The Zwemer Institute: A Story Waiting to be Told
In Afghanistan in 1951 there was not a single Afghan believer. Today there are a thousand.
In a Muslim country in Southern Asia, Christian evangelistic work has gone on for over a century. In all those years, only a handful of people have become Christians. . . . Until last year when there was a sudden movement of the Holy Spirit, and several thousand Muslim families turned to the Lord and were baptized!
In a central African country, 35,000 Muslims recently professed faith in Christ.
As exciting as these and other similar stories are, many leaders of ministries to Muslims feel constrained to keep such news to themselves; they are afraid if they say too much they will destroy the very work they are trying to promote. As one executive put it, If we tell too much, we could put peoples lives at risk. On the other hand, by keeping their mouths shut, these same executives can push their agencies to the brink of financial ruin.
And therein lies a major problem: how to tell enough of the story that people believe you and want to support your ministry, but little enough that the Muslim community wont rise up in arms.
Some agencies tell the story but scrub the detailsA group of Muslims in an unnamed Asian country recently came to the Lord. Others feel it is better not to tell the story at all.
The Zwemer Institute for Muslim Studies has chosen the latter course and, according to Executive Director Robert Douglas, is probably $70,000 in the hole. We have a lot of unpaid bills.
If we werent dealing with the people we are, we wouldnt be in business, he admits. Our printer, for instance, is on our board, and thus has let the bills slide.
But red ink cant be spilled forever, so the Institute is cautiously venturing forth to tell its story for the first time . . . and seeking to raise $10,000 a month additional income in the process.
Telling the Story
We see ourselves with a worldwide task, Douglas said. We are clearly a North American-based organization, but were finding ourselves more and more relating to non-North American individuals, agencies, and churches and helping them highlight the challenge (of Muslim evangelism).
He paused a moment before asserting that the Institute is the only agency in the world devoted to facilitating, promoting, and doing training and research for ministry among Muslims wherever the need may be.
There are a few agencies, he said, that will do some of these things in a limited area; People International (formerly Gairdner Trust), for instance, promotes and prepares people for ministry among the Muslim peoples of Central Asia.
This fall alone they have courses scheduled for Atlanta; New York City; Salt Lake City; Norfolk; Fayetteville, North Carolina; Des Moines; and Madison, Wisconsin. They are also making arrangements to offer courses in Washington, D.C., Texas, and Minnesota.
Right now, close to 80 interns work on teams that minister among eight or nine different Muslim peoples in Southern California. The Institute wants to expand this work into San Francisco and Houston.
Currently, no one is coordinating the Adopt-A-People program for Muslims. If a church wanted to adopt a Muslim people for prayer or for planning how to put an evangelistic team within that group, theyd have nowhere to turn.
We feel (the Adopt-A-People program) is worthwhile, said Douglas, so we want to do something. One of the first things his staff is working on is a series of people-group profiles in a standard, useable format.
Ten years ago, there wasnt a single Muslim evangelism training course offered by an evangelical training school anywhere in the world, said Douglas. Today, Zwemer alone offers ten. Others are following suit.
In 1989, Zwemer plans to begin offering an M.A. in Muslim studies under the Asian Theological Society in Indonesia. Douglas said this will be the first time a graduate-level program in Muslim studies will be offered in an evangelical context anywhere in Asia. And to think that the majority of the worlds Muslims are in Asia!
Zwemer is also providing leadership in mission to Muslims through quality monographs and other publications.
Seven thousand Christians have taken the Institutes Muslim Awareness Seminar (MAS) and been helped to minister effectively to Muslims in their own communities.
A former literacy worker with Wycliffe Bible Translators was upset that she missed an MAS in her area: One of my Indonesian Christian friends attended your seminar and said it changed his entire outlook on Muslims! He had grown up to almost hate them and now he sees them as people, souls who need a Savior!
Five hundred people attended a recent MAS held in Atlanta. It was the most enlightening seminar I have ever been to concerning another religion, said one attendee. God used this to speak to me about wrong attitudes and concepts Ive had.
In the area of research, said Douglas, until recently, Zwemer staff have served almost exclusively as information brokers. People come to us saying, Were interested in ministry to Muslims, but where do we go? What do we do?
Weve helped them focus on an area, a people; helped them form teams; taught them what they need to do in order to get ready: how to get into the country, how to stay in, how to live and speak the gospel in that context . . . .
One of our leading researchers, Wahid Al Munir, called attention to the existence of the Sundanese people in Indonesiaprobab-ly the second largest Muslim people in the world with no significant evangelistic effort among them.
Al Munir pointed out who they are, where they are, and what their needs are. Now several teams work among them.
Al Munir said that another country, once described by Patrick Johnstone as probably the least evangelized in the world, is now being evangelized because of Zwemers research and promotion.
Al Munir said that Zwemer is currently helping to coordinate a pincer movement to begin work in a highly unevangelized group in southern Asia. By establishing teams in four or five strategic spots around the world, the Institute hopes eventually to break through the Iron, Bamboo, and Quranic curtains that surround this people.
But Money . . .
We need more people on our mailing list. Right now we have fewer than 6000 names on our list. Fewer than 1100 of those people have given anythingever, let alone regularlyto our ministry. We need more people who will at least look at our ministry and consider if God would want them to join us.
Besides money and a larger mailing list, Zwemer is also looking for the help of volunteers. Douglas said the agency can use help in research, in support roles, working with their computers, business administration, . . . you name it!
For further information, write or call: P.O. Box 365 Altadena, CA 91001 (818) 794-1121 Or see the Order Page (inside back cover).