Reaching Muslims Locally

Ben Rankin — October 17, 2023

“There is no transformation by transportation.” This is a quip used by former missionary Mack Stiles to encourage aspiring missionaries to start doing the gospel work they desire to do overseas now in their local context rather than waiting until they go overseas in the future. The point that Stiles is trying to make is that a person is not going to become a missionary just by hopping on a plane and heading to a different country. There is preparation that must be done in a person’s local context.

My local context is Louisville, Kentucky, which, is home to people from all over the world. Because I know that the nations have come to Louisville, Mack Stiles’ words inspired me. I prayed specifically that God would help me find a Muslim friend who I could share the gospel with. In his providence and kindness, God granted this request.

One Sunday after church, my friend and his family invited me to a gyro restaurant for lunch; being a lover of food, I went with them. Working at the restaurant were three men from the Middle East. My friend began speaking to them in Arabic, which he studied in college. My Arabic was not as good as my friend’s, but I gave it a shot. I ordered my food in broken Arabic. Moved with pity, an employee who was my age offered to teach me Arabic and asked if I could help him with English. I took this opportunity and got his number. From there we began hanging out at coffee shops.

My new friend and Arabic teacher has a deeper need than improving in his English: he has a need for Jesus Christ. He is a devout Muslim who believes Jesus was a great prophet (not God or Savior), and he is working for his salvation. Learning Arabic is good, but I prayed that God would help me move our conversations toward the gospel, and he did. I intentionally left my Bible in my car so that I could read it to my Muslim friend if Jesus came into our conversations, which he often has.

God provided me with a genuine friendship with a Muslim my age. He is not my project — he is more than that. He is a kind man who is a joy to be around, but he is still lost as long as he continues to follow the false teachings of Islam. Yet God has begun a good work in providing Christian friends who care about him.

This story can be applied to people groups other than Muslims. Prayer is a necessary part of local outreach as well as global outreach, and so is the use of Scripture. Christians have a great opportunity as the nations are coming to us. So, aspiring missionary or not, we can all participate in the Great Commission in our own local contexts.

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