Mexico & the Middle East (Pt. 1)

Global Missionary Work Allows Us To Help Others And Share The Gospel.

Fares Abraham
Oct 10, 2021    57m
By having partnerships with international ministries, we can help with critical global missionary work that helps others and shares the Gospel with all the world. Listen as our partners from Mexico and the Middle East share the struggles and success stories as they reach those who have yet to hear the good news. Video recorded at Los Gatos, California.

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This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Narrator: [00:00:02] In Acts 1:8, Jesus declared, "You will be my witnesses to the ends of the Earth". This commission to his church is active today. Together, we have been unleashed to spread the gospel. By unleashed, we mean unrestrained to be who we were created to be - his witnesses, from our neighborhoods to the nations. Every single one of us wants to make a difference in the world, in Christ, we can. Over the next several weeks, we want you to get in the game. First, by praying strategically for ways to reach your neighbors, co-workers, and friends. Second, by opening your life to a new way God might be calling you to missionally reach the world for him. Third, by making a faith promise pledge over and above your regular giving because you want to be a part of what God is doing. It's called Faith Promise because we take a step of faith and say, God, I trust you to provide the resources to fund outreach to the ends of the Earth and I promise to give what you provide. God leads each of us differently, but he has called us all to be a part. At Venture, we are strategically and tangibly impacting 5 key regions around the world (Mexico, India, Middle East, Ethiopia, and the Bay Area). In 2020, through your generosity and partnership, over 250,000 people came to faith in Christ. Through our ministry partners and their networks, over 15,000 new churches were established and over 24,000 leaders were trained, all of this in the midst of a global pandemic. Together, we raised millions of dollars, which were used to impact the nations with the love of Christ. God is on the move, and we have so much to celebrate and thank him for as a church. This coming year, we invite you to join us as we look to him to unleash his church in even greater ways.

Tim Lundy: [00:02:08] Well Venture, as you heard, this weekend we're focusing on Venture Unleashed from our neighborhood to the nations all around the world. You know, the last few weeks we've been looking at how to build a resilient faith, and we're going to continue that series. Those five practices, that when they're established in a life, a person, especially a young person, has the kind of resilient faith that lasts over a lifetime. You know, one of those key practices is that you have a missional mindset, that really counter-culturally, you want to go on mission and be a part of what God's doing to change this world to look more like the Kingdom of God.

Tim Lundy: [00:02:48] That practice matches one of our passions as a church, as a church, we are missional, we are outward focused, and that's why we take some weeks every year and we focus on the way that God is unleashing our church. In this time, we'll call you to do a few things. One, we're going to walk you through five of the regions where we have particular impact and partnership. And so today you'll hear from two of those regions, the work that's going on in Mexico and also the work that's going on in the Middle East. So as you hear, as you hear the stories, as you hear the message, a little bit later, Fares Abraham, from the Middle East is going to bring our message today. You're also going to hear a great interview that I do with Israel Juarez, one of our partners in Mexico. When you hear these interviews and these messages, don't just hear it as information of what God's doing out there, really ask, ask yourself, God, are you wanting me to get involved? Or could I do what they're doing in my neighborhood with, with my coworkers, with my friends? See, all of this is about how all of us go on mission.

Tim Lundy: [00:03:56] Throughout this whole series as well, we call everybody to take a faith promise, that's part of the pledge that goes along with this. And so you'll have materials and a card, and every year we ask everyone during this time to pray, what is God asking you to pledge over and above your normal giving? And I'm always amazed at the generosity of Venture as we see a couple of million dollars that people give over and above what they would normally give because they want to be a part of what God's doing in these regions and around the world.

Tim Lundy: [00:04:28] We have some exciting weeks; these are fundamental weeks to building a resilient faith. And so my prayer for you, and I hope during this whole time, you would really focus on not just what is God doing out there, but what's God doing in here? What's he doing in your heart? How could this missional kind of living be a part of your resilient faith as well? We're praying that our church is unleashed in new ways, we're praying that people come to Christ, that people are impacted for Christ, that lives are changed like never before. And I'm praying that you would be a part of this, and really capture a vision for that throughout this whole series.

