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Relentless Pursuit

S3E6: Do You Believe in Miracles?

60 minutes

Do you believe in miracles? Muslims do. Rafik is a Pioneers area leader who is responsible for teams in North Africa, one of the most challenging and volatile parts of the world. On this episode of the podcast, Rafik regales us with amazing stories of Muslim seekers coming to faith—stories that sound like they were pulled from the Book of Acts.

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Show Notes

Do you believe in miracles? Muslims do. Rafik is a Pioneers area leader who is responsible for teams in North Africa, one of the most challenging and volatile parts of the world. On this episode of the podcast, Rafik regales us with amazing stories of Muslim seekers coming to faith—stories that sound like they were pulled from the Book of Acts.

**Bonus Content** Gedo’s persecutors thought their efforts would keep him quiet. They were sorely mistaken.

For more stories like the ones Rafik told in this episode, check out our free online book, Googling Jesus, which includes nine accounts from around the world of people coming to faith through online evangelism and discipleship.

Check out the Maverick podcast, a story of an emerging movement of multiplying disciples in Central Africa.

Social media gets a bad rap as a waste time at best and an intrusive tool for advertisers and political agitators. But in some parts of the world, it’s where people go to get answers to their spiritual questions in an anonymous environment. Find out how media outreach works with our brief explainer video.

Ready to take the next step, but not sure what it looks like? Schedule a call with our team or chat today.

Bonus Content

When Gedo came to faith, his family became abusive. But their resistance had the opposite effect, making Gedo more bold and confounding his persecutors—some of whom decided to follow Jesus as well.

When Persecution Backfires

Episode Transcription

Rafik (00:01):

God himself enjoys to use someone like you and me to be the channel that bring the good news to someone else who doesn't know anything about the truth.

Matt (00:16):

This is the Relentless Pursuit podcast where we hear stories from cross-cultural workers on what it's really like to be a missionary, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Well, in this episode we have a chance to sit down with Rafik who is a pioneer's area leader serving in the Middle East. The unique thing about Rafik is that he is a native of the Middle East, and so you'll notice that from his accent, but he's got some pretty amazing stories about what God is doing in that part

Jess (00:44):

Of the world, and you always hear those stories where like, oh, I heard from a pastor who heard from a missionary who heard from a local person, and there's like 12 degrees of separation between you and the person that the story actually happened to write. But in Rafik's case, the stories are basically secondhand. These are all people that have come through his ministry that have connected with him and with his team, and so there's really basically just two degrees of separation between us and what we are hearing about what is actually happening on the ground, the miraculous ways that the Lord is working in people's lives. And so we're going to start off with one of Rafik's stories today.

Rafik (01:22):

Well, one of the ways that the Lord is working in the hearts of the majority people in the Middle East is through dreams and visions. So this is Gabor in one of the countries in the Middle East, decided to go to the holy land of Saudi Arabia. He got a job there and he was working as a carpenter there, and while he's working to build homes and in the construction, he suddenly saw the sign of the cross in every object he is using in his job a hammer, he see the cross over the hammer. If he's having a piece of wood, he's seeing the cross over the piece of wood. If he looks everywhere, he sees the sign of the cross wherever he goes. Then he got so worried about himself, he called his Muslim friend and he told him, Mohamed, do you see what I see?


He told him, what do you see Gabor? He said, I see the cross everywhere. He said, no, no, no, no. I don't see that at all. And remember that you are in Saudi Arabia. The cross doesn't come here. I said, okay. And then he keeps looking around and he sees the cross, and then he got so worried about himself because it is kind of a new thing for him to do to happen, and he was not used to that kind of seeing the cross. So as he was seeing the cross everywhere, every day he called Mohamed his friend, and he told him, listen, we have to do something because I'm worried about myself. I don't know what is going on. Then Mohammad, his friend, told him, okay, we have to do the pilgrimage to Mecca and in the holy land, Allah is there or God is there, and you will not see the cross there.


And he said, okay, when can we go? He said, we're going to go next week. He went to the Holy Land of Mecca, and while they're kind of taking circle around the black stone in Mecca, he looked suddenly onto the sky up there and he said, Mohammad, do you see there is a big cross over in the sky here? Ham got so embarrassed because it's full of people, and he told him, stop saying that we're in the holy land and there is no cross in the holy land of Mecca and Ham gets so worried about his friend Gabor. Then he decided to take him to see a sheikh in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and he told the sheikh, listen, my friend Gabor is seeing this cross everywhere. What can you do as a sheikh to heal him from what he's seeing? Then Gabor was meeting the sheikh and he told him about what is happening to him in the last couple of weeks.


