What if you couldn't change your religion any more than you could change your eye color?
Before I worked for Cru, I lived in a place where your religion, or more accurately your parents’ religion, is printed on your birth certificate and all government identification. Your religion is just like your features, inherited from your parents and seemingly permanent.
Talking about the gospel can be incredibly difficult in places like this, where religion and culture are so deeply intertwined.
This #GivingTuesday, Cru is asking for donations that will provide funding to staff living in regions like the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia — places where people are born into a religion and kept from exploring any further.
#GivingTuesday follows Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday — days that have been designated for shopping. We’re asking that, on Nov. 27, you prayerfully consider giving a donation that could change the lives of people in oppressed regions throughout the globe.
Many in these areas can’t fathom the idea of following a faith different from their parents’. They inherit their religion and grow up hearing misunderstandings and falsehoods about Christian beliefs.
For them, the gospel isn’t a freeing truth, but trivial information about the way people born into Christian homes live their lives.
While living overseas, people often asked me why Christians worship three separate Gods or why the Trinity is made up of a father, mother and son. No matter how this misinformation spreads, it leads many to see Christianity as absurd at best or dangerous at worst.
In many regions of the world, evangelism or conversion to another religion is not only difficult, it’s illegal. Where it isn’t illegal, it’s frowned upon. This forces Christians to choose between keeping their new faith a secret and being disowned — or even harmed — by their family.
In these oppressed countries, it’s difficult for missionaries to raise funding and do ministry. But Cru staff go to these places anyway because of a calling God has placed on their lives to tell people, regardless of their religious background, that Jesus Christ loves them.
Not long ago, Nina* and Ann* were talking with their friend Amal* while on campus at a Middle Eastern university. During their conversation, they noticed a woman pacing nearby but continued talking with Amal about who God was to him.
Before Amal could even respond, the pacing woman came up to them and asked what many in Western countries would’ve seen as a harmless question.
“Are you missionaries?”
But for Nina and Ann, this question wasn’t harmless. They’d spent the last year working in a part of the world that’s hard to reach with the gospel. The answer to that question was dangerous and could’ve lead to being questioned by officials, to being kicked out of the country or even to being harmed.
As soon as the woman asked the question, Nina and Ann found themselves in a tight spot. They didn’t want to lie, but they also didn’t want to put themselves or their ministry at risk. After some thought, Nina asked the woman, Rafa*, “What would make you ask that?”
“Well, you were talking about God and Jesus, and that’s what missionaries do,” she said.
Nina explained that the Bible encourages all followers of Jesus to tell the world about Him, regardless of how the world sees them. Rafa seemed unsatisfied with this answer but exchanged information with Nina and left for class.
The next day, Nina and Ann met with Rafa in the university cafeteria. Only then did she reveal that she, too, was a Christian. A high school teacher had read the Bible with her five years earlier, and through that, she’d accepted Christ. Rafa had never told anyone but felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to talk about her faith with Nina and Ann.
The women then shared with Rafa that there were 15 other Christians on Rafa’s campus.
Rafa was not alone.
Since that day, Rafa has experienced Christian community, worship, discipleship and evangelism. She has found fellowship with other Christians across her home country. At a student retreat, she shared that she wanted to begin telling people about her faith. Not long after, she revealed her copy of the Bible to her brother.
“If people in our village knew you were reading that, you would be killed,” he told her.
Rather than turning her in, her brother also started reading the Bible.
So what can you do? Often, we hear what’s going on but not how to help. Just like Rafa’s story, God is doing amazing things all over the world, including in other places where it’s been difficult to share the gospel.
This #GivingTuesday, your gifts to Cru will be used to help keep staff in the mission field and allow more people in these areas to hear the gospel of Christ. Each gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $50,000. By praying or giving, you’re a vital part of what God is doing through our staff in oppressed countries.
It takes an average of only $200 per missionary per month to keep them fulfilling their calling. With $100,000 (if we meet the match), over 40 missionaries can remain in the field, preaching the gospel, for a whole year.
Your support allows those in hard-to-reach places to know the Lord. Would you prayerfully consider giving sacrificially to play an important role in the work of God?
*Names in this story have been changed for security.
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