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The Beauty of the Body of Christ

Churches across denominational lines have come together to support reaching the local Arabic-speaking community.

Yacoub Rasul (name changed) with Blake Wood at a Valentine’s Day event hosted at Faith Community Church to bless a specific people group in the Harrisonburg, Va., area. Pastor Blake notes that the Lord has given Yacoub special favor with this group, who are originally from the Middle East. Yacoub’s face is blurred to protect his ministry. Photo courtesy of Blake Wood

By Blake Wood

I knew his call to Harrisonburg was clearly from God when he left my office.

I had known Pastor Yacoub (name changed), a newly appointed VMMissions worker, for well over a decade. I had the privilege of engaging with him in the Middle East, where he had fruitfully served as a church planter and ministry coach for many years. But now the Lord had brought him to Harrisonburg, or so it seemed.

I had been working with VMMissions for a few months to help Yacoub and his family get settled. He began ministering to the large Arabic-speaking community in Harrisonburg, a multinational community of mainly Muslims, but also other faiths. There were many challenges, including a very sparse donor base for ministry support.

After three months of this preparatory work, a ministry leader from another state whom I know and trust reached out to Yacoub. He told Yacoub that he had a ministry assignment that would be a perfect fit for his talents and mission call. In addition, there was a good salary and benefits. Even housing was provided! I invited Yacoub to call and hear about the opportunity and then to prayerfully discern if this was an open door from the Lord.

I also prayed. I wondered what I would do if I was Yacoub. What if I was an immigrant to America? What if I had a wife and two small children? What if I never raised my ministry support before? What if I had to step out of my Middle Eastern cultural comfort zone and ask people I am just beginning to know to support me with prayer, time, and money? What would I do? What would Yacoub do?

A week passed. I was preparing to bless my friend, whatever he decided, with no judgment.

We met in my office and I asked Yacoub what he had decided. Without a moment’s hesitation, he looked at me with joy and said, “I told you the Lord called me here. He will provide.”

I had hoped Yacoub and his wife had been called here. Now I knew they were here at the invitation of Jesus.

In the months since that watershed moment, the Lord has given Yacoub special favor with a specific people group in our community. In their home countries, they are considered unreached by the gospel by missiologists. Yet they are open to Yacoub and “friends of Yacoub who love Jesus,” who come to visit them alongside him. It has been a source of great joy to see Yacoub flourish and find authentic favor in our community.

What has blessed and stretched my faith has been the “unity amidst diversity” that I have seen expressed in the team which has come alongside Yacoub. This is the body of Christ at its best.

We at Faith Community Church are some of those “friends of Yacoub who love Jesus.” There are many such friends from other churches in our community and there is room for more.

It has been beautiful to witness these church partnerships in action with Yacoub and his ministry. I have also seen the Lord bring partners together as Faith Community Church discerned and launched a major ministry initiative about five years ago.

Pastor Ebenezer and Pastor Blake WoodSome key church leaders believed that God was calling us to become “a house of prayer for all nations.” I had crossed paths with Pastor Ebenezer (pictured with Blake Wood), a young pastor who grew up as a Congolese refugee in Rwanda, and later Kenya. He had only been in the United States for a few years. I began to sense that the Lord might be bringing us together for ministry, as part of that emerging house of prayer identity.

What penetrated my heart to the core was my new friend’s unshakable confidence that he could, and did, experience God’s supernatural provision and protection in answer to humble and hungry prayers. He had, I was soon to learn, the sort of God-confidence that is only forged in the fires of adversity. Ebenezer took a step of faith and joined our ministry team. I began to see prayers, his as well as mine, answered at a frequency and depth I had only imagined possible.

Faith Community Church has moved from dreaming of being “a house of prayer for all nations” to walking in that identity. One of our fundamental values, in addition to praying for the nations of the world in a 24/7 prayer setting, is to be a prayer ministry that is shaped by the nations.

Too often I have thought of the “one body, many parts” imagery in 1 Corinthians 12 as being limited to individuals with unique and diverse spiritual gifts. We need those gifts. But I have a growing appreciation for how God is bringing together all the parts of the body for his glory. That includes those parts of the body that have been gifted not only by the Spirit’s empowerment, like a gift of administration, but also by the Spirit’s redemption of life experience, like a gift of faith birthed in a refugee crisis.

God is calling us to do more than simply welcome immigrant brothers and sisters to participate. Instead, we need to humbly recognize that God has prepared them uniquely to be influencers and leaders. My experience has been that too often a ministry feels we have fulfilled our Christian duty if we “welcome” everyone. But it requires a whole new level of faith to invite into leadership, and submit to that leadership, sisters and brothers from a different cultural frame of reference.

We don’t have the same understanding of time. We don’t have the same appreciation for order. We don’t have the same definition of success. But we also don’t have all the same fears; nor all the same stumbling blocks; nor the same complacencies. God has uniquely and divinely shaped them through their home cultures. He has shaped them through the testing of their faith. He has made them to be an indispensable part of his body and we neglect their full contribution to the detriment of God’s mission.

Because of these beautiful connections and partnerships that only the Lord could orchestrate, God is doing much more than I could have hoped or imagined.

Blake Wood is Lead Pastor of Faith Community Church, Harrisonburg, Va., a congregational partner of VMMissions.