Richard (Canada) asking "If you could ask God to do one thing for you, what would it be?" Using the "One Wish (Un Deseo)" method, Transform 2018, Spain.

Waiting for an invitation

Jared facilitates interfaith conversations with Muslims, helping other Christians to ask questions and invite their neighbours to discover Jesus.

With only 80 Euros (approximately $84 USD) in promised monthly support, Jared* and his young family moved from South Asia to Scandinavian Europe, joining a global diaspora community of millions. Instead of seeking economic advancement, Jared followed God’s leading in faith, leaving both secure employment and extended family in his quest to share God’s love with Muslims. Nearly a decade later, God has continued to provide, opening doors for Jared to share the truth of the gospel in his physical community and online.

In some neighbourhoods in his home country, David* an ethnic European, feels like an outsider. “If you go in there, they point fingers at us and ask, ‘Are you civil police?’” he explained. Known for its diversity and, unfortunately, gang activity, one city has a sub-culture so concentrated that local police struggle to intervene in its affairs. Ethnic Europeans like David stick out as starkly as if they’d travelled to South Asia itself. Jared, however, fits in seamlessly.

David and Jared both serve with OM and, like many Jesus followers in Europe, they want to share God’s love with new and well-established immigrant populations from countries where the gospel is not known. Islamic organisations ensure that mosques and religious gatherings are readily available for those from Muslim diaspora groups, but linguistic and cultural barriers prevent these people from approaching or participating in traditional European churches—even those with social programmes aimed at integrating immigrants into society. In Jared’s neighbourhood, “there is no real effort by the churches going on there in a more contextualised manner…trying to meet Muslims where they are,” David acknowledged.

As a leader of OM’s work in his home country, David saw this reality as an opportunity to reach out to the Muslims moving in. “We had one region that we were passionate to send team members to, and Jared volunteered, and said: ‘My wife and I will be happy to go.’”

Aside from working as an accountant for several years at the OM office in the country, Jared “was always out in the evenings or weekends and sharing the gospel,” David remembered. In fact, Jared’s nationality, combined with his long-standing passion and love for Muslims, made him a natural choice for the new team.

One time, after moving to his new neighbourhood, Jared showed David a picture of a religious gathering he’d been invited to speak at. “It must have been at least 150 people all dressed up in their Sikh clothes, gathering at some kind of festival,” David described. “And I was like: ‘This is existing here?’ I had no idea. Most ethnic Europeans would have no idea that there are people from that background, and he was invited because [nationally] he's one of them.”

‘Who will give an invitation to my Muslim friends?’

Individually, ethnic European Jesus followers often struggle to share their personal faith. “[They] are not used to talking about faith, not even in their own family,” David explained.

South Asian culture, on the other hand, revolves around religion. “That's a benefit for us, actually,” Jared noted. “They want to really talk about religion here.”

Retaining his professional identity as an accountant and integrating into the community through his other interests, like sports, Jared spends his days being salt and light to people who don’t know Jesus. “He's doing same kind of sharing that we are doing in the Middle East [and other creative access countries]: building friendships, building trust and sharing the gospel a little bit slowly,” David said.

That intentionality is necessary, particularly in neighbourhoods like Jared’s, where immigrants are less likely to fully assimilate into their new culture. “I’ve been told that usually within the first week [of moving into the neighbourhood], they will find the local mosque. [Other Muslims] will invite them to come and pray, and people are looking out for each other, encouraging one another to pray and fast,” David said.

Churches have also opened their buildings to offer language cafes and practical help for societal integration. But being open is not always enough. “In Asian society, people never visit anybody until they receive an invitation,” Jared explained. For example, one South Asian couple arrived in his neighbourhood in Europe just before Christmas. After Christmas, they told Jared they were upset with him. “What happened? Why you are angry with me?” Jared asked. “It was Christmas, and you did not invite us to church,” they responded.

“Can you imagine that!” Jared exclaimed. “They are waiting for the invitation. Who will give an invitation to my Muslim friends?”

Full-circle faith journey

For Jared, sharing God’s love with Muslims in Europe is a full-circle experience. “My grandmother has a Hindu background, and my grandfather has a Muslim background,” he explained. “My grandparents accepted Jesus Christ because missionaries came from Europe, and they brought a revival to our country.”

His grandparents passed their newfound faith in Jesus on to Jared’s parents, who, in turn, relayed it to their children.

When Jared was a young adult, his cousin was volunteering with OM and organised a visit to Jared’s city for a traveling team of Jesus followers. Though Jared listened to the teaching, he laughed at the invitation to join their outreach. “I went back home and told my family about the crazy people who came and were talking about evangelism and were going to spread the gospel among the Muslim people. And I knew they would be badly beaten that day,” he remembered.

Much to Jared’s surprise, the team returned later with smiles and stories of how they had been able to share God’s Word. “So then I knew that the Bible was for the Muslim people as well,” Jared said.

God continued to work in Jared’s heart, leading him to eventually enrol in Islamic studies at a local mosque in order to better understand Muslim beliefs. His Christian friends wondered why he was studying Arabic and the Qur’an and worried he was losing his faith. In reality, Jared was bored. “I’m sure I’m not losing my faith, but I know I’m wasting my time,” he remembered thinking.

After a while, Jared’s teacher also asked him why he was studying the Qur’an. Jared told him that the Qur’an recognised other holy books, like the Torah (Pentateuch) and the Injil (Gospel). “My friends think that I’m crazy for reading the Qur’an,” he said. “And if you want to read the Bible, your friends will think you are crazy, too, even though it’s written clearly in the Qur’an that every Muslim must believe in the Torah and other prophets’ books and even in Jesus Christ as well.”

“Jared, stop,” his teacher interjected. “Your talk really touched my heart….I have never ever read the Bible, and I have never even seen a Bible. But now I’m going to make a promise to you that I will start to read the Bible because you have been a big example to me.”

His teacher’s reaction encouraged Jared to continue studying Islam and gave him confidence to start discussions with other Muslims. Years later, when he moved to his neighbourhood in Europe, he formed a group that grew to 15 people to talk about Islam and Christianity. His new Muslim friends marvelled at his knowledge of Islam and asked him where different things were written in the Qur’an.

Not just one-way traffic

When the coronavirus caused in-person meetings to stop, Jared took his discussions online, creating a group on social media in late 2020 to provide a platform for interfaith conversation. The group has since grown to more than 1,600 members—80 per cent Muslim and 20 per cent Christian, Jared estimated. He also said that the gender and age demographics of the group, where a majority of the members are men ages 18 to 34, matches those missing from traditional churches, making his media platform especially strategic.

In Islam, Muslims are taught to question Christians’ beliefs, but they are often not prepared to answer the same questions about their own faith. “In my group, we are not running just one-way traffic,” Jared explained. “We are teaching Christians it’s OK to ask the questions we are asked.”

Like Jared, many South Asian participants in the group live abroad. One Christian man living in the Middle East told Jared via private message that he was struggling with the constant questioning of his beliefs by Muslims. “He was doubting Christianity and very close to losing his faith,” Jared said. After joining the group and reading other believers’ responses to some of the same questions, the man messaged Jared again: “Through your group, my question was clear, and I came back to my faith. And I’m also now able to give an answer to the Muslims.”

*name changed

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