I recently returned from a visit to our ministry partners in the Middle East, including stops in the Arabian Peninsula and the Easter Mediterranean. The trip, overall, was quite encouraging and fruitful, in terms of strengthening relationships and giving clarity to the way forward in the region. In the next 3 posts, I will share highlights from the trip.
My excitement over church-planting prospects in Egypt continues to soar. This year HeartCry helped a brother and his wife return to Egypt after a few years of training in a healthy, biblical, international church in the region. His return was accompanied by a long list of questions about initiating a church plant in his country. Would he be able to avoid government restrictions by coming under a legally recognized denomination? Was there a denomination he could join with a clear conscience given the rampant doctrinal compromise and pragmatism? What would that denomination require in order to recognize his ministry?
Within a few months, the Lord brought our brother into relationship with the president of the most conservative Baptist denomination. God has continued to give him great favor with the denomination and smoothed the path toward official ordination, which will be beneficial in the eyes of the governing authorities. In the meantime, he has already been given a ‘congregation’ to serve and a church building in which to meet! The Lord has certainly moved faster than we even dreamed or dared to ask!
While on the Arabian Peninsula, I met with another Egyptian who has been doing pastoral training there. It was so exciting to hear how much he has learned about biblical local church and pastoral ministry in his training, and to hear his growing passion to see such churches established in the Arab world. HeartCry is currently supporting him as he provides interim ministry in a local Arab-speaking church. However, there is the strong possibility that he may soon return to Egypt to establish another church.
And then there was further exciting discussion with an Egyptian couple during my visit to the Eastern Mediterranean. The husband has been discipled for years by HeartCry’s leader in that country. It now seems that their sights are set on returning home to Egypt to establish a church after they have worked with our leader for another couple of years as he plants a new church. They will taste biblical church-planting in actual practice before returning to replicate the same in Egypt. Dear friends, please pray! It is possible that in the next few years we could see the launch of 3 biblical churches in the leading media influence in the Arab world!
During my trip, I also had the wonderful privilege of spending a day with the staff of ‘Middle East Student Fellowship,’ including sitting in on their weekly staff meeting. What a powerful experience! I was surprised by the size of the staff now, as the Lord continues to add to their numbers. It was exciting to hear of several students who had been saved through ‘MESF’s’ ministry who are zealous to stay and carry on that ministry.
Words fail to describe how moving it is to sit in their staff meeting and listen to story after story of students either interested in or embracing the Gospel. In their unique setting, ‘MESF’ is reaching students from every conceivable religious background – Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, African Prosperity, and Atheists. All the while, these brave saints risk exposure, arrest, and deportation in their ongoing attempts to rescue souls from eternal wrath. Those students who embrace Christ often risk rejection and persecution when they return home. Please pray for the ‘MESF’ staff and the students they are engaging with the exclusive claims of Christ.
Before his current role at HeartCry, Robert served several years in pastoral ministry, and a few years in Zambia, Africa as a missionary. He is also a veteran of the Marine Corps. Robert and his wife have been blessed with 3 children and 4 grandchildren. They live near Christiansburg, VA in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains, where he enjoys deer hunting and fly-fishing for trout.More By Robert Shepherd