Narrator: [00:05:18] In Mexico, we funded the next steps of a feeding center in Chiapas, where weekly hundreds of low-income families are fed. Venture helped secure a large church facility in Juarez, Mexico, and outfitted it with sound and computer equipment. Over 50 church leaders have been mentored through Zoom and multiple trips to Mexico. Thousands have been fed through COVID outreaches, with three hundred and fifty coming to faith in Christ. This October, Venture En Espanol is holding a training event that will happen simultaneously in Mexico City, San Salvador, and on our campus. Today, we are delighted to have with us, our partner, Pastor Israel Juarez, who leads Casa Triunfo Ministry headquartered in Juarez, Mexico. He primarily ministers to teenage boys and men who are exiting organized criminal activity. In addition, he trains regional pastors and leaders, cares for abandoned children, and pastors a growing church. Please welcome Pastor Israel Juarez.

Tim Lundy: [00:06:23] Well Venture, as I told you, this month we are focusing on some of the key regions where we see God working around the world and we have the privilege as a church of coming alongside and partnering and I'm excited today. We've got partners in town, they'll be here this weekend, and I wanted to give you an opportunity for those who are watching online to get to know Israel Juarez. He's here with his wife, Wendy, and they're the executive directors of Casa Triunfo in Juarez, Mexico. And over the last few years, in particular, we have seen God move in such exciting ways through this ministry, and we really expect great things in the next months and years to come. And so that's why as a church, you need to know this guy, you need to know what God's doing there. In fact, Israel, thanks for being here, it's a privilege to have you.

Israel Juarez: [00:07:15] Well, thank you for everything.

Tim Lundy: [00:07:16] Well, we're excited. And tell people a little bit about Casa Triunfo and the different ministries there because it's not just one thing you're doing. I mean, there are just several things that God's open the door to and some of the things you'd like to see happen as well.

Israel Juarez: [00:07:29] Ok. My wife and me, we are pastors in Punto de Encuentro is the name of our church. We started the church seven years ago, but I started serving in Casa Triunfo in Mexico 20 years ago. I started 20 years ago when I was 19 years, so I started serving full time for the ministry. And it was, I saw many things in these 20 years, I saw, like more than five thousand men and girls are receiving the gospel. We bring many people to Jesus. We preach to many hundreds of families. So it's for 20 years we saw many miracles in a man's life in this rehab center, but also, we start doing different things around the ministry. We do missions we do with the church; we are giving food to the people in different places, we do many, many, many things, but we're trying to do more in the future.

Tim Lundy: [00:08:40] Yeah, I think that's the thing that impressed me. And if you hear the stories about it, I mean, the rehab center of young men in particular that that were just struggling with addiction. And so they'd, through the rehab center, be able to rescue guys, many who would be part of the cartel and have no future. And through this rehab center, they come to Christ, they get clean, and they have freedom, freedom for life in the future. But the way you guys built on it is, you know, not just the rehab center and now the church the last several years, the way God's blessing the church there, and people coming to Christ. And you really have a heart's desire to launch an orphanage as well.

Israel Juarez: [00:09:20] Yes, we get a new place for [inaudible]. So we want to start the orphanage in the next month, we are starting to work on the legal process. And in Casa Triunfo, you know, I saw like many thousands of [inaudible], like, what God is doing people's life. For example, I saw a man, like God heal his mind because he was a little bit crazy because of the drugs, but now saw salvation. I remember one guy, he was like 17, 18 years old, he is a young man. And he asked me one night, Israel, pray for me, please, because I do many bad things in the past, I kill one guy. So every night I saw the face of the guy I killed, and please, please pray for me. So I take this guy to Jesus first, and then I pray for this guy. And so now this man is serving in a church, he has a beautiful family and all his family around him, now they are good believers. So we saw like many miracles like this, and I think this ministry is difficult, you know, the rehab, to have a rehab in Juarez, in Chihuahua, in the middle of the cartel is very difficult, but it's a little bit dangerous also. But God is with us, so we saw the hand of God for many years.

Tim Lundy: [00:11:15] I mean, when you say that, and the more I've heard about it is, you know, it's making an impact in an area where the cartel has so much control in it, but God's protected you guys and you're seeing people rescued out of it, I mean, for those of us in the states here, we kind of hear cartel and we get scared quick. How have you handled that? I mean, you know, you're a dad, and you've got a got family, and yet God's called you to this ministry. How do you release that to Him?

