WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Robert George* is in the business of breaking down walls in North Africa.
His tool, the Word of God, is effective and powerful, but the wall he is chiseling is the 1,400-year-old fixture of Islam. It does not budge easily.
George, along with his wife and two children, has served as a missionary in a North African country for two years through the International Mission Board and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s “two-plus-two” program, which sends students for two years to the mission field after completing two years of course work at the seminary’s Wake Forest, N.C., campus.
The population of the country where they lived and will return to, this time for a career assignment, is about 99.9 percent Muslim, which leaves a Christian population estimated at only 500 to 1,000 people in the Third World nation.
The Georges’ work is difficult and demanding. The wall of Islam proves a towering giant that does not crumble readily. But the training George received at Southeastern and the support he receives from the IMB and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, provide him and his family stability and confidence as they minister to a hostile culture.
“Just from being on the field, you see other people who struggle financially,” George said of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. “They’ve got to make ends meet, but knowing that I’m taken care of 100 percent financially and that I’m taken care of 100 percent medically, those are burdens off my back that I can continue to minister without having to worry about.”
George sees hope in what some would call even the smallest of victories. He sees God moving, for example, when a two-year prayer request was answered when a friend agreed to take and read a Bible. Another occurred when a Muslim man asked for a cassette tape of Christmas hymns. George even had the opportunity to lead a three-month Bible study with two men, comparing the Bible and the Koran.
George realizes that many small cracks must first take place if the wall of Islam is to collapse completely. He continues to fight the good fight because he knows the strength of the God he serves.
In January, George, now a graduate of SEBTS, and his family begin a career appointment in North Africa. Although the process is difficult, they are ecstatic about their chance to resume their ministry to the people they love.
“It’s hard,” George said. “You go places and you live in an environment where you’re not seeing 1,000 people come to Christ in a two-week trip. The most work you can offer people who come visit is prayerwalking, which is essential. When you’re dealing with 1,400 years of Islamic history, it’s not going to turn overnight.
“So, how do you come back and report those kinds of things? What I tell people is that the way you measure success is not based on numbers. Success is based on, ‘Did you see God move in somebody’s life?'”
George works as an athletic administrator, organizing sports leagues and camps for children. He has seen God move in many lives. Using his job to reach out to the families of the children he coaches with the Gospel, George remains encouraged by what God has already accomplished, anticipating an even greater harvest as he continues to establish deeper relationships with the families to whom he is ministering.
“It’s the little things,” George said, reflecting on the many victories God has worked through him and his family. “A lot of times you think, ‘Well, that’s not much,’ but you’ve got to get excited about the small stuff. If you can’t get excited about the small stuff in that work, in that part of the world it’s a long haul.
“You know,” he mused, “we were able to give out between 30 and 50 Scriptures, which people never had before. We were able to have people into our home, and they were able to see the love of Christ, which has never been displayed before. We were able to instruct over 2,000 kids in sports, and yet spend time with their families in their homes in order to share Christ with them. And, after two years, one person came to Christ. God’s dealing with people in ways that He hasn’t dealt with them before, so I think that’s what you have to look at — where they are and where they’ve come from.”
During their time in North Africa, George and his wife began praying that God would bring someone to their home or let them go to someone’s home every week in an effort to build meaningful relationships.
“And I didn’t even ask [God] that hard,” George said with a smile. “The way He blessed, you’d have thought I’d have asked a whole lot harder. But for six months straight, people were in our home and we were in someone else’s home once or twice a week.”
Another amazing event occurred when George and his wife had eight local people come to their home to attend one of their house church services.
“At the end of the service,” George recounted, “a girl stood and said, ‘I’ve got to make an announcement. I saw something today that I’ve never seen before. The way that you sang and the fire in your eyes, we don’t have that. And you prayed for my friends and other people. No Muslim would ever do that.'”
It is moments like these that George and his wife realize that this is what they came to North Africa for: to see God at work in people’s lives, softening their hearts toward the Gospel.
However, they are quick to acknowledge that their understanding of how to reach out and minister to the people of that culture has been enhanced greatly as a result of the training they received from both Southeastern Seminary and the IMB.
“It gave me an intentionality to share and an opportunity to go,” George said of his training at Southeastern. “The second thing I’ve gained from it is the knowledge of how to go about ministering and living in a cross-cultural environment — anything from mapping a neighborhood to understanding what a true New Testament church is. I just can’t say enough [how] Southeastern and the [two-plus-two] program itself puts people on the cutting edge of what’s taking place in the world.”
George also is grateful for his affiliation with the IMB, praising the IMB policy of pairing a mentor with each two-plus-two missionary who goes out on the field.
“Having a mentor was good,” George said. “We met two to three times a week to discuss how to go about [the ministry], but we also met one time a week for Bible study and prayer. And so it was a friendship, yet it was a working relationship.
“In my particular situation, I feel blessed in the fact that if I felt God leading me to go a direction, I can say, ‘I think this is an area we can try,’ and he would say, ‘Go for it.’ That’s the way it worked for me, and it was a good process. You have one who’s guiding you along that you can bounce ideas off of and one who’s going to keep you focused and accountable. Having a mentor along inside the two-plus-two program was big.
“You know, if I had to make a recommendation to anybody else in ministry, it’s to find someone who’s older and who’s wise and to use that. That was a benefit in the way they’ve set the program up. And that’s a benefit that the IMB and the school have worked that partnership together.”
George and his family remain grateful for the love and support they have received and the commitment of both Southeastern Seminary and the IMB to assist them in the seriousness of the task before them of spreading the Gospel to a country trapped behind the wall of Islam.
“We’re not just playing a game,” he said. “We’re trying to be out on the cutting edge. We’re going to the unreached people. We’re diving into the areas where things are difficult, where things are hard. But after being on the field and watching what takes place, you can see the impact that students make.”
*Editors’ note: For security reasons, all names in this story have been changed. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: WHO MIGHT BE NEXT?