BLOG: Teapot Ministry

Written by Adam*, North Africa Edge Participant 2023

I recently had the privilege of taking part in AWM-Pioneers’ North Africa Edge short-term mission team. I learned so much about life and ministry in the Arab world through getting immersed in the cultural context and spending time with people.

Mission is all about relationship

The biggest thing that struck me is just how relational life is in the Arab world. This is something I knew in theory, but getting to see and experience it for myself was something else. We were overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity and hospitality! We were invited into so many people’s homes for endless cups of mint tea and mountains of amazing food. When you go to somebody’s house there’s an expectation that you’ll stay for at least a few hours – hanging out in the living room and talking about life, even having communal naps during the heat of the day! Everything is relational – ministry is no exception.

Strong relationships are foundational to ministry in the Arab world. If we show that we value others and take an interest in their lives, this will enable them to value us and to be curious about what we believe and why. If they sense that we aren’t interested in relationship, our message will seem to have little worth or integrity. Rather than our beliefs being met with interest, they may be met with defensiveness or even perceived as a threat. We can show that we value and honour people by choosing to spend time with them – particularly through showing and receiving hospitality. Spending a day with someone, eating, drinking tea and relaxing provides so much opportunity to speak into their lives, have deeper conversations about God and faith and to sow seeds of the gospel. You will also be immensely blessed by your friends and learn so much from them, their perspectives and generosity.

Strong relationships create a foundation that others will build on for years to come. On our Edge trip, we were welcomed with open arms because we were friends of the long-term workers who had already spent decades building friendships. They in turn had built on the relationships and reputation fostered by their predecessors. These relationships opened so many doors for the gospel and allowed us to enter into many contexts to which we wouldn’t otherwise have had access.

This emphasis on relationships also highlighted the need for unity and a sense of family in the Church. Christians from a Muslim background are often ostracised from their communities and families, which can leave them alienated and cut off from support. As Arab culture is so communal in nature, it’s important for the Church to be family to these people who have lost everything. Sadly, this is difficult in a context where it can be risky for believers to meet together and in which there is often a lot of disunity between different church groups.

A lesson for the western Church

In the West, we can learn a lot from this relational approach to life and ministry. One participant in the Edge team, who is involved in cross-cultural ministry in the UK, has already started to apply this learning in her own context. So often we limit relationships to appointments – perhaps a 60-minute coffee or a two-hour dinner. This participant has started to focus less on these appointments, and instead set aside afternoons or evenings to spend with people. This approach has already been bearing fruit, as her relationships have deepened and people have taken a greater interest in her faith.

What would it look like if we fostered this depth of relationship in our own church communities? Often, many of our relationships with fellow believers are constrained to the coffee time after a church service. This trip made me long to see greater depth of relationship in our churches – choosing to spend more time investing in one another, eating together and fostering worshipping communities that can be places of nurturing, growth and healing. Of course, there are churches in which this vision is already a reality, but this trip has helped me to think about how I might be able to contribute towards it in my own context.

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:46-47 (NIVUK)

The Bible was written in a culture far more relational than our own, so spending time in the Arab world will also give you greater insight into cultural factors that are present throughout Scripture. Through taking part in this trip, I found that certain Bible stories seemed to come alive for me or gained a new dimension that I hadn’t previously understood.

This trip was a profound experience for me, and I would strongly recommend it to you. You will gain greater awareness of what life and ministry looks like in the Arab world, you will gain insights that can be applied in your own context, you will learn more about yourself and you will even gain greater insight into cultural factors that are present throughout the Bible.

If a trip to the Arab world sounds like something you would like to get involved in, take a look at our short-term mission programmes.

*Name changed to protect identities.

Previous Articles