Then he told him, aha, it seemed that you are possessed by a Christian demon, so the way we can cast away the demon from you is to read the book of the Koran and someone from my team is going to beat the demon in your body. So what is happening at this point? They put him on a special seat and the sheikh start to read the Koran, another person getting the stick and start to beat Gabor so, so much Gabor was suffering from the beating and his body couldn't take any more beats, and he said to the sheikh, listen, this is enough. I cannot stand be here more than that. Stop reading the Koran and you stop beating me because I'm in great pain right now. And he left. Well, Mohammad and Gabor start to talk. He's still seeing the crosses everywhere. Then he said, Mohammad said together, I know another sheikh in another country.


Let's go there and see what he's going to do to you. Well, they left the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, went to another country and then went to another sheikh. The same thing happened to Gabor. The sheikh told him, we're going to read the Koran. You are bosses with the Christian demon. We're going to be to you until the demon leaving you. Then Gabor said, no, there is no way I can go through that again. Thank you very much. And every time he goes to a sheikh, he pays a lot of money. It's not for free, so it costs him tons of money to do that. Then Mohammad said together, well, I got to know from my Christian friend there is pastor can pray for you and can cast the demon if you have a demon. So why you don't come with me and see this pastor and he's going to meet with you, talk with you, and then if you have a demon, he's going to pray over you and you'll be fine.


He said, let's go to the pastor. And then they went to the pastor in a church and then the pastor listened to the story and the pastor said, Gabor, listen, Gabor, you are not possessed with any demon. You are very, very special person and God wants to have sent a special message to you. Would you mind if you can listen to God and ask him, what is the message you want me to receive from you? Open my eyes and help me to understand it. And then here is the Bible. Start to read the Bible and let's meet in another week from now at my office and see what is going on.


Gabor said, thank you very much. Receive the Bible, went back home and he start to pray to God, what is the special message you want to give me? I start to read the Bible. He called the pastor in a week and told him, I have to meet with you again. He met with him and he told him, I've been reading the Bible every day. It is overwhelming. I know Jesus Christ is God. What can I do to follow Jesus? They prayed together, Gabor gave his life to the Lord, and he became in a very close strong relationship with the Lord and he doesn't see the cross in every object after that. So that was it. This is one of miraculous ways that Jesus is dealing with so many people over the Middle East.

Matt (08:22):

That's amazing. Are these people already spiritually seeking or are these people just having these experiences out of the blue and particularly I'm thinking of Gabor, this man whose story you just told.

Rafik (08:38):

Yeah, well, Matt, what we've seen, there are three kind of people in the Middle East: very religious people who are not interested at all in the Christian faith. Those that the Lord, we feel that he's calling them to follow him, so he does something unusual with these people to draw their attention to him. And the third kind of people that we've seen that they are true seekers and they want to know the truth. There is something happened in their lives in the past and there is a great desire inside them to know who is Jesus Christ. They're looking for the true God and they're searching about him and the way they're searching about him. They ask people, they ask Christians, they go to the media and search about the Lord through the media, and media could be a TV program, it could be a video in the internet and so on.


So sometimes they meet Christian people face-to-face and sometimes they go to the church and search, where can I find a pastor or a Christian leader or someone who can answer the question that I have and so on. So different kind of people and the Lord really when you look at him and know what is happening, he doesn't need people to use to convince others to know Jesus. He doesn't need our help. He can do everything by himself. But what I discovered that it is a great honor for some people like you and me to be used by God. God himself enjoys to use someone like you and me to be the channel that bring the good news to someone else who doesn't know anything about the truth.

Jess (10:46):

Wow. So I'm so curious, how did you hear Gabor's story? Is this someone personally or ...?

Rafik (10:53):

Well, before he went to see the pastor, he was searching online and he met with one of our team members and told him, I really need to meet someone. This is my problem, what can I do? So one of our team members met with him face-to-face and start to listen to him and he's the one introduced him to the pastor in the church and kind of became the middle person between Gabor, Mohammad from one side and the pastor from the other side. So that was kind of the connection he was searching online. Met was one of our team members and we get to know his story from that and after he came to the Lord, he asked to be baptized. So all our team members went to the church and we've kind of witnessed his baptism in the church

Matt (11:50):

And that's a very significant decision to be baptized. And maybe you can go into more detail about the importance of that decision for someone who has been brought up in a Muslim context, in a Muslim family and probably has been told about the dangers of associating with Christians and even what it means when you're baptized.

