Great Things from a Small Beginning: Celebrating 25 Years of Ministry to Muslims
We had no idea how to organize a new mission agency. What practices should we take from other agencies? What innovations were called for? In the early days, some critics exclaimed, “Frontiers! Isn’t that the group that doesn’t believe in training? Isn’t that the irresponsible mission that will have ‘bodies strewn across the Muslim world’? They send people out with one way tickets!” We were not highly esteemed in those days. At least our bureaucracy was minimal. We told new workers already on their way, “After you get to the field you can finish the paper work!”
In those early days at the US Center for World Mission, the entire Frontiers staff was myself, plus Bob Sjogren, his brother Jack, Debbie Greenawalt, Donna and Beth (two single ladies Bob picked up on his way to Pasadena) and Gary Taylor. Gary left his posh job in Washington, D.C., a sacrifice I’ll never forget.
We rented two rooms on the US Center campus. Bob, back from Libya, slept in the shower room.
In May 1982, the North African Mission (Arab World Ministries) decided, “Greg, you must stop recruiting; we’re full.” Their system could only take so many applicants at a time. I thought, “Cut off my right arm, but don’t tell me to stop recruiting.” What was clear to me was that God was making His move to launch a harvest in the Muslim world.
So I walked the beach in Ventura for three weeks seeking God’s green light to start a new mission agency. “There are already many good agencies; why another, Lord?” I realized that there was no agency committed to ALL Muslim peoples, focused on church planting with ONLY Muslims. The need was focus.
I was 42—old enough to know it was not going to be fun. We didn’t have any money. I alone had experience among the staff. Being new (and from California) was not helpful to get donors or prayer partners!
Returning to the USCWM, I was immediately approached by Steve Holloway who invited me to take over the newly formed MIO-Maldives Islands Outreach. But I was an Arab World guy. I didn’t know much about the other Muslim regions.
In the meantime, Rick Love was looking for an agency for his vision. “Hey bro!” (he was from the beach community). “We’re going to the Sundanese.” I said “Great, I have a heart for Sudan.” Rick frowned, “Not Sudan, the 30 million Sundanese in Indonesia.” “Oh, right.” Then John announced that he was going to China. “This is a mission to Muslims.” I responded. “Yeah, we’re going to the Muslims in China!”
The parade of young people at the Center was determined to go where the Church wasn’t. They wanted to go to India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Sulawesi, Bahrain, Mauritania. Could they join Frontiers?
As self-appointed General Director all I did was see where the parade was going and run around in front of it.
Was there attrition? No more than any other agency. Most who stumbled, bounced back. As Dick Scoggins says, “Good people bounce back.” Most all of us in Frontiers have gone through disappointments and difficulties; what would one expect in pioneer church planting in new territory of Muslim lands? Did we fail to “be there” for some colleagues when they needed us? Of course. But we were committed to upgrading, and we did. Still today, we keep asking, how can we do it better?
Too soon to celebrate; too soon to quit.
I’m thankful that the 1100 adult members of Frontiers today are just as dissatisfied as I have always been. We will be until we see our Lord honored by a great harvest of Muslims bowing the knee to the Lord Jesus. Our third International Director is himself a “son of the USCWM”. He will push us “farther up, further in.” Why? Because if we are honest, this is no time to be satisfied with 160 house churches established among Muslims from Mauritania to Mindanao.