Birmingham has a population of over one million people, with over 20% being Muslim and thousands more Hindu and Sikh. It is anticipated that by 2023, it will have a non-white majority. There are nearly 200 mosques and numerous temples and gurdwaras. And in this mix, only 2% of the population is made up of evangelical Christians.
John and Irene lead the EFCA ReachGlobal Birmingham City Team and serve the communities of this ethnically diverse city in the following areas: Relationship building, English classes, inter-faith dialogues, literature and DVD distribution, church training seminars, discipling young believers, and children’s outreach.
The Birmingham City Team’s purpose is to glorify God by reaching the least-impacted groups with the gospel, discipling and incorporating them into healthy churches or new, culturally-appropriate kingdom communities.
Irene and her colleagues continue to experiment with new ways to share the gospel to ladies in their English classes. For their Christmas party, Irene invited a Christian woman who has experience telling secular stories in a dramatic fashion at an arts cafe in the city. This sister was not only keen to gain experience telling Bible stories to adults but also had some knowledge of Arabic and Urdu. So at the party, she told the Nativity story in a dramatic fashion in English, interwoven with Arabic and Urdu translation. All of the ladies were very attentive. The prayer is that these Pakistani and Yemeni Muslim ladies will be drawn to the beauty of the Savior who came into the world to live and die for them.
The Birmingham team’s long-time vision for a Friendship Centre is finally becoming a reality. For the past several months they have been busy signing a lease with the Pakistani landlord, conducting a community survey, obtaining Planning and Building permission from the city, and hosting a construction team from a EFCA church in California. They hope to hold their grand opening in Spring 2013 – and while there is much still do do, they have a had a number of local volunteers helping with the myriad of tasks.
The team plans to initially offer ladies English classes and also a place to pop in for tea. Eventually they plan to offer other classes for both men and women as well as activities for kids.
The ministry in Birmingham is challenging. Healthy churches are few and small. And Islam is a particularly difficult religion and culture to break through. Hence the creative methods that are being used to build relationships and trust and ultimately the love of Jesus Christ.
For more information about ReachGlobal’s ministry in Europe, see their website at: http://go.efca.org/ministries/where-we-serve/europe
For more information on John & Irene, the missionaries we partner with, please see Byron Smith or any other member of the Missions Board.