Israel Juarez: [00:11:43] You know, I don't know if you remember, like some years ago when in Juarez, Juarez was the first city in the world, like most people was killed in Juarez, so it was a very dangerous city, and we saw God, help us in every way and every day. And many, I remember in that time, many friends, many pastors just called me, Israel, just close your ministry because it's very dangerous. The cartels are killing people inside the places of the rehab centers. But two years ago, we lived, my wife and me, we lived one of the most sad things in our ministry and most difficult things. Two of my guys who worked with me for 15 years, were killed by the cartel. So it was very, very difficult because I know, like many people around the world, is they give his life for Jesus. But to see very close these things, and to lose two of my soldiers to the ministry, it was very, very difficult. One night we received a call like these two guys, we don't find these guys, so we need to do something. We started calling to the police, to the hospitals, to everybody, nobody knows anything about these men. The next day, in the morning, I wake up very early, I went to the police station, they showed me some pictures and I saw my men were killed in that. So it was very difficult, you know? But after that, we saw many salvation people. But it is sad, it is a real issue in our city like we are fighting against the cartels, the government, against many things because many things are wrong in our place. But even when we are living in these difficult situations, God is saving thousands of people. So what is happening is worth everything.

Tim Lundy: [00:14:31] That's powerful. Know that we pray for you and pray for protection over you and protection for the ministry, and for your people as well. I think one of the things that was exciting to me, and what I love about your ministry because, you know, this whole month we're focusing on a church, how we can be outwardly focused, and how we can be living both initially in our neighborhoods and in our areas, but also sending out, and you have people in your ministry that have gone all the way from the cycle of maybe lost in addiction, they've gone through training, now they're missionaries that have been sent out.

Israel Juarez: [00:15:09] Yeah, we send some people, some guys, to different Bible schools. We send maybe at least 60 guys to different Bible schools in Mexico, and the US, and other places. And also, we send people to serve in England, in Spain, in other places, Greece, my brother is serving in Greece. So it's nice to see people not just really getting rehabilitation, but now also getting a purpose in God. It's a new life, it's a new opportunity. And we send people, so it's part of our ministry to do missions in different places in Mexico, and the [inaudible], and south of Mexico. But then also we love to go to other places, we have been going to the Middle East, to Africa, to different places. And I think in the next years it's going to be better, we want to do greater things for the Kingdom because we want to move people from our church, and this is part of our purpose in ministry.

Tim Lundy: [00:16:27] You know, there may be somebody who's watching this today, and maybe you're struggling with addiction, or you feel like your life is so hopeless, and I hope you're hearing in these stories, Jesus changes lives. Israel and Wendy, they can tell you about people that maybe they felt as stuck as you do right now. And I just encourage you, don't give up, it's not just rehabilitation, it's about living out the purpose that Christ made you. And that's what your ministry is doing, it's rescuing, but it's also launching, and we love that God's using you in that way.

Israel Juarez: [00:17:01] I remember one guy comes to my office and he told me, he said, pastor, I have many programs in my life, I've been like in 20 different programs, but nothing works for me, so what do you want to do to convince me, like, your program is good? What I say to this guy is, maybe you get the opportunity in different programs to have a different life, but give the opportunity to Jesus to change your heart, to change your life. So if you give the opportunity to Jesus, your life is going to change a lot. So because I saw this thing, this miracle, this salvation in many, many people, so, I think our God is amazing.

Tim Lundy: [00:17:55] Well, I agree with you, and I think he's doing some amazing things through you, through Casa Triunfo. And I'd encourage you, you know, part of why we do these weeks every year, somebody who's watching this, God may have a special passion and ministry for you in Mexico. Maybe it's in Jaurez and connecting with Israel and Wendy, maybe it's one of our other partners in it, but it's one of the key strategic areas where we see God moving, and I'd encourage you to pray about it. If you want to know more, they've got a lot of stories, so they'd be glad to tell you about life after life. But more than those stories, it may be part of your story that God may want to use you as a partner of their ministry. So with all of these, with every story, with every person, make sure you go online, make sure that you find out more. You can find out about each of our regions, and specifically Mexico, and Casa Triunfo, and what God's doing through Israel and Wendy. We're so glad you guys are here, we're glad that we get to host you, but even more partner with you. And we look forward over each year, and over time, just hearing the new stories of the new things God's doing through you. And know that we pray for you guys, and I really do love you and love the ministry there.

