Most areas of Iraq have no churches. In areas that do, their size has shrunk by 80 per cent in the last decade. During this period, the Arab Church in the region has vastly increased its vision for planting churches. However, there is very little cross-cultural training available. The Cross-Cultural Church Planting School in Lebanon prepares and sends Arabic-speaking church planters to the least-reached areas of the region, particularly where fellowships of believers are unknown. The school has the capacity to send ten four-member teams to Iraq in the next five years.
Over 21 million people live in the 12 provinces of Iraq with no church. Although things seem desperate, more than ever local believers have vision, skills and experience for church planting in least-reached areas. Our training program selects participants who complete intermediate church planting training in their home countries and are practicing disciple making. The school only selects participants with a five-year commitment to plant multiplying churches in difficult and unreached areas. We have strategic partnerships with fellow mission organizations and local denominations to identify candidates and provide them with training and mentoring before recommending them to the school. The three-month school-the first phase of a one-year internship program-is currently in Lebanon; in two years' time, we hope to host the school in Iraq .
Classroom training combines with daily opportunities for practical ministry application, evaluation, Bible study, prayer, cross-cultural team life, member care and fund raising. After the three-month school, suitable candidates continue in a nine-month internship program. Teams are formed alongside existing church planting teams for further mentoring before being sent to Iraq. The first class saw 12 Discovery Bible Study (DBS) groups formed during training. We plan to have eight participants at each school this year. Over the next five years, we seek to send teams of graduates to 10 of the 12 provinces in Iraq with no churches.
Lack of funding keeps most of the gifted and productive church planters in the region from serving in the most needy places. Many participants' pastors only earn $410/month, so even raising that amount is a challenge; with a crumbling infrastructure, living in Iraq is very expensive. By financially assisting the participants, we make it possible for the most effective workers to serve in the places of greatest need. We are seeking $100,000 for eight participants go through the cross-cultural training school from September 2017-August 2018. This covers living expenses, travel and training costs. Each participant will contribute $205/month during the training year and is expected to raise $410/month by the end of the year-about one-quarter of living costs in Iraqi cities. Every gift of any size-every church planter resourced-will write a new chapter in Iraqi history. Thank you for your generosity.