Rafik (12:17):

Well, when they read about the Bible, and when they are discipled by someone, they go through lessons from the Bible and they discover there is something called the baptism, and if Jesus baptized this, it means I'm a new Christian now I need to be baptized like Jesus. So they get this kind of strong desire to be baptized. And for a Muslim, if anybody wants to be a Muslim, they have to do the shahadah. The shahadah means a statement of faith. There is no God by Allah and Muhammad is his messenger. If any person said that, two shahadahs, that's it. That's it. So there is something they have to do to become Muslims. So in the mindset of the ex-Muslim, he has to do something to be a Christian. So one of the ways is to believe in Jesus and to pray, asking for the salvation. That's one thing. And the other thing for them is the baptism. The baptism is kind of a very strong act. If he does it this, it means he became, from his point of view, from the back of his belief, if I get baptized this kind of the seal that I became belong to Jesus and I became now Christian.


So it is hard. Yes, absolutely. Because if someone coming from a Muslim background, first of all, if they start to doubt about the Muslim faith, that is a shaking thing inside them. It's not easy. And if that creates some questions, he's in general not allowed to really ask any question that can bring doubt into him about the Islamic faith. So they are not encouraged to ask questions, but if they overcome that kind of step, they can be brave enough to make a decision and then to be baptized. So, for a Muslim or an ex-Muslim to take the action to reject the old faith and to follow Jesus Christ, that's a great step. And if they decided after that to be baptized, that is kind of a second step to confirm their decision and total rejection to an old faith and total openness to follow Jesus Christ as a savior.

Jess (15:14):

What about for Rafik? How did you come to know the Lord?

Rafik (15:19):

Well, for me, I came from a Christian background, a minority in one of the countries in the Middle East, and I get to know the Lord as Savior when I was in middle school. So I went to a church and one time the pastor was talking about the second coming of Jesus Christ, and when I was listening to the speaker at that moment, he said, there is no really third option. It is only you have two options to guarantee the eternal life either to be with Jesus Christ forever or to be with the devil forever. And he said the word forever. It doesn't mean one year, 10 years or a hundred years, it is forever. It has no end if you lose your life for whatever reason now, where would you like to spend your eternal life? With Jesus or with the devil? That question really struck my attention.


I was thinking a lot about the answer for this question, and then I went home and all what I'm thinking, how I'm going to spend my eternal life, is it with Jesus Christ or with the devil forever and forever? It means it has no end. On that night, I remember very well, I went to my room and I start to cry and cry and cry and I say, Jesus, would you accept someone like me to be with you forever? I am really willing to spend all my life serving you and belong to you, and I'm going to give you my life and you use it the way you want for the future. I am between your hands. And I gave my life to the Lord on that night and I became belonged to the Lord. So since that time until today, I finished my school, I got my degree or my three degrees, and then I decided to be in full-time in ministry serving the Lord.

Matt (17:52):

It's a great story.

Jess (17:53):

Story. Cool. Yeah, I mean, I guess when you first decided in your room that night and you're like, I'm going to serve you forever, Lord, that didn't necessarily equal in your brain, i.e. I will be a leader with a missions organization in the Middle East serving in media and in outreach. So it's probably not the first thing that you picked on.

Rafik (18:14):

I was young, I was 13, 14 years old. I had no clue what the Lord had in store for me, and I was not thinking at all about joining a mission organization. That was not a thought in my mind, but the Lord took it really step by step in my life and he was leading me from one thing to the other and until I became involved in the ministry that he entrusted me. So this is what happened.

Matt (18:46):

Tell us a little bit, you hinted at and mentioned in Gabor's story how he had been online interacting with people from your team, and I'm not sure if our listeners are familiar with this idea of people in the Middle East who are spiritually seeking for answers or who might be going through a life crisis and they're going to the internet to find answers to their questions. And can you talk a little bit about what that ministry looks like of finding people online who are spiritually seeking and then moving them into a place where they can actually have a relationship with someone who's a believer and find out more about the gospel?

Rafik (19:30):

Sure. Well, what we do in media, media organizations in the past, what they did, they got an idea of a video and they make a video and they air it online or on the TV, and they hope that a lot of people will watch that and then that's it. They have no idea who watched that video on a TV or online and what is the outcome of this? Did that person become closer to the Lord or what? We have no idea. So when we transferred or switched from the TV production into the online production, that enabled us to measure the effect and the impact of our production. For example, we started to study the persona concept. So we don't produce a video that fit all the people, all the background all over the Arab world. No, we don't do that. We divided our audience into smaller segments, and every segment is a group of people, and we call that a persona what we do with the persona, we study every persona really, really well.