Israel Juarez: [00:19:17] Thank you, Pastor Tim. Thank you, Venture. Just pray for us, pray for this new step we want to start with Pasitos, this place is huge, so we need many things. But I know that God is going to provide everything, we're going to impact like 100 to 120 kids in this place. And also, we are trying to start a school for them. So it is, we have many things to do, and we need your prayers. I know like every month you are praying for us, so we need it.

Tim Lundy: [00:19:54] Well, let's pray now. Lord, I thank you for Israel and Wendy. I thank you for the way you've used Casa Triunfo over the last 20 years, thank you for the church, and how you are using it as a training ground. Lord, I pray, they have so many dreams, they want to see you impact the region in new ways and this orphanage through just the ministries that you are just starting right now, I pray you'd bless them, I pray you'd protect them. We pray that you'd continue to mobilize many whose lives are being changed as they're being sent out as missionaries around the world. Lord, we thank you and pray this in Christ's name. Amen. Thank you.

Narrator: [00:20:41] This past year in the Middle East, a region faced with economic, political, and social challenges, one partner saw over 6000 new believers, with 2400 people trained in some leadership skill or Bible study method. Thousands were impacted by Venture sponsored COVID and humanitarian relief in Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan. Our partners working in media ministry report hundreds of thousands of online video and social media views, with thousands of follow-up engagements primarily from younger generations. Venture funded a complete studio for a broadcast partner, and in September of this year, one of our partners held revival meetings with 200 Muslims coming to faith in Christ.

Narrator: [00:21:27] Today, we are honored to hear from our missionary partner, Fares Abraham. Fares serves as the Executive Director of Levant Ministries, an organization targeting the 18- to 30-year-old demographic of Muslims in the Levant region of the Middle East. They believe that the best way to reach and engage this next generation for Christ is through social media, throughout the year, Levant hosted conferences to equip and motivate Arab Christians to engage in ministry. Please welcome Fares Abraham.

Fares Abraham: [00:22:03] Hello, Venture Christian Church, this is Fares Abraham, and welcome to Week one Venture unleashed. I am so blessed and honored to be here this weekend with you as we learn more about what God is calling us to do here on Earth. Every single one of us is on a mission from God, every one of us has received a calling from God, and today I would like to share with you seven keys about how to pursue a higher calling. God always wants us to pursue not just a calling, God has called us out of darkness into the light, but he also wants us to pursue a higher calling to go deeper with God.

Fares Abraham: [00:22:41] And I am so blessed and honored, on behalf of my family and our ministry in the Middle East, we would love to just take a moment and express our deep gratitude for your steadfast support, for your generosity, for lifting us in prayers, throughout the years. We've been an amazing part of Venture's mission, extending the love of Jesus to different parts of the Middle East. It's because of your generosity, because of your commitment to the great commission, that this ministry is possible. So we're blessed and honored to be a part of this church as missionaries serving in the Middle East.

Fares Abraham: [00:23:20] As most of you know, I was born and raised in the little town of Bethlehem, and you can find that in the Gospel of Luke and Matthew. And this is such a great honor for me, but interestingly enough, I did not know Christ until later when I moved to the United States to come to college here. I went to Liberty University, and this is when the Lord got a hold on my life during my junior year, when Pastor Rick Warren came to campus and they launched the Purpose Driven Conference, launching the Purpose Driven book, and they shut down the campus for three days to teach from that book. And during that time, God just got a hold of my life, he spoke to my heart, enlightened my mind, and I fully surrendered my life to Christ because I discovered that it's not about me, it's about this higher calling that I want to share with you about.

Fares Abraham: [00:24:14] After I graduated from Liberty, I moved to Washington, D.C., where the Lord opened the great opportunity for me to work in the federal government as a linguist, as a media analyst. I worked in several government agencies, and I was so successful at that time, in 2004-2005. I was climbing up the ladder, the corporate ladder, and God was opening so many opportunities for me to be successful in life. But during that time, I was very involved in my local church. I was involved in missions, I was involved in leading worship, I networked a lot, I met a lot of different people. I traveled the world, preaching the Gospel to so many different people.

