As believers, we don’t all need to make tents, but we can allow our work and faith to combine as Paul did.
Have you ever changed location with your job? Accepted a promotion which involved moving, or transferred nearer to family; or maybe you just wanted a change of scenery whilst doing the same type of work. Many people change their location every year and a few end up moving to the Arabian Peninsula (AP).
In the past, the Church talked about ‘tent-makers’. The Apostle Paul was perhaps the most famous of these (Acts 18:1-4) as he used his skills and worked with others who made tents. He shared with people as he worked, and then, on the Sabbath, he went into the synagogues to tell people about Jesus. As believers, we don’t all need to make tents, but we can allow our work and faith to combine as Paul did.
These days we use the term ‘marketplace worker.’ Many see this as a way to take Jesus into the least-reached areas of the world, and to countries where it is difficult to get a long-term visa. There are many marketplace workers in the AP. Workers enter a country and are employed by local companies, working in many sectors including health, education, construction, finance and more. OM does not supply jobs but works with other organisations to help people find placements. Then OM and ministry partners help people in the region intentionally reach out to those around them through their work and everyday lives.
“We can’t separate work and ministry. We see it as the same thing,” explained RJ, the leader of OM’s work in the AP. “Your ministry is at your work. Ministry starts with how you do your work, treat others and interact with people in your workplace — or as someone else put it, work is worship. We focus on broad sowing and starting discipleship when the opportunity comes up. Discipleship starts when you interact with another person.”
Serving in the ‘marketplace’
“In the AP we encourage people to live a 3D life,” continued RJ. “We encourage followers of Jesus to live out a life devoted to God in the marketplace and the local community, being the fragrance of Christ by being who God created them to be in all aspects of life and being able to be 100 per cent transparent in who they are and why they live where they live. We like to call it a ‘credible presence.’ Marketplace workers have to be mature enough to want to be accountable to each other and the mission ahead of them, so that they might see vibrant communities of Jesus followers around them.”
Living and working in the marketplace means living a godly life everywhere you go. Once, at a post office in an AP country, an officer asked Dirk* to pay the equivalent of $10 USD, which seemed too low. He refused and asked for a receipt to see the real price, which was $60 USD. He told the officer that he was a Christian and lives by the Book (Bible) and that people should pay Caesar what is Caesar's. The man did not look impressed but then quoted the correct amount. The next time Dirk went to the same post office, the officer told everyone, “This is the man who lives according to the Holy Book of the Christians.” Based on AP workers’ experiences, living out a Christian life is what shares the gospel with people the most. Many locals often have the wrong ideas about Christianity. But when they meet and work with honest believers, their perspective changes about what it means to be a Christian.
Christians are not actively allowed to share the gospel in the AP so it is done through living out the gospel and building relationships that allow opportunities to speak about Christ. It is not easy; some people come for the money and can push hard to get what they want. Others want to work with nationals but end up working with other nationalities as well. This means that they get to share the love of Jesus with more than one group of people, some of whom are from other least-reached countries. Stacy*, a nurse in the AP, shared, “I’ve had questions from all different cultures about why I’m here. When I answer that God called me to the AP they are questioning and wanting maybe to know more.” The way she lives her life reflects the hope she has in Christ, that He will take care of them and of her.
Many jobs in the region require a person to work long hours. This is a challenge for families and for team time. The pressure on professionals is very high and workers constantly need to decide who to make time for. One of the biggest challenges is how to live a balanced life in the AP with a high-pressure work lifestyle. It is challenging to balance life between work, family, rest, social life and team life where applicable. We see ministry as holistic and a part of every aspect of life, and this can take time to figure out. Spiritual warfare, the heat and living and dealing with security issues are also challenges that people face. Patience and prayer are key to living a well-balanced, fruitful and intentional life in the AP.
Jim shared, “As foreigners here, it’s easy to get sucked into an expat bubble with those who want to live like they were back home and just make money.” To fight that temptation, “it’s important for us to maintain our own rhythms and be able to keep the mindset of why we are here. Prayer isn’t just something we do when we need something, but prayer is the work,” Jim continued. “It’s how we maintain the connection with God and how we’re able to be aware that God is doing something around us. How we’re able to have the strength and courage to speak up when it’s time is through that prayer.”
Is this the time for you to consider such a move? Most jobs in the region require at least two years of work experience with good qualifications. We encourage people who are intentional in their workplace already and involved in their local church to apply. We also look for mature believers because life can be very different, and difficult, and maturity can help adapt more easily. People interested are encouraged to visit the region on a vision trip before deciding to definitely move.
Interested in working in the AP? Contact email@example.com for more information.