If one looked on the surface of their daily reports, one could think that the five-member team from Timberline Church spent their entire week in Dearborn, Michigan eating at a number of different ethnic restaurants. Detailed descriptions of the bountiful and uniquely Middle Eastern foods they ate included bread, dipping stew, lamb on rice and potatoes, chicken, baba ganoush, hummus, tabuleh, other salad and vegetables, Yemenese salsa, pastries, ice cream, pistachios, and clove and cardamon hot tea. Why did they eat so much? For the opportunity to meet the local people in their natural environments.
However, like Jesus, who said that His food and drink was to do the will of the One who sent Him (John 4), their mission included so much more than experiencing the flavors of a different culture. Over five days of ministry, they encountered multiple divine appointments in a community that is predominately Muslim. In fact, Dearborn is home to the largest concentration of Arab Muslims in the US. The largest groups are from Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon, both Shi’ite and Sunni with their respective mosques.
The team spent their mornings doing construction and clean-up projects around a facility being transformed from a florist’s shop into a church and coffee shop. They started off working in the basement that had been flooded after a sewage backup and spent several hours hauling cement blocks, shoveling sewage mud, and sweeping with kitty litter. In the former greenhouse lean-to that will become the coffee shop, they leveled a support beam that will artfully hold storage and attached accent lighting over a bar-like area in addition to installing and finishing drywall. Other construction projects during the week included painting, installing a snow guard on the roof, sawing limbs, and cleaning carpets.
Once they had finished their physical work for the day, the team ventured out into the neighborhoods. One day, they attended a presentation on Islam at a mosque where they then engaged in two hours of questions and answers before giving their hosts an Arabic Bible and a translated Injeel (New Testament). Another day, they visited the Shiite mosque and, while a bit frustrated, were able to show the love of God to the men there. A trip to a third mosque resulted in conversations comparing Judaism, Christianity, and Islam including bold discussions about artwork comparing stories from the Bible to the teachings of Muhammad. Yet another day held a visit to the Arab-American Museum where the team learned about the far-reaching influence of Arab culture on the United States. On Friday, the team was able to speak one-on-one with two different men who listened intently and asked intelligent questions. Both men accepted what was said, yet seemed unsure what it would look like to let their lives be changed by the Gospel. As one team member described it, one man looked like a prisoner without the possibility for escape, but a prisoner with Hope.
In addition to these encounters, the team was able to see a house that is currently being renovated to eventually provide a safe place for women who have come out of Islam to accept Christ. The missionary family who owns the house hopes it will be the first of several throughout the community.
The team visited a thriving ministry at the Angel House where a different missionary teaches Yemenese men and women computer skills, sewing, gardening, and literacy training. Each lesson is taught using Scripture or in some way that relays the message of Hope to them. One room contains a mural of individual pictures depicting the entire Bible and the missionary teaches one story per week to a group of women during a Bible study.
Speaking of Bibles, everywhere they went throughout Dearborn–and yes, including over their many meals–the team had the opportunity to give away Arabic study Bibles and engage in open conversations with many individuals.
As one team member wrote: “The whole week was just incredible and the power of prayer from everyone back home was instrumental to our walks with the Spirit. Friday was an amazing day for the advancement of the Kingdom in Dearborn, MI. There is no doubt in our minds that divine appointments were brought forth for His glory.” They were thankful for the boldness and love that covered them through prayer and said they were “forever grateful for the opportunity to be used by our Creator in this way.”
That feeling far surpasses any delicious food they ate.