I just read a great report in the September Christianity Today, Why Christianity Is Surging in the Heart of Islam. (19-20) In particular the article speaks of churches that are starting and growing in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qutar and United Arab Emirates. Reporter Jayson Casper points out the fact that "Gulf churches exist at all stems from relationships." As an example of those redemptive relationships he points to some medical missions started in the region by TEAM. "In 1960 before the oil boom that propelled the region to immense wealth, missionaries with TEAM (The Evangelical Alliance Mission) were invited by tribal sheikhs to start a hospital in what is now the UAE after TEAM's medical work in Kuwait and Bahrain attracted their attention. [at the time] half of local children and 35 percent of mothers were dying during childbirth." Today "many royal family members were born in the hospital." The care that gave them life and saved the lives of their mother is not soon forgotten. Kindness shown 50 years ago is bringing about freedom for Christian ministry today.
With all the horrible news of persecution of Christians in Muslim lands this report of tolerance and opportunity is incredibly refreshing, but it's not all. When I came to Covington Bible Church 42 years ago, one of the missionaries our church supported was Norm Niemeyer. Norm and Sue were missionaries with TEAM in Trinidad. After a ministry that included establishing a couple of churches and a Bible camp in the Island nation, Norm became an executive with TEAM. We continued to support the Niemeyers as Norm gave leadership to the organization's ministries in the region that included the Arab world. I still remember some of the tales that Norm told about his visits to TEAM's medical operations in the Arabian Peninsula. For several years Norm was a key player in the success of those humanitarian ministries that are today bearing the fruit of opportunities for a new generation of missionaries.
Norm is with the Lord now, but I remember back in the day when Norm was "our" missionary being impressed that it seemed that every little church I visited in this end of Virginia and over the border in West Virginia had a picture of Sue and Norm Niemeyer on their missionary bulletin board. A bunch of small congregations all across this region faithfully sent their ten, twenty, or fifty dollars per month to support this dedicated family. These folk faithfully served. Because of this long, slow investment today there are "great evangelistic opportunities."
Who'd a thunk it? If you put a question mark after the title of the article, "Why Christianity is surging in the heart of Islam?" the answer is because Covington Bible Church supported the Niemeyers.