Feature

Building Platforms

An overview of the Europe/Middle East region of Alliance missions

By

The Europe/Middle East region encompasses many countries, multiple cultures, mixed economic and social spheres and varied religious backgrounds.

More than 160 U.S. C&MA workers serve in at least a dozen nations stretching from Great Britain to the Middle East, from North Africa to Russia and the frozen tundra of Siberia. The C&MA is represented in 20 countries in this region, and Alliance presence in the region continues to grow.

When North Americans think of Western Europe, many thoughts come to mind—an anti-U.S. stance, slowing economies, the European Union—but few would think of Western Europe as being spiritually needy. Yet this is the reality that Alliance workers in Spain, France and Germany face. Evangelicals in these countries represent fractions of 1 percent of the total population. Most people see religion, and Christianity especially, as a historical event, something from the past with no relevance to today’s world.

When North Americans think of Eastern Europe, other thoughts come to mind—communism, socialism, stagnant economies. Our workers in Russia, Poland and the Balkans (Bosnia Hercegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia) face uphill climbs in making inroads into these cultures, where one is born into a religion and there is, therefore, no need to make a choice. In all of these countries the percentages of evangelicals are less than one-half of one percent, and there is strong opposition from the local, traditional religions.

When North Americans think of creative-access countries in the Middle East and North Africa, thoughts of terrorism and oil wealth usually come to mind. It is true that we have personnel in some rather difficult contexts. Evangelicals there represent fractions of fractions of one percent.

There is, however, one common thread that our workers share in their church-planting, outreach and discipleship efforts: the need to build relationships. In Western Europe, Eastern Europe and creative-access countries, it is impossible to hand out Christian literature, show the JESUS film or hold an open-air campaign and expect to see immediate results. Our workers gain the right to be heard by developing relationships and earning people’s trust.

The Alliance has many cutting-edge approaches to building relationships in Europe and the Middle East: English camps in Spain, a university-student outreach in Berlin, community centers in the Balkans and other creative-access countries, partnerships with existing missions-minded churches in Russia and the list goes on. Why do we use such tools? To provide platforms to build relationships that lead to the opportunity to share faith.

Does it work? Definitely. I hear story after story from our workers who take time to build relationships with others. Eventually this leads to our workers being asked, “What is it about you that’s different?” People are coming to Christ!

As you read the following stories from this region, rejoice that this is happening. And pray that the Lord will create, enable and establish more opportunities for workers to build effective relationships with people all over this vast region. It takes time for this to happen, but the results are eternal.

Cover artwork for December 2005 December 2005

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