Fares Abraham: [00:24:54] But in 2015, the Lord gave me even a higher purpose, and he showed me this great vision of me going back, turning, turning away from all this worldly success, and giving my life completely to ministry, fully surrendering to his will. And he said, Fares, enough working for Caesar, you've got to work for me now full time. So during that time, I met that beautiful team here at Venture, Pastor Daniel, and Tony, and all the Middle East team and they got fully behind the vision that God has given us in 2015. And the Lord started to work amazing, amazing work in the Middle East.

Fares Abraham: [00:25:40] Now, by God's grace, we have strong teams in Cairo, we have a strong team in Amman, Jordan, and we have also an emerging team in the West Bank in the Holy Land. And by God's grace, also, our media ministry, which is an important, strong ministry that we, through this ministry, will reach millions and millions of viewers. We interact with so many people from different backgrounds, from different faiths, coming to faith in Jesus Christ and fully giving their lives to Christ, and starting a discipleship journey. It's been a great honor to see hundreds and thousands of people coming to faith through our ministry, but all of this happened when we come together as a family of God, as partners, Levant Ministries partners with prayer warriors at Ventures, with generous givers, with the whole church committed for decades not just to the Middle East, but the different parts of the world. Venture has been in the front lines of mission works for decades, and what a great legacy, and what a great honor for us to come together and join in one hand, we are on one team, extending the gospel to the darkest places in our world.

Fares Abraham: [00:26:57] You know, every time I looked at the Middle East, I had a choice to make. Whether to look at the chaos, the darkness, and curse it or walk away from it, but with a choice that we have to make and we had to make it, is to intentionally plant a lighthouse in the midst of that darkness. This is the calling, this is the higher calling of the church everywhere, the universal calling. Jesus equipped us, empowered us, he gave us the great commission in Matthew 28 not just to stay in Jerusalem where we are, not just to stay in Los Gatos or in the Bay Area, but to go to Judea and Samaria and finally to the ends of the Earth. And what a great honor that we get to co-labor with God in this amazing, beautiful, outstanding, great commission, what an honor to join God in what he's doing all around the world.

Fares Abraham: [00:27:50] So I just want to say thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for all your sacrifice, sacrificial giving, your prayers, your commitment to the Middle East. Without your love and support, the message of the gospel is not going to go to the far places as it does in this time today.

Fares Abraham: [00:28:06] I would like to share with you about what we are doing, but before I do that, I would like to read a beautiful story that changed my life. The way Jesus got a hold of Peter's life, and James and John, when they were fishing, they were working, they were good at what they're doing, but Jesus got a hold of their life, he got into their boat, and he gave them a higher purpose. The story is found in Luke Chapter 5 verses 1-11, seven keys to pursue a higher calling. One day, it says, as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Nazareth...Or we also know it as the Sea of Galilee, or in Hebrew Kinneret, or the other name is the Lake of Tiberius. You know that Lake is very special to me because I grew up about three hours away, and during summer we would go to the Sea of Galilee, we would fish there, we would swim there, I didn't walk on water yet there, but one day, hopefully, Jesus will give me the power to do that. But that lake is just so beautiful, the topography where Jesus fed the multitudes, he performed so many miracles around that lake, it's great things that happen around that lake, and it was a great blessing for me to grow up in that part of the world. And I highly encourage if you, if you've never been to the Holy Land, you've got to go, it's a very, very special place and very dear to God's heart. So, "On that day, Jesus was standing at the lake, and the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water's edge two boats, left there by the fisherman, who were washing their nets." They were done, they were washing their nets, they were calling it a day. They were just kind of closing the shop, that's it, we're done doing business today.

Fares Abraham: [00:29:53] "He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon." And of course, Simon is the one who turned to be the great disciple Peter, and later the great apostle, who reached thousands and millions of people for Christ. So, "He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything, but because you say so, out of respect for you, Jesus, out of love for you, Jesus, I know that you are a great rabbi, you're the Master, as he declared here, I will let down the nets." I will go back into the water one more time.

Fares Abraham: [00:30:54] Verse 6 says, "When they had done so, when they listened to Jesus, they cut such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink." Both boats began to sink. And I see a beautiful analogy here, you know, Levant ministries serving in the Middle East signaling to Venture Christian Church in the Bay Area come and help us, there is a great deal of fish around here. God wants to redeem the entire region of the Middle East, there are so many people to be saved, there are so many people to be disciples, and we are called to be that light, to be the instrument, to be that tool, to be the salt of the Earth, to win so many people for Christ, come and help us. And according to God's word, when we obey him, partners will come together and God will bring a lot of fish and both boats will begin to sink, we need a bigger boat.