For example, abused women in the Arab world. We start to study this persona and we need to figure out what is the main need for this typical persona. Once we discover the need, we produce a video that can fulfill that need, and we market that video very well online. Our target group, we know, abused women, then we ask them what we call in our terminology, a call to action, what is call to action means. We explain in the video the real problem and how to fulfill a solution for the problem or identify a need and how to fulfill that need. And we ask them, if you are suffering from the same problem that you've seen in the video and you need the help, fill out this survey, a short survey online, send it to us and we will connect with you. And that is the start of our relationship with our audience.


So as much as you can market the video, you will see more and more contacts or high traffic to the video, and then we filter them. We put two, three filters to identify who from that target group, the abused women, is really open for the Christian faith and the really sincere to know more. And then we get in touch with these people. We spend time to build trust online and then offer to them, or they ask us, I need to meet someone face-to-face. And once that happen, we provide this service for them and meet with our members or our partners on the ground all over the Arab world. And we feed back our response system with what happened with every contact that we meet, where are they stand now? Have we explained the gospel 100% for them one time, two times, 10 times, and how their reaction to the gospel have they take any action or not yet and so on.


We start to go with them for a long journey. And that journey could be one month and some people they take five years. We don't know how long it's going to take. It depends where they are standing in their journey with the Lord. But we know once we meet with them more than 90%, that person is going to be a follower of Christ because it takes so much energy and effort from every contact to get in touch with us and to agree to meet with us face-to-face on the ground. So we walk the journey with them until we see them following the Lord Jesus and they belong to a body of Christ somewhere in the world, wherever it is available for them to join a church or a group of people where they can belong to grow in their faith with this group. And if it is not available for them to meet the body of Christ face-to-face or on ground, we offer the option that they can join us online. So we spend a long time studying the word of God together in a group set up online, and we see the progress in their lives and we encourage them to obey to the Lord in their devotion time every day and also share what they've learned with someone else. By doing that, we are guaranteeing that they are being discipled really well. They obeyed the word of God and they being used by the Holy Spirit to share the faith with another person. I hope that I answer your question.

Matt (25:18):

Yes, you did. I think it's just amazing how we've been able to move in the last 20 years or so, or even less than that from this idea of mass marketing where you're sending out the message very broadly, but it's reaching a lot of people who have no interest or might actually be very opposed to it or resistant to it, but this way is very personal, and it's finding people who are already asking questions and are already seeking for spiritual answers. And I think that's an amazing, because this is not what this in technology was intended for. This technology was intended for social networking, for making money from advertising, for all sorts of entertainment purposes, and that you are using this to actually grow the kingdom of God and find spiritual seekers. I think that that's pretty amazing. It's pretty cool to hear these stories of what God is doing through this technology.

Rafik (26:22):

So the main purpose really, or the difference between our media and the secular media, usually the mass media or the secular media is a push media. They have something and they push the information in front of your face and they want you to know something.


But the pull media, I am giving you something to attract your attention and a teaser that gives you a little bit of a taste so you can have more, and you follow me, I'm pulling you so we can have one-on-one conversation that we can offer you a better thing from what you know or what you have at the moment that you will be saved and you will have a relationship with the King of kings Lord of lords. You will have a wonderful kind of special relationship with the Father and the Son. You would be adapted into the kingdom of God. So it's really something totally different from what they can see outside of the Christian media.

Matt (27:34):

I think also this is uniquely relevant for working with Muslims because the social pressure makes it very difficult for them to go to a church or to go seek out a spiritual leader or Christian that they might hear about, but they can do this with anonymity and safety until they're at a place where they're willing to take greater risks, and they can find answers to their questions without arousing suspicion from people around them. And it seems like it's a uniquely useful way of reaching people in places where there's a lot of resistance.

Rafik (28:17):

Absolutely. Matt, do you know what happened? We've been in touch with people, and people are in touch with us from their workplace, like they do have their smartphone or a computer in front of eyes and they can open a window on the corner of their screen, and that is maybe the online Bible study group. And when they have their earplugs inside and they can listen to what is going on, and sometimes they say, I'm in the workplace, I cannot speak out loud now, but I'm going to text you my question or whatever. And through it is really, really a safe environment to connect with the true seekers and those who are willing to know more about the Christian faith. So I would say the internet, the media in general opened a great door for us to tackle and get in touch with so many people from the majority background in the Arab world. They want to know Jesus.

