Shortly after our son Paul graduated from high school this spring, we put him on a plane with seven other students for a two-week trip to France and Italy. Their trek, led by four adults, was a small piece of Wheaton Bible Church's (WBC) MOVE Initiative, a relatively nascent project defined by its mission and ministry to Muslims both in suburban Chicago and abroad. It's a little window into how missions have, for many churches, changed since September 11.
In southern Europe, a number of missionary families reach out to immigrants and refugees from North Africa, many of whom have fled unstable nations and are looking for peace. Partnering with Greater Europe Mission, which has ramped up its own outreach to Muslims in recent years, our church recently commissioned eight new missionaries for this work in France.
My son's group—one of about eight short-term teams from WBC's high school ministry—handed out evangelistic materials at an Italian port city through which many North Africans travel. Paul, one of the student leaders, says his team experienced both receptivity (he led one Muslim man to Christ) and rejection (including being cursed and spat at), but most encounters were quick and cordial. The team distributed 1,000 copies of the New Testament, learned much about the power of prayer, and came home inspired.
Locally, the MOVE Initiative reaches out to about 15 Iraqi families in a nearby apartment complex through a partnership with World Relief. Several staff and church members have moved into the complex to foster deeper relationships, which typically begin with relatively simple tasks when the refugees arrive: picking them up at the airport, stocking their fridges, running errands, ...