Fares Abraham: [00:32:00] Verse 8, it says this, "When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord, I'm a sinful man!" I couldn't have believed that, I should have believed it, but I just couldn't see it coming. "For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of the fish they had taken." Verse 10, "And so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” That's a higher calling, you were doing such an amazing work, catching fish, and keeping your family, feeding your family, providing for your family, making great success as a businessman, providing food for other people, that's a great purpose and I want you to keep doing that.

Fares Abraham: [00:32:58] And God is calling some people to keep fishing for and keep growing their business so they can bless the ministry, but Peter, I even have a higher calling for you. I don't want you, he didn't tell him to leave the boat, I don't want you to do this business, but he said, from now on, you can do both, you get to do both, you get to fish and provide for your family and for your community, and bless your people, and bless your country, and bless the world, by the work you're doing, but also, don't forget this higher calling. You are called, Simon Peter, to fish for people, I will make you a fisher of men. "So they pulled their boats up on the shore." But interestingly, "They left everything and followed him." Because they understood one principle, that Jesus is the one who provides, Jesus is the one who blesses, Jesus is the only source of provision, he is their hope, he is whose heart they desire. This is the one that, the only one, that's going to turn things around for us.

Fares Abraham: [00:34:10] So, as I shared with you, God has given us this vision to reach the Middle East. But I always ask myself, is it possible? What's the vision? And God has given us an audacious vision because we believe in a big God. Big visions require a big God to intervene because the work, Peter didn't have anything special about him that day that made him catch a fish, he had the skills, he knew how to fish, but it was Jesus that brought all the fish together. So God has given us this audacious vision to see a transformed Middle East by the love and hope of Jesus Christ. We are praying for the salvation of every single soul in the Middle East. We are praying for a spiritual breakthrough, that God himself will transform that region by his love, by his grace, by his mercy. And we want to see a transformed land, spiritual landscape, by the love and hope of Jesus Christ.

[00:35:15] Let me give you some stats about the Middle East, you know, why choose the Middle East? Why God is so interested in the Middle East. God is all about the Middle East, as a matter of fact, the gospel was born in the Middle East and it went out from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria, to the ends of the Earth. Do you know the Middle East has about twenty-two Arab countries belonging to the Arab League, these countries are about three hundred to three hundred and fifty population?

Fares Abraham: [00:35:41] Let me put things in perspective a little more in detail. For example, a country like Egypt, the largest Arabic-speaking country in the Middle East, has about one hundred million people living in Egypt. Out of those hundred million people, 50 percent of the population is under the age of twenty-five. When I look at the stats like this, all I see is a great potential. I don't see the darkness, the political instability, the turmoil, the terrorism, the hardships, the economic disparities, I see the next generation of Christians rising up from the Middle East, going to the ends of the world like it used to be back in the first century, The Middle East Church will be one day a sending church, the Middle East Church is going to rise up to the challenge and share the gospel across the globe, and one day God is going to touch every heart, even the hardest of heart. God has the grace, God has the power, and the supernatural power to transform that Middle East by his love and by his grace.

Fares Abraham: [00:36:58] So how do we do it? How do we serve in the Middle East? Well, our mission is very, very, very simple, we share the gospel, we make disciples, and we raise leaders. This is what we are called to do, the calling has never changed since the disciples started their ministries on the day of the Pentecost. Jesus empowered them to be witnesses for him, and Jesus gave them the great commission, he said, "All authorities have been given to me, therefore, go, go and make disciples." So we shared the gospel, we make disciples, and we raise leaders.

Fares Abraham: [00:37:36] But to zero and to zoom in into our specific strategies, and as you can see here on the screen, I'm going to share with you seven strategic ministry initiatives that we focused on that will help us get to that audacious vision that God has given us.