Jess (29:23):

Yeah. You say the Arab world, and you've been talking about the Middle East, but I also know the Middle East is lots of different countries, lots of different ethnic groups. It's even some different languages. And so how do you reach out to all the different sorts of variety of people that might come across your media?

Rafik (29:43):

Well, through the persona concept that we are following, we focus on particular people, group or geographical area, like let's say we're going to focus on a media campaign, we'll focus on people in Morocco, another media campaign focus on maybe the whole North Africa that is Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. Another media campaign can focus on the Middle East, the Arabian peninsula, the Levant countries and so on. We have in the Arab world, 21 Arab countries and the total population more than 410 million Muslims in that region. So we have different people groups. We do have different beliefs. Our media team, very, very clever. They have great experience, what to do at the right time, to the right people in the right place. So we divide our efforts and we can run up to 20 media campaign at the same time. And in our team, every group of people from our team, they focus on particular geographical area at the same time. So this is how we are doing it, Jess.

Jess (31:09):

Yeah. Yeah. I mean I love how you have this crazy balance of strategy and technology and some of these very savvy different tools that you can use, but then you're balancing with this side of we want to meet you individually and hear your story and love on you and meet you face to face. And so then it's really balanced by such a personal aspect to your ministry and how you really are looking for opportunities to show people this is what it means to be a child of God, to have this relationship with the Father and with Jesus. And so I just love how those two things are such the driving force and the tools that you are using in your guys' media is really cool to hear about.

Matt (31:55):

It's also amazing to add this third element of the supernatural where there's people that are seeing crosses in construction sites or having a dream or a vision or something like that. It's really hard to argue with the idea that God is really seeking out Muslims and he's using all these tools at his disposal. He's using supernatural experiences, he's using internet technology. I think Rafik a lot of people, maybe even in our audience, have the perception that people in Muslim countries are resistant to the gospel because of maybe what they see in the media or the stereotypes that they have in their mind about Muslims. But I know some of the stories that you tell seem to indicate that there's a lot of spiritual hunger in the Muslim world, and then there's parts of the Muslim world where there is a church that it's growing that, and maybe it's being persecuted, but there's still a vibrant community of believers. So would you say that there is spiritual hunger in the Muslim world, and where are some of the places, if you can get into specifics or even just countries or people, groups that you see that God is really working among?

Rafik (33:16):

Well, you mentioned one word really struck my attention, Matt, the supernatural. And this is one of the ways that the Lord is working through the manifestation of Jesus Christ himself to some people. And I wouldn't believe what I'm sharing with you now if I heard it from a secondhand or a third hand, but this is what happened with us. We are encouraging people from indigenous Christians in the Arab world to be trained how to understand the word of God and how to share it with other people. And we run the first training for people from the Middle East. They're Christians, and this is the story of Mona. Mona was receiving this training and at the end of the period of the training, there is the practical application. So every participant kind of required from him or her to say, I want to share the gospel with certain people group in a certain locations. So Mona decided to go from the Middle East in an Arab country to Turkey to share her faith with the refugees that staying in Turkey.


She arrived there and it was a camp, refugees camp in Turkey. So she decided to go there, and once she went in, she found a lot of tents. So in the first tent, she arrived, knock at the door, and a lady opened the door of the tent for her and she said, my name is Mona, and I am here to chat with you and to visit you. Who are you? She said, ah, I am Fatima. I'm coming from Syria. She said, can I five minutes with you, Fatima? She said, yes, please come in. So Fatima opened the door and she hosted Mona, and Mona wants to share with her what she learned from the training program that she has been in. She forgot everything and she keep bumbling.


She really didn't say anything, and then she wants to break the silence in the tent with Fatima and her daughter. Then she start to say something really crazy from the side of her mind and she said, Fatima, do you know that there is someone loves you really, really very much to the degree he can search for you, find you carry you over his shoulders and run to the rest of the flock and bring you to your people? Fatima, she looked at Mona and she said, tell me more about that because this is my story. And Mona said to her, what do you mean by this is my story? What is your story? She said, my name is Fatima and I am married and I lost my husband and two children in the Civil War in Syria a couple of years ago, and it became extremely difficult for us to remain in Syria without a man.


So I have my daughter with me and we need to be in a safe place outside of Syria. So we start to think where can we go and it has to be a Muslim country and to be a safer country for us. As we start to talk and search, we found that Turkey could be the best option for us because it is not in the Arab world. It is in Europe and still a Muslim country, so we'll be safe in Turkey, but we don't know how to go from Syria to Turkey. We need help. So we found that in our community in Syria, there is a community leader. He can smuggle us from Turkey, from Syria to Turkey if we paid him some money. So we met with him and he asked for 4,000 euros for every person that wants to go to Turkey, we didn't have the money.


