The Insanity of God is the personal and lifelong journey of an ordinary couple from rural Kentucky who thought they were going on just your ordinary missionary pilgrimage, but discovered it would be anything but. After spending over six hard years doing relief work in Somalia, and experiencing life where it looked like God had turned away completely and He was clueless about the tragedies of life, the couple had a crisis of faith and left Africa asking God, “Does the gospel work anywhere when it is really a hard place?
Nik recalls that, “God had always been so real to me, to Ruth, and to our boys. But was He enough, for the utter weariness of soul I experienced at that time, in that place, under those circumstances?” It is a question that many have asked and one that, if answered, can lead us to a whole new world of faith.
How does faith survive, let alone flourish in a place like the Middle East? How can Good truly overcome such evil? How do you maintain hope when all is darkness around you? How can we say “greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world” when it may not be visibly true in that place at that time? How does anyone live an abundant, victorious Christian life in our world’s toughest places? Can Christianity even work outside of Western, dressed-up, ordered nations? If so, how?
The Insanity of God tells a story—a remarkable and unique story to be sure, yet at heart a very human story—of the Ripkens’ own spiritual and emotional odyssey. The gripping, narrative account of a personal pilgrimage into some of the toughest places on earth, combined with sobering and insightful stories of the remarkable people of faith Nik and Ruth encountered on their journeys, will serve as a powerful course of revelation, growth, and challenge for anyone who wants to know whether God truly is enough.
Tyler Connell with the Ekballo Project shared a few encouraging stories from his most recent trip to Middle East, where he documented a dramatic move of God among Muslims, particularly with refugees. “Many there are disillusioned and broken and just want to know the truth,” he says. “Now more than ever there is a harvest among Muslims.”
His first film chronicles a young missionary named Daniel, 24, originally from Vermont. Two years ago he moved to Jordan to work with Syrian refugees. “They go house to house and visit these Muslim families and sit with them and talk with them and find out their names, their stories, and love them. As trust is built, they begin to open up for the Gospel.”
‘Hi I’m Daniel and I’m here to tell you about Jesus.’
One afternoon Daniel walked into a white tent with a family of eight people inside. “Hi I’m Daniel and I’m here to tell you about Jesus,” he announced. He wasn’t quite prepared for their reaction. “The family freaked out, they looked at each other and almost turned white. The father was excited, yelling.”
What’s going on? Daniel wondered. The interpreter explained that the night before Daniel’s visit, the whole family was sitting in their tent having tea together. To their surprise a man in white opened the door to their tent and stood at the entrance. The man was glowing. “Hello, My name is Jesus and I am sending a man tomorrow named Daniel to tell you more about me.” Then he disappeared.
So when Daniel arrived at their doorway and told them his name, they were completely undone. They asked him to tell them more about Jesus and he explained the Gospel. The whole family converted. The father had been a part of the Free Syrian Army. He had known bloodshed. He was a devout Muslim. This man and his family are now planting underground churches in Jordan and are seeing a harvest among Muslims.
Recently the father was dismayed by a large cell phone bill and he asked his 15-year-old daughter about it. “It’s because I’m telling all our relatives in Saudi Arabia about Jesus,” she said.
Life in the desert – part 1
‘Jesus was there, in the middle of the dirt, with Muslim refugees.’
In another Syrian refugee family, Connell felt God’s presence break through in a powerful way. “The joy that broke out among these 25 people was incredible. Jesus’ presence was stronger in that little dirty living room than I have ever felt in any conference, any prayer room, any camp-high moment. Jesus was there in the middle of the desert, in Iraq, in the dirt, with Muslims. He is attracted to the broken-hearted, the contrite, the desperate.”
Life in the desert – part 2
Over the last three years, Connell and his team have responded to an assignment from God to capture what He is doing in the most unreached parts of the world, the so-called 10/40 Window. This area is home to the three giants of Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism, a total of 2.9 billion people. “We felt God told us to go to these dark places, and capture what He is doing through missionaries that have given up their lives. We follow them with our camera and capture what God does, and show it on college campuses in the USA to ignite students to live for something bigger than themselves.”
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Many Middle-Eastern Christians publicly acknowledge the fact that dreams actively facilitated them coming into a saving knowledge of Jesus. For example, Nabeel Qureshi is a former devout Muslim. He became a believer in part through a visionary experience. When recounting his conversion he writes,
“I asked God to reveal himself to me in truth, through dreams and visions. All those things, combined with actually reading the Bible, are what drove me forward to the point of accepting Christ.”
When asked about his conversion to Christianity from Islam, Pastor Naeem Fazal of Mosaic Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, mentioned several things that impacted him. He pointed out things like friendship with a knowledgeable Christian as well as reading the Bible. However, it was a particular supernatural encounter that brought him into a moment of crisis. Having a visionary experience one night, Fazal had an encounter that forever shifted the course of his life.
“It looked like a figure made up with light—solid, yet transparent. It was an experience like no other. The peace I felt from this presence was so powerful, so aggressive … and [He] introduced Himself to me and said, ‘I’m Jesus; your life is not your own.’ The next morning my life changed forever.”
