if it was not that safe, the benefits far outweigh the risks. At CCV, one of our core values is to risk it all to just win one more. With just one dollar, and one week, we would still spend it on saving just one more person for Jesus Christ. After all, we serve a God who leaves one hundred sheep to go find that one lost one, even if it cost him everything. At GoTEN I was reminded that God and his church never let fear be a factor in sharing the gospel. At GoTEN I also learned, that the greatest opportunity to witness to Muslims is right here on our doorstep.