Outreach to Muslims no longer requires a trip across the globe to a foreign country.
It happens in communities throughout the United States—in schools, grocery stores, neighborhoods and workplaces.
Last summer, Southeast Christian Church member Venus Sergeon signed up for the Sahara Experience, an intense version of Bridges: Connecting with Muslims, because she wanted better relationships with employees in her job as a manager at a local restaurant. Most of the employees were from West Africa.
Bridges, a seven-week series of classes that will begin at the Blankenbaker Campus Saturday, Sept. 15, includes videos, discussions and action assignments. Classes are offered Saturday nights and Sunday mornings and are designed to erase fear and build bridges. Narrator Fouad Masri is a third-generation pastor from Beirut. Facilitators are Southeast members with experience reaching out to Muslims.
Sergeon said Bridges made a difference.
Some connections with employees were lost when the restaurant closed, but Sergeon is now close to a Muslim family she met at her son’s school. She has been invited to Ramadan celebrations and dinner in their home.
“It doesn’t take a lot of effort to build friendships,” Sergeon said. “Sometimes it’s just being the first to say ‘hello.’ Now they cling to me.”
Southeast members Dave and Donna Anderson, who lived in Afghanistan for three years, help facilitate Bridges classes.
“These classes are easy and basic,” Donna said. “You don’t need to know a lot to talk with Muslims. Videos suggest ways to start conversations and include powerful testimonies. Muslims are seeking now more than ever. God is doing it. All we have to do is be obedient and available.”
This summer, University of Louisville student Zack Page took a weeklong, intense version of Bridges.
“I met a lot of Muslims in classes and at work when I managed a restaurant,” Page said. “These classes helped me connect with them. My experience managing restaurants opens the door to conversations until I’m a familiar face and we trust each other. Sometimes all you have to do is take a step out of your comfort zone and be willing to talk. They are people like you and me who want to live their lives without being harassed.”
Todd Keane, who leads a ministry to Muslims in Louisville, also is a facilitator for Bridges.
“You don’t have to know anything going into Bridges,” Keane said. “All you have to do is be interested in learning more. The series incorporates testimonies from Muslims who have come to faith. It’s wonderful to hear how God speaks to them in different ways.”
Southeast members Debbie and Glenn Rodriguez spent six weeks helping refugees in Greece last summer. Most were Muslim.
“People of the world are on the move,” Debbie Rodriguez said. “We no longer have to go anywhere to be on mission. We can be on mission at the grocery store or local restaurant. God has brought the world to us. And because it is His plan, we don’t need to fear. We can trust God and lean in to see all people as He sees them—created in the image of God. But even when God gives us that desire to reach out, many of us still feel ill-equipped and unprepared. Bridges gives effective tools and experience to act upon the prompts of the Holy Spirit to reach out to Muslims.”
During classes, students will learn basic knowledge of Islam and explore practical ways to reach out to Muslims in our community.
“Whether crossing the street or the aisle at the grocery store, we can confidently build bridges of love between the Gospel and the Muslim heart and mind,” Rodriguez said. “Not in a forced way, but doing life together, being obedient to God’s mandate to all believers to go and share.”