Fazal acknowledges that he is not unique in this experience. He notes that “the majority of the [Muslim] conversion stories I hear seem to involve dreams and visions inspired by the Holy Spirit in which Christ is supernaturally revealed.”
Joel Rosenberg’s Insights Into The Middle-Eastern Revival
More Muslims have committed to follow Christ in the last 10 years than in the last 15 centuries of Islam. In spite of great difficulty and turmoil, Christianity is unquestionably expanding throughout the Islamic world. God is up to something amazing in a region that many have thought was unreachable.
Joel Rosenberg, an Evangelical researcher, author, and resident of Israel has documented the recent upsurge of Christianity in the Middle-East. Through first-hand reconnaissance, coupled with reports from Arabic nationals, Rosenberg demonstrates that Christianity is rising rapidly in the world of Islam.
Some of the particulars can certainly be debated, but in many of the Mediterranean nations, Christianity is making extraordinary inroads. Though the subsequent conversion figures are impossible to confirm, even in their imprecision, they provide a snapshot of what’s transpiring in the Middle East.
A number of reports suggest that increasing numbers of Christ-followers are emerging in the brutal, war-torn nation of Sudan. Here, in the Nile river valley – along the Islamic strongholds of Northern Africa – It is being noted that
“One million Sudanese have turned to Christ since the year 2000—not in spite of persecution, war, and genocide, but because of them…the estimated total number of believers in the country is more than 5.5 million.”
Many are convinced that the great brutalities that this nation has encountered are becoming a catalyst for the expansion and growth of Christianity. Rather than inhibiting the Church, the war is actually propelling it.
Pakistan is typically not identified as a nation experiencing a move of God, but apparently they’re beginning to see one spark within their contentious borders.Christianity’s Middle-Eastern expansion is particularly evident in this unexpected place. Rosenberg acknowledges that,
“Senior Pakistani Christian leaders tell me there is a ‘conversion explosion’ going on in their country.There are now an estimated 2.5 million to 3 million born-again Pakistani believers worshiping Jesus Christ. Whole towns and villages along the Afghan-Pakistani border are…converting to Christianity.”
This Islamic country is not alone, many others in this region are having similar things take place.
Reliable reports suggest that there is also a great revival erupting in the land of Egypt. Rosenberg declares that, “Ministry leaders in Egypt estimate there are more than 2.5 million followers of Jesus Christ in their country. Many of these are Muslim converts.”
Undoubtedly, the severe persecutions and disruptions related to the “Arab Spring” have affected the lives of Christians throughout this nation, but the faithful have remained strong. Martyrdom invites outsiders to examine the claims of those willing to die for Jesus. It is believed that many amazing things are taking place in Egypt.
Surprisingly, the contentious nation of Iran is also beginning to encounter the rising flames of awakening. Violent Islamic Fundamentalism has not been able to impede the advancement of the Gospel in this fierce Persian nation. Reflecting on this reality, Rosenberg writes,
“At the time of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, there were only about five hundred known Muslim converts to Jesus inside the country. By 2000, a survey of Christian demographic trends reported that there were two hundred twenty thousand Christians inside Iran, of which between four and twenty thousand were Muslim converts. And according to Iranian Christian leaders I interviewed, the number of Christ-followers inside their country shot dramatically higher between 2000 and 2008.”
Yes, you read that right. Christianity went from 500 people to 220,000 in 21 years. Contrary to what many Americans think, Christianity is quietly advancing behind the scenes in some of the most unlikely places around the globe.
Reports continue to come in. A strikingly similar stirring is also taking place in Saudi Arabia – unquestionably the epicenter of world Islam. One wouldn’t expect the growth of Christianity in Mecca, but it is happening. Summarizing some of what he has heard, Joel Rosenberg reports that “Arab Christian leaders estimated there were more than one hundred thousand Saudi Muslim background believers in 2005, and they believe the numbers are even higher today.” Saudi Arabia is being quickened by the Spirit of the Lord. It seems to be positioned to experience significant growth in the decades to come.
Christianity is also quietly advancing in the turbulent nation of Iraq. Again, it needs to be noted that these numbers precede the vicious emergence of Isis and the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Multitudes of Christians have been martyred since these figures were originally reported. Yet, even the fact that Muslims felt compelled to quell its advancement suggests that Christianity’s influence has been growing.
“Before 2003, senior Iraqi Christian leaders tell me, there were only about four to six hundred known born-again followers of Jesus Christ in the entire country, despite an estimated seven hundred fifty thousand nominal Christians in historic Iraqi churches. By the end of 2008, Iraqi Christian leaders estimated that there were more than seventy thousand born-again Iraqi believers.”
As many are aware, the expansion of Christianity has been greatly hindered more recently in Iraq. Don’t be mistaken, this martyrdom and brutality will ultimately give way to more Christians in the land once known as Babylon.
