RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Amsterdam. Berlin. Brussels. Frankfurt. Paris. Madrid. Rome.
Premier cities like these in Western Europe conjure up images of vacation travel. Well-heeled tourists stand in line to snap photos of the Eiffel Tower, sample haute cuisine and spend fortunes on fashion and entertainment.
But for millions of immigrants and refugees who call these cities home, there is no glamour.
Instead of financial success, they find language barriers. Instead of a new life, they find alcohol and nightclubs. And instead of hope, they find spiritual darkness and despair.
Southern Baptists would like to change that.
With a vision for reaching these seven strategic gateway cities in Western Europe, a ministry group called “Tsilent Tsunami” (pronounced: silent soo-NAH-mee) has made inroads with the gospel. Tsilent Tsunami’s team members are reaching out to pockets of immigrants and political refugees, many of whom enjoy Europe’s religious freedom in contrast to that of their birth countries in Asia, northern Africa and the Middle East.
The name “Tsilent Tsunami” came from the idea of a tsunami, or tidal wave, of prayer and outreach spilling quietly across Western Europe. Using avenues like praying, teaching English, crafts, dancing, singing and cutting hair, team members are sharing the gospel among otherwise closed people.
“Many refugees come from closed access countries where it’s illegal to witness or to convert to Christianity,” says Chris Mills, associate director of International Mission Board work in Western Europe. “They bring with them the religions they know, and often, hurting, empty hearts ravaged by wars and persecution.”
Volunteers are needed for prayerwalking and distributing Christian materials in a variety of languages.
“The world is moving to Western Europe,” Mills says. “In London, for example, there are areas where English is by far a minority language. In fact, over 140 languages are spoken in London.”
In Germany, he added, “I’ve been told that the largest Turkish population outside of Turkey resides in Germany.”
Besides breaking apart the image of people groups contained each in their own country, the flood of immigrants to these gateway cities has done much to deconstruct the view of Western Europe as a “Christian” area.
In fact, Southern Baptist strategists have dubbed Western Europe “the new Last Frontier.”
In most countries, evangelicals account for less than 1 percent of the population. Spain, dotted with ornate cathedrals, is considered one of the least evangelized countries on earth. In France, practicing Muslims outnumber both Catholics and evangelicals combined.
“Most Americans think of the great cathedrals in Western Europe and conclude, ‘It must be a Christian place, just look at all the churches,'” Mills explains. “The truth is, those church buildings are just monuments and mausoleums. They’re filled with people, all right — tourists who take pictures and whisper aloud while a solitary priest pronounces Mass over a small group of aged congregants.”
Most western Europeans know “church” as an old, cold stone building where “dull, backward-thinking old priests and pastors who care little for the people live in the shadows of their crosses,” he adds.
Instead, Tsilent Tsunami teams want to present the New Testament idea of church as a living, vibrant extension of salvation in Jesus Christ.
Mills believes now is a strategic time for reaching Western Europe with the gospel.
“Compared to [immigrants’] home countries, Western Europe provides a very safe environment to witness,” he says. “While they are in transition, these people are especially open to receive Christ. But the window doesn’t remain open indefinitely. We have to respond while they are ready.”
With a goal of placing 1 million volunteers, plus long- and short-term missionary personnel, in the seven gateway cities, Tsilent Tsunami team leaders want to give Bibles to every member of an unreached people group.
“That’s an enormous task,” Mills acknowledges. “Sound impossible? It’s never been done before. Then neither had anyone walked on water or fed 5,000 with a few loaves and fishes until Jesus did it. We’re looking for God to do something marvelous in our midst.”
To “ride the wave” and help reach Europe’s strategic gateway cities for Christ, contact Tsilent Tsunami at [email protected] or call toll-free 1-888-836-5464. Visit the web site at www.tsilenttsunami.com for more information.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: GATEWAY CITIES and SHARING GOD’S LOVE.