One silent, holy night in Algeria, God descended on a Muslim village. On that night in 1983, villagers later testified, the Holy Spirit moved from house to house, revealing Himself through dreams, visions, and angelic visitation. Some 450 Muslims in the village converted to Christ.
Christians had nothing to do with the incident — or so they thought. When mission workers began asking how such a miracle could have occurred, they discovered this: More than six centuries before, Spanish missionary Raymond Lull had been stoned to death by Muslims for preaching where the village now stood.
Lull, often called the first missionary to the Muslims, wrote before death that Islamic strongholds could be conquered not by force, but only "by love and prayers, and the pouring out of tears and blood."
Despite the deadly conflict raging in Algeria today between Muslim militants and government forces — and ongoing persecution of converts to Christianity — the gospel continues to spread among Muslims across rural Algeria. Elsewhere in the Muslim world, Christian workers report an increasing openness and turning to Christ — often preceded by dreams or visions of Him among potential converts.
Dreams and Visions
Some examples of such phenomena were detailed earlier this year in National and International Religion Report:
• Thousands of North African Muslims have written to a Christian radio service. Many report a similar dream: Jesus appears and tells them, "I am the way."
• In Nigeria, Muslims savagely beat a man from their tribe who had become a Christian convert. As he lay dying, they heard him ask God to forgive them. That night two mullahs who helped beat him had visions of Christ. Both repented and took eighty followers to a Christian church to hear the gospel.
Some reasons for the gospel's current spread among Muslims can be readily explained. One is the much higher priority mission groups — including Southern Baptists — now place on reaching major Muslim peoples. Evangelical scholar Dudley Woodberry, an expert on Islam, recently outlined other factors in an interview with World Pulse: secularization of the Middle East and reaction by rank-and-file Muslims against Islamic radicals; Christian relief ministries to Muslims; Muslim migration to more open areas; a "desire for evidence of God's power" among Muslims; and missionaries' efforts to contextualize the gospel more effectively.
But the most important reasons cannot be explained apart from the initiative of God alone, and the response of His people cited by Raymond Lull before his martyrdom: love, prayer, tears, and blood.
"Every one of those things is happening" now, says Randy Sprinkle, director of the FMB International Prayer Strategy Office. "There is a love for Muslims that cannot be explained apart from its supernatural origin. There is a movement of prayer such as I've never seen in history. And there is the pouring out of tears and blood so that Muslims might be set free."
Christians are praying as never before for Muslims — individually and in groups, daily and through such annual efforts as the 30-day Muslim prayer focus during the Muslim observance of Ramadan.
When we pray during Ramadan, says Sprinkle, "we're joining Muslims during that period as they seek God. Christians are praying, 'Oh God, do that very thing. Reveal yourself in Christ to the Muslims of the world.'"
How He chooses to reveal Himself is up to God.
"We can't tell Him how He can and can't do things," Sprinkle stresses. "If He chooses to do it in what to our Western minds is an unusual or mysterious way such as dreams or visions or angels, the Scriptures are full of examples of those."
In fact, missionaries increasingly are being asked to "interpret" such dreams — a role for which they've had little experience or training, observes Lewis Myers, FMB vice president for strategies in World A, the least-evangelized regions.
"People working among Muslims are very aware that the battles that go on in the hearts and minds of people (considering Christ) are spiritual battles," Myers explains. "It's warfare. And the tools of this kind of warfare come through spiritual means, the chief of which is prayer."
That means your prayer. Without it, says Myers, "we just can't be there."
From Commission magazine.
Strong Giving Makes Missionary Pay Raise Possible
Foreign Mission Board trustees set aside $1.4 million in June to upgrade salary raises based on length of service of career and associate missionaries.
"We've been saying we would give longevity raises to missionaries as soon as Southern Baptists increased their giving," said Avery Willis, senior vice president for overseas operations. "This is a response to Southern Baptist giving."
Final figures for the 1995 Lottie Moon Christmas offering showed an increase of 3.59 percent over the previous year. Receipts from the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists' unified budget, were up 2.42 percent for fiscal year 1995, and 1.68 percent for 1996.
The trustee action gives increases ranging from $408 to $3,240 per year for missionaries at the 5-, 10-, and 15-year cycles of service. It is designed to affirm missionaries with long-term commitments to service at the point where their family financial needs are growing, Willis said.
"We haven't been able to show our appreciation for those who are staying a long time," he said. "This will be a great encouragement to missionaries on the field, some of whom are facing very difficult financial situations. It will provide a new lease on life to many."