The 16 Arabic-speaking Southern Baptists from six states formed the Middle East and North Africa Baptist Fellowship to penetrate lostness among North America's Arab population.
"Coming together will help us get a better idea of the challenges we each face," said Gorashi Gangi, the pastor of Sudanese Christian Mission Church in Atlanta. "Then we can face them together. I found out everyone has challenges, but some of them are the same as I face, and I can learn from them."
Discussions at the meeting this month were preliminary and focused on developing a vision statement and goals for the new fellowship. Leaders discussed major challenges in reaching fellow Arabs for Christ, planned future meetings and agreed to try to expand the group to 50 Arabic-speaking leaders in the next year. Representatives from New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia and Michigan participated in the inaugural fellowship meeting.
Aslam Masih, NAMB's national coordinator for Muslim people groups and South Asians, initiated the meeting to mobilize Arab Southern Baptists in NAMB's Send North America campaign, a strategy to penetrate lostness through evangelism and church planting. Currently, Masih noted, Southern Baptists have no Arabic-speaking churches planted by Muslim-background believers in North America.
Masih worked with Decatur, Ga., layman Mike Sabbagh of Arabic Baptist Church, who presided over the first meeting, to find potential attendees and draft an agenda.
"All the North Africans and Middle Easterners are working in different cultures," Sabbagh said. "Once we identify the challenges among ourselves we can absolutely establish a cleaner and clearer vision."
While the North American Mission Board organized and coordinated much of this first meeting, fellowship organizers hope participants can take on an increasing role in the new organization's management.
Sabbagh added that many churches from North African and Middle Eastern backgrounds are relatively small and will be able to reach out more effectively through joint efforts.
Masih hopes the newly formed fellowship will adopt at least one of the 30 cities Send North America targets and will build partnerships to reach Arabs there. He'd also like the fellowship to select five regional coordinators to guide outreach in the five NAMB regions.
"If we can't reach the Arab population of North America, we can't reach them anywhere," Masih said. "With the religious freedoms we have on this continent, we can minister to Arabs in ways we can't in other countries."
Churches with a passion to reach Middle Easterners and North Africans in their communities may contact Masih at email@example.com for more information about the next fellowship meeting. The fellowship includes Southern Baptist Convention churches that are Arabic-speaking or sense God's call to reach Arab speakers in their community.
Tobin Perry is a writer for the North American Mission Board. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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