Midwestern Seminary’s Missions Moonshot aims to send 100 missionaries each year to the nations. Many of these missionaries serve in such high-security locations that their information is unable to be disclosed to the public. In light of this reality, we want to highlight the work of Midwestern Seminary alumni serving in high-security locations. Though their names have been changed and pictures are concealed for their safety, we hope this year’s alumni highlight reminds each of us of the urgency of the mission and the courage of missionaries around the world.
MBTS: Can you tell us a little bit more about where you serve, what your roles entail, and your ministry priorities?
Noora: We serve with the International Mission Board (IMB) in Pakistan. Our focus is a desert province the size of Iowa, consisting of a population of about 32 million Muslims. There is little to no access to the gospel in our province—around 200 believers total. Most of my time in our first year here has been spent learning the Urdu language in any and every way, including sharing the gospel and sitting with ladies in Bible studies.
Raymond: We joined a team of 2 other families, who are coincidentally all Midwestern and Fusion alumni. Our focus is simple—abide in Christ, obey the Great Commission, and help others do the same. The Scriptures give us clarity as to how this is to be carried out—gaining access into unreached places, prioritizing bold gospel proclamation to anyone and everyone, laying new foundations of discipleship for local indigenous churches, and appointing local indigenous leadership among those who believe. This role is itinerant in nature, and we resonate with the Apostle Paul’s expressed tension for both the breadth of gospel expansion (Romans 15:20-21), and the concern for depth in each and every church established (Philippians 2:12-18).
MBTS: Why is church planting central to the missionary task?
Noora: Our context is highly uneducated, mostly illiterate, and extremely poor. For many new believers, the first book they have ever read or listened to in an understandable way is the Bible. It is encouraging to see the eagerness of brand-new Christians learn the Word of God, and immediately obey it. In many cases this is met with persecution. For these believers, to both grow and multiply, the local church is essential. They need to be able to lean on each other and hold forth the word of life (Philippians 1:16).
Raymond: Lone-wolf Christians don’t last long here. If they do, their walk remains quite weak. If we look back, there is no expression of New Testament Christianity without the local church. As the definition of “missions” continues to expand to include everything under the sun, the local church must be continually emphasized. Churches birthing churches has to be the goal, and our role is to simply help facilitate this process in a pioneer context. Pragmatically we understand our limits, but we also realize that our limits only highlight the biblical impetus for spending time and resources in equipping the saints in the work of the ministry.
MBTS: How did your sending church encourage and prepare you for ministry overseas? How do they continue to support you while you remain overseas?
Noora: Through Emmaus Church in Kansas City, we have a support group of members who were hand-picked to closely relate with us on a monthly basis. We give them updates on our ministry, our struggles and accomplishments, our family life, etc. They ask tough but needed questions. Oftentimes missionary update emails/groups tend to go in only one direction, but we feel that Emmaus’ initiative to add this smaller and more intentional group has created healthy, two-way communication. They have been a great source of encouragement for us during difficult times during our first year on the field. We are deeply grateful for them and their commitment to pray and advocate for us.
Raymond: Emmaus was helpful in at least two big ways. First, though I was primarily interested in preparing to serve as a missionary, Emmaus allowed me to jump into their pastoral residency program. I was a bit of an odd duckling as the “Muslim guy” and most of my assignments had an Islamic or missionary application, but I was grateful for the opportunity and learned much from these brothers. Second, we were given so much freedom to lead out in evangelism seminars, establish a weekly prayer group for the nations, and provide input for the church’s GO School for future goers. As a missionary, so much of our foundation-laying work is contingent upon a team’s creativity, initiative, and resilience, and Emmaus equipped us by giving us opportunities to practice carrying out a God-given plan for how to spend time and resources.
MBTS: Can you share one or two key convictions related to the missionary task that your time in Kansas City and at Midwestern Seminary helped instill in you?
Noora: We were both very involved with the Fusion program during our undergraduate years. Probably the biggest takeaway was a deep conviction of how integrated the ministry preparation process needed to be. The classroom was just one part of the whole training experience. I learned how to share the gospel and how to disciple others, but I was also challenged to actually go and do it. I was closely discipled myself. My cohort ate together, slept together, budgeted together, even sweat together! We fought for each other’s holiness. Fusion always pushed for active local church membership, which I believe is the best expression of many of these principles.
Raymond: First, Midwestern instilled in me the belief that the Bible is sufficient, clear, authoritative, and necessary for both faith and practice—and I am indebted to several men on faculty for reinforcing these convictions. This conviction and precision in defining the missionary task is common at Midwestern, as the number of Midwestern alumni serving overseas continues to grow. Second, I learned that if you’re not evangelizing and making disciples now, you won’t then. For those aspiring to the nations, Kansas City is a great training ground. Living among literally hundreds of people groups in Kansas City equipped me in Muslim evangelism and discipling Muslim-background believers. For us, seminary life looked different—it meant moving off campus, taking jobs where we knew we’d run into non-Christians, and sometimes submitting missiology papers late because of late night gospel conversations with my Saudi Arabian roommates. But I found this to be a good balance.