OM workers in the Near East (which includes the countries of Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria) sensed a need to involve more Arab believers on international teams, as local churches began expanding their vision and capacity to send workers. “What makes OM unique is a call to partner with the local church and a focus to go where there are no churches,” described Near East field leader Jeremy*.
As a practical way to prepare local Jesus followers from both Muslim and Christian backgrounds to be sent as missionaries, the Near East field developed a year-long Arab Internship Program. Following a three-month training period, participants join an OM team.
“The participants come with a lot of ministry experience,” Jeremy noted. “They also come with fluent Arabic and, to some extent, cultural awareness.”
Discipleship training is helping individuals live out their faith and new communities of believers are being formed throughout the Near East.
Foreigners often spend tremendous (but necessary) amounts of time and effort learning the language and culture, whereas nationals can start learning and implementing evangelistic tools almost immediately.
By equipping the local interns with reproducible ministry tools – like what foreign OMers learn in the Near East two-year training program – and helping them learn how to thrive in a team setting, OM hopes to send a stream of more Arab workers into the least-reached regions. The speed at which the local interns can start making an impact is “quite startling,” Jeremy said. “The guys in the internship school, within a month, had opened the Bible 21 times on house visits. As a foreigner, I was just happy to be able to buy fruit after a month of studying Arabic.”
Hamad* and Nidal* were two of the first Arabs to complete the three-month training module. The training was personal and practical. They learned how to facilitate Discover Bible Studies (DBS). “We did DBS in the morning together, so first we applied the Bible to our own lives before we expected other people to accept it,” Hamad explained.
The internship program, Nidal summarized, “is a great idea. It teaches you, trains you for ministry, and at the same time, it’s through the school that there’s more planting and sowing that’s happening. There are no churches here. There are not many people ministering to Syrian refugees in this area,” Nidal said. “Our vision is to see the church grow here.”
Pray that the Arab Internship Program would find new sources of funding so that it can continue to train and equip local workers to reach the least-reached areas of the Near East. Pray for grace as current interns join existing teams and wisdom as future groups look to establish new teams in new locations.
*Names changed for security