On a recent video call with Nasser al’Qahtnai, Multiplies Regional Team Leader for North Africa and the Middle East, we heard about how the Church in these regions is living on mission during the current COVID-19 crisis.
“Nothing has really changed!” this global worker said. “My friends in the Middle East say that COVID-19 has made little difference. As believers, they were already taking their lives into their own hands just going to the grocery store!”
“To them,” he said, “that is normal.”
Nasser went on to tell the story of two sisters in the Middle East whose lives epitomize what normal Christianity looks like in this context. “They were excommunicated from their families,” he said, “and ended up at the one church in their city approved by the government. After a few weeks they asked the leaders if the services could go longer, so they could have more time to pray together.” The church leaders, being very busy men, felt that their normal service was quite long enough already.
Disappointed, the sisters decided to meet in their own small apartment. Before too long, others began to join them. Strange things began to happen,” said Nasser. “The Holy Spirit began to pour out his gifts and speak to them. Whatever they heard, they just obeyed,” he said. “They laid hands on people and saw healings. They followed God’s instructions to visit certain people and whole families came to Christ!”
After a while the sisters went back to the church leaders and told them what was happening. They asked, “‘Is this normal?” And the leaders told them “No, this is not normal. This is probably Satan!”
“Then COVID-19 hit their region,” Nasser went on to say. “The government shut down all buildings where religious meetings take place. That included the church building, and also all the mosques!”
In the wake of the COVID-19 restrictions, these two sisters realized that they had inadvertently founded a house church movement, and were uniquely equipped to continue to meet in small groups, care for the poor and elderly, drop off groceries and manifest such love and confidence that Muslim neighbors could not fail to notice.
In a place where evangelism can end in death, Christians in North Africa and the Middle East are redefining normal Christianity.