Fares Abraham: [00:37:52] Number one, we leverage media to share the gospel boldly and unashamedly with every single Arabic speaker all around the Middle East. Our teams are just super productive, are just super talented, we produce high-quality content by native speakers, and local dialects, and regional dialects, and Egyptian, and Jordanian, and Palestinians, and different dialects so we can attract so many different viewers, and then we follow up with them through our amazing, discipleship, robust discipleship process. We receive hundreds of requests every single month, we initiate so many private chats with so many people every single day, praying with them, walking through their challenges, counseling them, leading them into salvation, prayers.

Fares Abraham: [00:38:49] And I would like to take a moment and show you a video about a story from Iraq by a young guy named Muhammed, and how God transformed his life by the media that we produce. Watch this video!

Muhammed: [00:39:08] My journey of converting from Islam to Christianity first began back in 2009. It started with questions I couldn't ignore, and my doubts kept growing inside of me. I tried reading through the Koran, I sought answers from religious men, I even took my doubts and questions to the sheik in my community. No matter where I turned, I couldn't find the answers to my questions. The more I searched, the less I was convinced, and I quickly became disillusioned with Islam. Since I wasn't receiving any answers from the Koran, I decided to try reading the Bible. At first, some of the language of the Bible was confusing to me, but my doubts about Islam grew larger and larger the more I continued reading. I can clearly remember reading John 8:7 when Jesus says, "He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone." Reading that passage, I began to believe for the very first time that Jesus Christ actually loved me and forgave me. I immediately began praying to the God of the Bible to show me the right way to go.

Muhammed: [00:40:15] I wanted to take the next step, my wife and I decided to travel away from our hometown to search for a Christian church. By the time we arrived at the church, the service was already full, and the church asked us to return a different day. But we were so far from home, and we couldn't continue traveling, we had spent so much money trying to get there already. We knew this wasn't a sustainable plan long term, that's when we began looking for help online and came across NEXTGEN Arabic. NEXTGEN Arabic was an answer to our prayers, I couldn't believe there was a minister that allowed us to learn more about the Bible and about Christianity. We now use the site to attend sermons, to listen to worship, and to participate in discipleship studies. Now we proudly declare that we are followers of Jesus Christ, and we are so grateful for this ministry and for the support it has given us as Christians living in Iraq.

Fares Abraham: [00:41:22] Isn't that great to see Muhammad transformed by the love and hope of Jesus? Next, in our ministry strategy, we do ministry right on the ground, evangelism not just on the airways, not just on social media campaigns, and on satellite TV stations, but we also do reach people, and we reach young people on campus. We believe so much in reaching campus students because if we reach the campus, we reach the world. This is the early days where God transformed my life on campus, and we believe that these early days when young people start to formulate worldviews, belief systems, and start conforming and God starts shaping their lives. And we believe there is a mandate for us to reach those young people on campus through events, through missions, through outreach, community outreach, and so many different activities that we do all around the Middle East to reach young people for Christ.

Fares Abraham: [00:42:23] Number three, number three strategy, as you see here on the strategy wheel, is the people that come to faith in Jesus through our media, and people who come to faith in Jesus through our outreach and events mission, we try our best to put them on a discipleship track, discipleship process, by engaging them, by establishing biblical foundations, by equipping them, by empowering them. It's a beautiful robust system and process that people who are willing to take that path with us, we are ready for it, we are ready to make disciples. Disciples make disciples, and this is the beauty about the system and the process that we follow.

Fares Abraham: [00:43:06] Next out of these disciples, we identify leaders that we want to invest in. So the next process in our ministry strategy is to raise, and equip, and train, young leaders so they can go back to their communities and spheres of influence and start making disciples.

Fares Abraham: [00:43:26] And the fifth strategy that we use in the Middle East, which is the NEXTGEN Conference, and many of you are familiar with this. Pastor Daniel Downey actually, and the Middle East team, and Tony, they were with us back prior to the pandemic when we hosted the NEXTGEN Conference in Minya, Egypt. Where over 2500 to 3000 people attended that conference, and basically what that conference does is just mobilize a lot of people, get everybody excited about evangelism, about student ministry, about small groups, about discipleship, and it's just a great mobilization source that we use. In fact, next week, we will have a great mobilization conference in Amman, Jordan. So if you can put that in your prayer, they'll be great.

Fares Abraham: [00:44:12] Last year, during the pandemic, we weren't able to gather, as you know, everywhere we were shut down. And we transferred this from an on-ground ministry to an online platform that we created, and we broadcast this amazing NEXTGEN Conference on social media and we had five thousand people registered for this amazing conference. And I just want to show you one story highlighting a life changed by the content that we create. So let's watch Amani's story, and then we'll give back to the ministry strategies.