The whole Islamic world is currently shaking. We have already discussed some of the amazing advancements that are taking place in several of Arabic nations. These are where the greatest signs of revival are evident. Nevertheless, on a lesser level, other Islamic nations are also experiencing a tremendous stirring within their borders. One of these is Algeria. Rosenberg recounts the recent upsurge in Algeria, noting that:
“more than eighty thousand Muslims have become followers of Christ in recent years…The surge of Christianity has become so alarming to Islamic clerics that in March of 2006, Algerian officials passed a law banning Muslims from becoming Christians or even learning about Christianity, and forbidding Christians from meeting together without a license from the government.”
Algeria is beginning to come alive with the gospel like much of Northern Africa.
Another ancient Middle-Eastern locale where Christianity is beginning to take root is along the borders the eastern bank of the Jordan River. The Islamic land of Jordan is also experiencing the grace and wonder of Jesus. Reflecting on what is transpiring in this nation, Rosenberg noted the following:
“God has been reviving the Jordanian Church in the last four decades, and particularly in the past few years. Conservative estimates say the number of believers in the country is now between five and ten thousand. The head of one major Jordanian ministry, however, believes there may be as many as fifty thousand believers in the country.”
Jordan is also experiencing the salvation of Jesus Christ.
Other Islamic Nations
Almost every Islamic nation has been experiencing a significant upsurge of Christianity over the last twenty years. Though the numbers aren’t equally high, all are experiencing the impact on some level. Here are some of the other reports.
While in the nation of Morocco it has been claimed that “between 20,000 and 40,000 Muslims have become Christ-followers.” Rosenberg suggests that, “The number of Afghan believers is now between 20,000 and 30,000.” In Kazakhstan “there are more than fifteen thousand Kazakh Christians, and more than one hundred thousand Christians of all ethnicities.” Reflecting on Lebanon, Rosenberg suggests that, “there are about ten thousand truly born-again followers of Jesus Christ today.” Reports suggest there were no Muslim background Christians in Syria fifty years ago, but today “there are between four and five thousand born-again believers in the country.”
Rosenberg’s figures suggest that there are over 13 million Christians in Islamic countries and a majority of them are from a Muslim background.
There are other evidences of a notable transformation taking place. For example, Journalist George Thomas notes that,
“A Christian revival is touching the northernmost reaches of Africa. In a region once hostile to the gospel, now tens of thousands of Muslims are following Jesus. As the sun sets over the Mediterranean Sea, Muslims across Northern Africa are converting to faith in Jesus Christ in record numbers… What experts say is that there is a profound move of God in the predominantly Muslim nations of Mauritania, Western Sahara, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia.”
Tino Qahoush, a researcher and filmmaker, has been traveling to various parts of this region to document the Christian revival that has been taking place. Reflecting on what he observed, he noted the following,
“What God is doing in North Africa, all the way from actually Mauritanian to Libya is unprecedented in the history of missions. I have the privilege of recording testimonies and listening to firsthand stories of men and women, of all ages.”
Jayson Casper, a journalist with Christianity Today, also pointed out some astounding growth that’s taking place in the Arabian Peninsula. He writes,
“Today the Pew Research Center numbers Christians in the Arabian Peninsula at 2.3 million – more Christians than nearly 100 countries can claim. The Gulf Christian Fellowship, an umbrella group, estimates 3.5 million…United Arab Emirates Christian population…[is] 13 percent, according to Pew. Among other Gulf states, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar each about 14 percent Christian, while Oman is about 6 percent. Even Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest cities (Mecca and Medina), is 4 percent Christian…”
One of the best examples of the expansion of Christianity within Muslim lands is through the work of Heidi and Roland Baker. Along with their church plants and trained workers from Iris Ministries, the Bakers have made an extraordinary impact on the brutal nation of Mozambique. The province that they currently operate in was entirely Muslim before their arrival, but a little over ten years later those figures have changed drastically. Kelly Head from Christ For The Nations writes,
“The Bakers are now based full-time in Pemba, Mozambique, in an area where Heidi says was once called a ‘graveyard to missionaries.’ But recently the government announced publicly that it’s no longer a Muslim providence; now it’s a Christian providence.”
The abrupt changes to the once Muslim Africa are something even the Islamic clerics are beginning to acknowledge. In December 2001, Sheikh Ahmad al Qataani, the president of The Companions Lighthouse for the Science of Islamic Law in Libya, appeared on a live interview on Al-Jazeera satellite television. He declared the following:
“Islam used to represent, as you previously mentioned, Africa’s main religion and there were 30 African languages that used to be written in Arabic script. The number of Muslims in Africa has diminished to 316 million, half of whom are Arabs in North Africa. So in the section of Africa that we are talking about, the non Arab section, the number of Muslims does not exceed 150 million people. When we realize that the entire population of Africa is one billion people, we see that the number of Muslims has diminished greatly from what it was in the beginning of the last century…As to how that happened, well, there are now 1.5 million churches whose congregations account for 46 million people. In every hour, 667 Muslims convert to Christianity. Everyday, 16,000 Muslims convert to Christianity. Ever year, 6 million Muslims convert to Christianity. These numbers are very large indeed.”
It is obvious from these and other reports that Christianity is advancing.