We start to knock on our network and we borrowed the money from everywhere for everybody we know, and we gave him 8,000 euros to take us. He said, next Thursday at five o'clock in the morning, we're going to meet in that particular place in Syria and we're going to start our journey to go to Turkey, so make sure that you and your daughter will be on the right time at the right place. We showed up and we found there is more than 50 other people will join us in our journey, smuggling ourselves to Turkey, and we start to march, and then suddenly our leader said, now we have to run as fast as we can to go from this point to the other point, and the way the right way to do that is through running as fast as possible and everybody start to run really fast.


But I'm an older lady, I am heavy and I'm walking with a cane, so I couldn't run. Then the leader got really angry at me and he screamed at me, say, Fatima, run, run, run. I looked at him and I told him, listen, son, I cannot run like everybody else. I'm an older lady, and then when I couldn't run, he asked me, give me your cane. I give him my cane. He broke the cane and threw as far as possible and looked at me and my daughter said, I will not risk the life of 50 people because of you. You will be here in the wilderness in the nowhere. I'm going to take everybody else to go to Turkey, and he left us alone and he took the rest of the group to Turkey. We sit on the ground and we start to cry. We said, now we are in the middle between Syria and Turkey.


We don't know where to go and we lost all our money. We don't know what to do. Suddenly we found that a handsome man, well-built, came from the nowhere, carried me on my shoulders, and he took the hands of my daughter and he said, Fatima, I will take you to Turkey. She looked at him and she said, son, who are you and how did you come here? He said, my name is Issa, which is the Muslim name of Jesus in the Koran. Someone else in Turkey is going to tell you more about me, and he run. He arrived the first one on the other side of Turkey, and he put her on the ground and suddenly he disappeared. She looked at her daughter, say, who is that Issa? I never heard about him, but I'm very eager when I go to Turkey. That one that I don't know is going to tell me more about Jesus, about Issa. Then the rest of the group arrived to Turkey and the community leader looked at Fatima and told her, how did you come here ahead of everybody? She told him, Issa brought me here. He didn't understand who is that Issa that brought her from Syria to Turkey. And she said, I am in the tent now, Mona, you must be the person that Isa told me about you. You're going to tell us about Jesus. Who is that? Jesus, tell us about him.


Then Mona opened the Bible and start to share with Fatima and her daughter about Jesus. At the end told her, do you want to accept Jesus and follow him? She said, absolutely. He's my Savior. He saved me from Syria to Turkey, and he is indeed God. What can I do to follow Jesus and become Christian. In the tent with Mona and her daughter, both of them give the life to the Lord. This is, I would say the supernatural of the Lord that when he appeared in person, manifested himself in the wilderness between Syria and Turkey to someone never, never heard about Christ before. So Jesus is working really in a supernatural way to manifest himself, draw people to him, to follow him.

Matt (43:33):

Yeah. I think for me that would be, those types of stories would be harder to believe or maybe to attribute to some other source if it weren't for every single one of them resulting in someone coming to faith in Jesus and someone who has no other incentive to do so, and these are people who have been faithful Muslims all their lives, and then they have this supernatural experience that results in them coming to faith. So it's not as though they go off into some strange cult or they become Muslims with other strange beliefs added in, but they walk away from the faith that they were brought up in, and they are come to faith in Jesus and are baptized and follow Jesus. It's hard to argue with stories like that when the results seem to be so clearly building the kingdom of God.

Rafik (44:32):

Absolutely, yeah, and one of the ways that the Lord is working in some parts of the world is through miracles. When we found that people were dying from an illness and Jesus comes to heal them. Another miracle that happened very, very, not far away from here from now, a couple of weeks ago in Africa, a tooktook driver, I'm with the tooktook. It is like a motorcycle covered with a shade, and in Africa they use that as a method of transportation.

Matt (45:16):

A Little taxi, kind of, huh?

Rafik (45:17):

Yeah. Yeah, a taxi.


