This past September, I had the honor of attending the Diaspora Peoples of Europe (DPE) consultation in Athens, Greece. This consultation is hosted by an organization called Vision 5:9. Vision 5:9 derives its name from Revelation 5:9, in which Jesus is being worshiped by people from every tribe and language and people and nation. This organization has a specific focus on reaching Muslims with the Gospel.
The word “diaspora” refers to the movement of people across the earth who are separated from their homelands, so the participants in this consultation are missionaries and/or leaders of missions organizations who serve immigrants, refugees, migrants, and asylum-seekers. They are from many different countries around the world. Many of them are diaspora people themselves, and some of them are Muslim-background believers—people who were raised Muslim and then came to faith in Christ.
During the four-day consultation, we gathered for corporate worship, speakers, workshops, and networking/partnership formation. It was a great opportunity for all involved to fellowship and mutually encourage one another. I first became acquainted with this consultation community when I had been invited to give a plenary talk at their meeting in Istanbul in 2015. This year was my second time attending, and it was wonderful to be re-united with community members I had met in 2015. I was also able to share meals, worship, and conversation with some precious friends and mentors in the missional community.
CONDUCTING QUALITATIVE INTERVIEWS
My friend and colleague Dr. Leanne Dzubinski and I conducted research at this year’s consultation. We conducted qualitative interviews with approximately 20 of the consultation’s participants. Having never conducted qualitative research before in my life, I was uncertain as to what this experience would be like. However, through the course of the interviews, I felt as though God was wanting me to adopt a role that involved 1) listening and 2) honoring the stories of people who have so much more experience and wisdom than I do. We asked the participants questions/prompts such as “Tell me about your ministry experiences with diaspora peoples,” “What have you found to be effective in these ministry experiences?” and “What have you seen tried that was not effective?” We have recorded the interviews and will be interested to see what themes emerge from the data analysis. We are grateful to everyone who volunteered for an interview, both for their time as well as sharing their experience and perspective with us.
WORSHIP AND TESTIMONIES
Although I had to be in-and-out of the main consultation gathering because I was conducting interviews, one highlight that I tried to participate in each day was corporate worship. This was a very beautiful time each morning of the consultation. People from many different nations and tribes and languages were gathered together worshiping Jesus, so this felt like a taste of heaven.
The testimonies shared were very inspiring as well. Muslims especially are coming to faith in Christ in unprecedented numbers in recent years. For every story we see in the news about the horrific tragedies of “the refugee crisis”—which are undeniable, earthly realities—there is a supernatural story of what Jesus has been up to. In the midst of this refugee crisis, we experience both the fellowship of His suffering as well as the power of His resurrection. On prominent theme is that Jesus is appearing to people, revealing Himself to them through dreams and visions.
Stories of Hope
Many “stories of hope” were shared at the consultation, and I only wish I could share them all here. One example of a testimony was given by a woman from an African nation, which I’ll paraphrase. She was Muslim, and someone sent her a disturbing video on her cell phone. The video showed someone being beheaded in the name of Allah. She became very upset and said, “Allah, I will not follow you anymore” which she said is like a forbidden move in Islam, to doubt or disbelieve in this way. That night she went to sleep, and a man in white appeared to her in a dream. She said he was brilliant with light and said to her, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” She woke up from the dream in awe and wondered who this man was. I am the way, the truth, and the life – what does this mean? So… she googled it! These were words of Jesus. Who is this Jesus? The next night she had a dream where Jesus took her to heaven, and she said she didn’t have words to describe how beautiful it was there. She and her husband now have a social media ministry, where they hold out the word of Life via social media. They receive death threats but are willing to pay any price for the beauty of who Jesus is.
Due to security issues surrounding the consultation, we were not allowed to take any pictures of people, and I can’t mention people’s names. However, if you’d like to hear more stories similar to this testimony, Dreams and Visions by Tom Doyle is a great place to start.
If you or your church would like to become involved in serving refugees with your time/talent/treasure, here are a few practical pathways for doing so locally in Orange County:
- Books Not Bombs – http://www.books-not-bombs.com
Creating pathways so that students who are refugees can attend universities
- Suppers With Love – http://www.supperswithlove.com
Breaking bread together with Orange County families who are refugees
- Miry’s List – http://www.miryslist.org
Amazon wishlists for newly arrived refugee families in southern California
- The Syrian Circle – http://www.thesyriancircle.com
Focused intercession and curated news, specific to Syria
- World Relief – http://www.worldrelief.org
Refugee resettlement agency with an office in Garden Grove; opportunities for churches and individuals to volunteer and serve local families who are refugees