This morning, in Jerusalem, I heard a Turkish man named Ali who once made the haj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, seeking help from Allah for his drinking and marital problems. When he was asleep one night in Mecca, Jesus appeared to him in a dream and said to him “Leave this place.” He returned to his home in Turkey, where his friends threw him a party to celebrate his haj. He stood up and said, “When I went to Mecca, Jesus came to me. I’m a Christian now.” His friends thought he was joking and all started laughing, but Ali, soon joined by his wife, kept following Jesus. He went for three years without a Bible and seven years before meeting another Muslim (besides his wife) who believed in Jesus. Eventually, he planted a church in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, which is now established enough for him to turn over the leadership to a younger man so he can start a new congregation in another city.
This is just one of the stories from At the Crossroads, a gathering of “Middle Eastern nationals and internationals working in various spheres of ministry with a regional or Kingdom vision of the Middle East that is best outlined in Isaiah’s vision of a highway in Isaiah 19:23-25.”
In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and Assyria will come into Egypt, and Egypt into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians.
In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.”
I’ve prayed for the restoration of Israel for most of my life, but this passage and the movement that it inspires sets those prayers into a wider context of restoration for the whole Middle East. It’s a unique vision because it includes God’s work in Israel today alongside the need for spiritual awakening throughout all the surrounding nations. All too often those who have a heart for reaching Arabs and other Middle Easterners with the Good News of Messiah oppose or at least downplay the unique role of the Jewish people. It’s an encouragement to be with fellow followers of Yeshua who are actively engaged in this vision in places like Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, and Egypt, as well as in Israel.
Our morning session ended with a talk by an intense, Mediterranean-looking man who is serving in refugee camps in Iraq. He told the same kind of story as Ali, of Yeshua appearing to several different Muslim men and women in dreams, or through miraculous healings, and leading them out of Islam to himself. I’ve heard stories like this before, but never from first-hand sources. Amid all the tensions and troubles of the region, and particularly in response to this week’s Islamist terror attack in Belgium, it’s a real joy to learn how God is at work on a deeper and more powerful level.