So that took driver had a passenger in the backseat, and the distance was very, very long. He arrived in the nowhere and the passenger paid the money and left. When he left, he found that there is no gas station, and he ran out of gas, and he, at that time, do you know what happened? One of our missionaries gave him a SIM card that can put in his phone and listen to the Bible. During that time, he was listening about the miracle that Jesus did in the first wedding, that Jesus attended the Cana wedding, and when he transformed the water into wine, and then he said, that is amazing. Jesus made a miracle to convert water to wine, and then when he ran out of gas and there is no gas station there, he said, well, if Jesus is there and if he's really the true God and can transfer water into wine, he can transfer water into gas. Why not? Then he went to get up from a bucket, some water filled up with water. He opened the tank in his engine and he started to put in the tooktook engine water instead of gas, and he said, Jesus, please transfer this water into gas so I can go back home. Otherwise I'm going to die in this area. There is no one here. And then he start to run after the tooktook stop totally. It start to run, and that water in the tank took him from his place for two hours, drive back home.


Then he said, he is God, I'm going to follow him. If he can transfer my water into gas, that is a miracle. I'm going to follow that. God,

Jess (47:47):

Absolutely. Yeah.

Matt (47:49):

It's like stories in the New Testament there.

Rafik (47:52):


Jess (47:52):

Yeah. So much. One of the hopes for this podcast is that people who hear it would develop a heart, obviously for the nations, for the unreached, but also that some people might be inspired like, could I do this? Could I go? Could I serve in the Middle East? Could I serve in the Arab world? Right? But I have to say that the first thing that people are obviously going to picture when they picture going to the Middle East or serving in the Arab world is, am I going to get blown up, am I going to get, am I run into a radicalized terrorist? Are they going to just hate on me because I'm a woman? And there are some of these really, really strong stereotypes that especially here in the US we have, what could you say to people who have those kinds of fears or maybe running into that in their community and not getting a lot of support about wanting to serve in the Middle East?

Rafik (48:49):

Jess fear is, I think I suffer from fear most of my life. Fear is one element that the devil is using to control us, hindering us from listening to the voice of the Lord and obeying his call. So it is all in your head. If we cry out to the Lord and confess that Lord Jesus, take away my fear from me and use me the way you want, I'm open to go anywhere as long as you're going to go with me and I'm going to give myself to you, Lord, use me with your mighty power. And when we go depending on only the Lord, then the Lord is in control and he's going to drive and he's going to lead us to wherever he wants us to go to, and that is his work. So when we entrust God with our lives where it's going to take us to and let him to lead, he's going to use us in a very, very wonderful way. I cannot predict what is going to happen, but I know God is going to use us in a very powerful way.

Matt (50:17):

Amen. Well, thank you Rafik for that encouraging word, and I hope people that are asking questions about whether they could serve in place like this are encouraged by that and their faith grows because where there is great sin and great darkness, there's also grace that abounds for those who are obedient to follow Jesus to these dark places and challenging places. So that's very encouraging for us. As we wind down here, I want to ask you a few what we call quickfire questions, which are just some easy questions that will help people get a little glimpse into what you're about and what your personality is like. So here's the first one. Are you a coffee person or a tea person?

Rafik (51:07):

Both. Both. Before I got married, I was a tea person. After I got married, my wife changed me and I became a coffee person.

Matt (51:15):

Oh, okay.

Jess (51:17):

Good for her.

Matt (51:18):

I think that happens to a lot of us. Are you an early bird or a night owl?

Rafik (51:26):

These are hard questions. Before

Matt (51:29):

I thought I already asked all the hard questions.

Rafik (51:33):

Everybody in the Middle East is a night person or the majority of the people are night people. I used to be one, but now after I got married from someone from the west, she changed me and I became an early bird.

Matt (51:53):

Okay. Yeah. Now, if you do stay up late, what's your go-to snack? If you're going to stay up late and eat a late night snack? What are you going to eat?

Rafik (52:01):


Matt (52:02):


Rafik (52:03):

Yes. That's

Matt (52:03):

The first time we've heard that. Yes.

Jess (52:07):

Just plain yogurt? Just straight up?

Rafik (52:09):

I like fruit yogurt, so I get yogurt with peach or strawberry.

Matt (52:13):


Jess (52:13):

Oh, okay. Nice.

Matt (52:16):

So in your home country, what is your favorite local food to eat?

Rafik (52:24):

Falafel and shwarma.

Matt (52:25):

Oh, that's good.

Jess (52:27):

That sounds god.

Matt (52:27):

I'm getting hungry. What is a talent that you wish you had

Rafik (52:36):

To be music player.

Matt (52:38):

Oh, okay.

Rafik (52:39):

Drums player. I really, really want to do that. And I got a test and they said, I do have the rhythm, but I never played any instrument, so I really, I don't know when, but this is one of my goals to learn music instrument.

Matt (52:58):

Awesome. What is something that when you're away from home, you miss, what's a comfort from home that you miss?

