When Abigail* heard Mark speak at a church about his desire to reach Kurds with the gospel and his plans to move to the Middle East to serve long term with Christar, she was compelled to share her family’s story. After his presentation, she approached Mark and told him how her brother had ministered cross-culturally through another organization in the same region God had placed on Mark’s heart. He’d served as a teacher and been well-loved by many in the Kurdish community. But, her brother’s ministry—and his life—had been cut painfully short. Six years after he arrived in the Middle East, he had been shot and killed by one of his students as he bowed his head to pray before class.
But even more poignant than this woman’s story of loss was the conclusion she and her family had reached. “We’ve experienced what every family fears the most,” she stated. “And Jesus is worth it.”
Despite a deep and heart-wrenching understanding of the potential cost of sharing the gospel in the place where her brother had served, Abigail and her family had been earnestly asking the Lord to raise up another believer to continue to take the good news to this region. Mark, who also planned to serve as a teacher, was the answer to that prayer. And though he too understood the dangers he could face, he came to the same conclusion: the gospel was worthy of the risk.
Since arriving on the field in early 2017, Mark has clearly witnessed the spiritual hunger in his community and been able to build relationships with Kurds who are open to talking about spiritual things. He and his team have prayed for the humanly impossible: that they’d see local friends embrace the gospel in spite of the cost. “Questioning the local religion can be a very dangerous decision for Kurds,” Mark explains. “Every aspect of life and culture here is dominated by Islam. To question or to turn away from the Islamic faith is both costly and even illegal.”
But as the months passed Mark and his team saw increasing tension in their region. Mark wrestled deeply with two questions: “Am I willing to get stuck in a country at war?” and “Am I truly willing to face anything for the sake of gospel work among these least-reached people?” Ultimately, the answer to both was “yes.”
“Thankfully, our God is so much bigger than our fears and He promises to give strength to the weak. The cost of staying in country could have been great, but the cost of leaving was even greater,” Mark explains. “What testimony would it have left in the minds of our Kurdish friends if the only believers they have ever known left in their moment of deepest need?” Trusting God and the wise council of other believers, the team opted to stay.
Shortly after Mark and his teammates decided they would remain, Mark received incredible news from Jared, a friend and former student: He’d placed his faith in Christ! “The excitement, hope and joy that flowed out of him as he explained what it means to follow Jesus was absolutely incredible,” Mark recalls. And it gave him new gratitude that he’d stayed. “Discovering that one of my dear Kurdish friends was now a brother instantly put everything into perspective. If we had left, who would be there to disciple Jared and to walk alongside him in his new faith?”
Like Mark and his team, Jared also faces a great risk for his faith in a region with only a handful of believers. Mark explains, “It is a very long and difficult journey when a Muslim becomes a believer because it will cost them everything. Following Jesus means that he is forsaking not only his father and mother, but his culture, his identity and his entire way of life. Persecution is a very real threat for believers like him.”
But he too has decided that Jesus is worth it.
Without workers who are willing to follow God’s call to bring the gospel to least-reached communities in spite of the risk, people like Jared—those willing to make great sacrifices to follow Christ—will remain without the opportunity to hear the good news. Join us in asking the Lord to give many of His followers the courage, strength and trust to serve Him despite the cost.
How can I get involved?
- Praise God for believers like Jared who’ve chosen to follow Jesus even though the cost is great.
- Ask God to raise up many believers willing to share the gospel in least-reached communities in spite of the risk.
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