James* and Ellen*, long-term workers, said they had an instant connection with university students in North Africa because of their experience working with international students in their home country.
International students, outside their home context, were often “a bit vulnerable, needing more care, and more love,” James described. He and Ellen reached out to these young people, offering them much-needed love and discipling those who became Christians.
While studying abroad, the international students had tremendous opportunity to grow in their faith. “When they go back to their country, they are instant missionaries themselves,” James said. Because James and Ellen were involved with mentoring, discipling, and sending out the students, they saw their work with them as preparation for missions.
In North Africa, the couple has had a variety of connections to university students. First they volunteered with a conversation club, avoiding Christian terminology but choosing topics like forgiveness, friendship, and festivals—opening the door for cultural exchanges that also provided freedom to talk about holidays like Christmas and Easter “because there was an exchange and they asked!” James explained.
Another talking point with students came through a workshop Ellen conducted on the five love languages, based on Gary Chapman’s 1995 book. At the end of the workshop, Ellen asked attendees how the information had impacted their life. “What are you going to do differently?” she wanted to know.
“I’m going to practice all five love languages on my friends,” one student said. “This is a topic we would never talk about…It’s great to discover that love can be expressed in these different ways.”
Another student, looking for a thesis topic, decided to focus on the love languages. “We need to think about this in [our] culture,” she said. “How to express love to one another.”
For James and Ellen, modeling and teaching Christ-like love—whether through their lifestyle or formal seminars—allows them to impact Muslim students around them.
One young man they knew told them a story about an experience in one of his university classes. At some point, the professor and the other students were speaking negatively about Christianity.
The student stood up. “Why are you talking negatively about Christianity,” he asked. “I’m a Muslim, but I know Christians. Do you know Christians? I have spent a lot of time with Christians from many countries… Yes, there are some people who say they are Christians, but they are not nice. But those who really walk in their faith are really good people. They have integrity. Please don’t say that all Christians are bad, because they are not, and I have met them.”
This is the importance of being Christ’s witness through lifestyle and words, James said. “For that person’s life and the testimony he has brought to others—in a completely Muslim context—it’s priceless.”
Pray that more Muslims in North Africa would encounter true Jesus followers, in their home countries and abroad, and be impacted by their love. Pray that they see God’s love reflected through Christians and desire to experience that love personally.
Nicole James is a journalist, ESL teacher, and adventurer. As a writer for OM Middle East North Africa, she’s passionate about publishing the stories of God’s works among the nations, telling people about the wonderful things He is doing in the world.
Credit: Nicole James · © 2016 OM International