Rafik (53:10):

The sunny atmosphere in the Middle East? When I get my own room and a desk and a great cup of coffee and be by myself in my room.

Matt (53:24):

Yeah, no crowds, huh?

Rafik (53:27):

Yeah. Well, that's very strange for someone from the Middle East because most of the people in the Middle East are kind of outgoing people. I'm very, very social extroverted. I am really the total opposite of that. So I'm very, very introverted. I like to be alone. I like to study. I like to get things d

Matt (53:51):

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Rafik (53:55):

A policeman.

Matt (53:55):

A policeman? Why is that? You wanted to be able to get the bad guys

Rafik (54:06):

To have justice in the community and get rid of the bad guys and to be in control.

Matt (54:17):

One more.

Jess (54:17):

We're seeing more and more of Rafik true personality come out.

Matt (54:23):

One more question. What do you think is the hardest challenge that you've ever faced?

Rafik (54:33):

Growing up in a community or an area like the Middle East, there is always, always conflict and the fear of the future when we don't know what is going to happen to us. Is there going to be a war? Are we going to be killed or dying somewhere? How can we escape from that? So that kind of always in the back of my mind, growing up as a young child until today, we hear always, always a war or persecution,

Matt (55:10):


Rafik (55:11):


Matt (55:12):

That's something to keep in mind. I think those of us who live here in the West, that is not something that we always have in the back of our mind, but I just think of all the many people living in the Middle East, whether they're Muslim or Christian or some other background, have that always in the back of their mind because of the many conflicts and challenges there. So that's really a sobering thought.


Thank you so much for taking the time, Raffi, to chat with us and to really lift our vision of what God is doing and what he can do in the Middle East, and I hope that our listeners, it just explodes their imagination for ways that they might be able to get involved. So thank you so much for your time.

Rafik (55:54):

Well, thank you very much for having me. It was always fun to meet you guys.

Matt (55:59):

One of the things that really caught my attention in the conversation with Rafik was he said that he lived most of his life in fear. And I think that's probably the experience for a lot of people in the Middle East, whether they're Christian or whether they're Muslim. And this bonus story that we have in our show notes, I want to encourage you to check it out, is a story that Rafik shares from someone who did undergo persecution and what happened as a result of that.

Jess (56:25):

I think it's so cool to hear stories like this from someone who is in the Middle East who grew up in that context, and we get to just hear these stories that we honestly don't really hear a lot of in the us, right Matt? I mean, it's a little bit out of almost our comfort zone. We're like, whoa, is it okay to say that God does those things? Is it okay to say that God works these kinds of miracles? So it's just really so cool to be able to get a glimpse into almost another world of what it means to really live by faith,

Matt (56:59):

Right? And I'm naturally a skeptical person, I have to say. So hearing these stories does kind of poke at that part of me. But I'm always reminded of the similarity of these stories with the stories that I read in the New Testament and even the Old Testament, and that reminds me that, hey, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So there's nothing stopping him from doing the same things that he did back then today. And I think also the fact that these stories do lead to people coming to authentic faith in Jesus and then spreading the word to others, it's hard to argue with the results of these stories as wild and outlandish as they might seem to be begin with. I want to encourage you to check out our show notes because we have some links there to two resources in particular. One is a free ebook download of a book called Googling Jesus.


And this is just a book full of stories about people that went to Pioneers ministry websites having spiritual questions in their mind, and they found those answers and ultimately came to faith in Jesus as a result of connecting to some of our teams that are on the ground doing discipleship ministry. But it all happened because of their online research looking for spiritual answers to their spiritual questions. So check out Googling Jesus. It's in our show notes. Also, we have several videos that there are links to there. One is What is Media Outreach? And that'll give you kind of a snapshot of what ministry looks like in parts of the world where it's difficult for people to actually seek out the church or Christians because of the oppressive environment they're in or because of resistance. But they're able to do this by looking for answers online. And so What Is Media Outreach video really shows you the nuts and bolts of how that works, and I encourage you to check that out along with other resources that we have

Jess (58:46):

In our show notes. Thanks for following us on this episode of the Relentless Pursuit Podcast. Our goal is to make missions accessible to show that it's not just reserved for elite super Christians. If you want to be involved, just go to and answer a few questions. We have a team who would love to help you discern your calling and what your next steps might be.

Matt (59:08):

At Pioneers, we love to partner with local churches and send teams to people groups with little or no access to the gospel. Keep up with what God is doing by following us on Instagram, Facebook, X, and YouTube, all at Pioneers usa, one word or visit Thanks for listening.