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A Christar “Adjunct” in the Middle East

A Christar “Adjunct” in the Middle East

Joel* has always been interested in the Middle East. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Middle East studies and spent time in several countries in the region through his work. And, he and his wife have long supported missions. But, in his retirement, Joel has been able to get involved in ministry in the Middle East in a more personal way—one that’s brought blessing not only to workers on the field but to him as well.  

In 2015, after Joel stopped working, he took part in Perspectives, a 15-week course on how every believer can be part the story of God using His people to be a blessing to all the peoples of the earth, at his church. “It really lit the fire in me to realize what percentage of the world doesn’t have God’s Word,” he recalls.

After the course, the church asked for volunteers to travel to the Middle East and join Christar worker Melanie in her work for a couple weeks. Joel jumped at the chance! Joel and his wife had first heard about Christar back in 1982 when they lived in Greece; and later, Joel’s wife had joined Melanie’s support team. Joel eagerly anticipated experiencing her ministry firsthand.

For 10 days, the team worked almost nonstop, leading VBS, teaching virtual high school classes and sharing meals with believing refugee families. “Those meals reminded me of what the early church must have been like,” Joel says. “We ate, talked and shared. I was overwhelmed by the sacrifices and challenges these people had faced in leaving [their home country] because of religious persecution.”

After that trip, Joel started looking for another opportunity to serve overseas with Christar. Melanie moved from the Middle East to Spain, but because of Joel’s interest in the Middle East he decided to contact Christar directly to get in touch with another worker. A Christar member serving at the CMCUS connected Joel, with Frank, who also ministers in the Middle East, and they began to correspond.

When Frank requested help with a conference that would allow Christar workers serving in the region to gather in person to make plans and set goals, Joel was again eager to go, even though he had never met any of the people involved face to face. This second trip did not turn out quite like he expected, however. He’d planned to travel and work with a couple that had previously lived in the country, and thus spoke some of the language. But, when this couple was denied reentry, Joel found himself traveling alone.

Despite the change of plans, Joel knew God would take care of him, and he saw this clearly before he even arrived at his final destination. On his way from the capital city to meet Frank in the resort area where the conference would be held, Joel had to navigate subway and bus systems on his own without knowing the local language. But despite some hiccups, the men arrived within minutes of each other. “I saw God’s hand working and directing everything in that situation!” Joel says as he recalls this adventure.

Joel served the main childcare worker at the conference, in place of the couple he was supposed to travel with. But God provided another English-speaking couple to help him in this unexpected responsibility, and the kids and teens were very cooperative.

After that conference, Joel set aside his plans to take in some of the tourist attractions in the area so that he could stay longer to help Frank with the cooking for a men’s gathering. “I enjoyed talking to people from several countries at the men’s conference,” Joel shares. “I found this to be very meaningful and it helped me to understand how Christar has to balance cultural issues with the mission. I was sorry to leave before the end of the meetings. I do love those people [in the Middle East].”

In 2019, Joel had the chance to again work with Frank at a conference, but this time much closer to home at a gathering for Iranian immigrants and refugees in Texas hosted by a local Iranian church. As in the Middle East, Joel’s role included working with the children of those attending the sessions, holding a VBS-style program for them.

Joel calls himself an “adjunct,” helping out short term when needed. He observes, “The biggest advantage of short-term service is that it is possible to experience life in the field and then return to tell everyone what is happening from a personal point of view that relates to current events that may not get accurate coverage through the media.”

He adds that he has always had a high regard for Christar, especially regarding the way they have taken the reins in dealing with the refugee crisis in recent years. “I like the way that Christar tries to show people Christ through building relationships.”

Joel urges other Christar prayer partners and financial supporters to consider getting even more directly involved. “Be in touch with Christar; don’t be afraid to go. It’s worth it!” he said.

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