The Arabian Peninsula Partnership
The Gospel for every person and a church for every people in the Arabian Peninsula amongst indigenous peoples
An interview with John Leader, a Filipino pastor and Mission leader.How did you end up here in the Gulf?
Well I realized that a lot of Filipinos have been going abroad for the past 3 decades, and it has been growing year by year; from 30,000 in 1975, to a million last year. 10% of our country lives outside of the Philippines. I realized that a significant number of these overseas workers are believers, and they have gone into 194 countries to find better financial employment.
Why is it important to pray for Filipino Christians in the Gulf?
When they find themselves in a place like the Arabian Peninsula, after they settle here, and after the initial euphoria of more income than they have ever realized in their life before, they start looking at their involvement in ministry.
Was has happened over time, is that as Filipinos have gone out, they have planted Filipino churches. Now most of these churches were accidental, even in this region. Bible studies led to churches starting, but many pastors did not have proper theological training, but they were passionate about sharing their faith. So that is one thing we do is to provide training, but we are very intentional in trying to get these churches to embrace the great commission in its totality. I realized these Filipino churches are front line bases for mission right in the very field, which has been so hard to penetrate. Missionary visas are available for this part of the world!
But there are already thousands and thousands of believers here, worshipping the Lord and sharing their faith in different ways. Sadly their often only share their faith with other Filipinos. What we want them to be more intentional in their witness. We see such great potential in a place such as Saudi Arabia with over a million Filipinos, so we're talking about tens of thousands of believers.
How are you helping Filipinos in the Arabian Peninsula?
Our training has moved to training tent-makers, because support raising is very difficult for Filipinos. What we are trying to do is to get them to cross over from just reaching Filipinos to intentionally including those whom they work among.
Normally what we do is work through the church leadership we first uphold their authority. We do not want to bypass their leadership. So we first persuade the leaders about the great commission to reach all peoples. When they are persuaded, we introduce a missions education programme. We do this first with the leaders, so they can do this with their church members.
The next step is put this into practice. We ask them, "What are you going to do about it?" Without the intention to reach out, all they have is education. As the members see that in their context, in homes, offices, camps, hospitals, hotels or restaurants, they start seeing that they can be a witness for Christ. So some of them ask for deeper training. This is where we introduce tent-maker training, and this becomes very specific to their context, meaning Muslim ministry. We want the whole church to reach out, but some will focus on Muslims. They are then mentored by others in partnership with Christians in the APP, by experienced Christians, on a regular basis. They can get advice, hints and prayer to know what is appropriate and good in this context.
How should we pray for the Filipinos in the region?
So this is not just a Filipino thing! We are also intentional in partnering with the body of Christ in the region. Also, Filipino do not have time to go through a full language course to learn Arabic. So when it comes to discipling a new believer, this needs to done in Arabic. We have seen quite a number of Muslims come to faith in Christ, but the Filipinos have struggled to help them grow into a deeper relationship with Christ because of the language barrier.
We have been thinking that as soon as people come to Christ, because of what they have seen in lives of Filipino believers, more fluent Arabic speakers need to come along side to help. This means this is a work of the whole church, so the Kingdom of Christ can be firmly planted here.
Top prayer requests: This training requires time and money. Time for the trainers and the Filipinos here; finances for the trainers coming here from Asia. The number of trainers is low, and not enough live here in the region (especially Saudi).
Also we do not want pastors to feel threatened by this. We are not asking them to make outreach just another part of their church programme. This outreach actually puts their whole existence at risk. We hope and pray that these leaders will become the primary motivators of their own congregations. That is a major concern for us.
And of course with the access Filipinos have to all of these people, we pray for open hearts, open ears; ears and hearts opened by the Lord.