Amani: [00:44:54] If you had told me a few months ago that I was created with a purpose, and that my life had meaning, I never would have believed you. As a frightened 18-year-old girl, I was forced into an arranged marriage with a man who was physically abusive, by 19, I was a mother living in constant fear for my daughter's life. Not long after, my husband decided to kick us out of our home, my daughter and I were completely abandoned without any support or income. I began working in childcare to provide for us, then the coronavirus pandemic hit, and I lost my job and our only source of income. Desperate, and in what I thought was a hopeless situation, I turned to a text message I'd received as a last resort. I decided to give the advertisement for the NEXTGEN Conference online a chance.

Fares Abraham: [00:45:58] [Foreign Language]

Amani: [00:46:02] God changed my life the moment I heard the message of hope from Pastor Fares. As he thought that my best days were still to come, something miraculous happened, God restored my faith and began healing my heart. In that moment, I decided to begin a new life for myself and for my daughter. I prayed with someone from NEXTGEN for God's power to transform my life, and I made a commitment to Jesus Christ, and to joining a NEXTGEN discipleship group. I can never thank God enough for his unfailing love, and I will always be grateful to NEXTGEN for giving me a new beginning with Jesus Christ.

Fares Abraham: [00:46:49] What a great blessing to see another life changed by Jesus Christ in that part of the world. Next up, the strategy in our wheel here is the partnerships, strategic partners, where we extend our help, to help other strategic partners on the ground get on their feet, such as the Special Needs Kids Ministry and other important ministries that will open so many doors for us in the Middle East, for us to advance the Gospel and the Kingdom of God forward.

Fares Abraham: [00:47:17] The last spoke in our strategy here is the NEXTGEN center. We are dreaming and we are hoping for us to plant a center in every single capital in the Middle East by the year 2025. We believe that the NEXTGEN Center is so vital to our strategy, that will be able to host all of these activities in one place, it will be similar to a kind of a functional church if you will, a sending place that will gather people, equip them, disciple them, and then send them out to change their communities.

Fares Abraham: [00:47:54] I would like to share with you seven keys, as I promised earlier in my introduction, about how to pursue a higher calling. I shared with you about how I pursued a higher calling, and how God keeps also working in my life to pursue even a higher calling. Seven Keys to pursue a higher calling found in the Lake of Gennesaret.

Fares Abraham: [00:48:17] Number one, from this beautiful story of Peter in the lake fishing, number one, we are merely human. We have to be reminded always that we are exposed to failure. No matter how experienced Peter was in the lake, he knew where to fish, he knew where to fish, he knew how to fish, he was so experienced in fishing, but that day he failed to catch a thing. In fact, he worked hard all night and he did not get a thing. And perhaps you are right now experiencing this season in your life, where you're trying to work hard, where you're trying to pursue God more, and do bigger things in your ministry, and expand the work that God has put in your heart and the dream that God has placed in your heart. But it seems that you are hitting a brick wall, you're not going anywhere. But I'm here to tell you, don't beat yourself too hard as Peter was so experienced in the sea, he also failed that day, and simply because we are just human, we are merely human. He was just a man; he was not a superman.

Fares Abraham: [00:49:28] The number two, key number two in this beautiful story, we have to remind ourselves that we serve an extraordinary God, a supernatural god, that when we allow God into the boat of our life, when we allow him to come into the boat of our finances, our marriages, our families, our work, he will do according to his promise, supernatural work, and he will gather the fish from all around the lake. And this is the supernatural, extraordinary miracle that Jesus performed from Peter's boat. Jesus got into the boat, and I can imagine Jesus calling the fish, giving a big shout out to all the fish in the lake, commanding them to come and assemble and gather underneath Peter's boat.

Fares Abraham: [00:50:22] Always remember that it's not about you, it's not about me, it's not about my tools, and my resources, and my strategy, and my talents, none of these will attract the fish to my boat, only Jesus does, his voice. And I can only imagine when these fish heard the voice of their Creator, when they heard the voice of Jesus, they came running to their salvation. And this is what you and I are called to do, we are just channels to channel God's blessings into other people's lives, we're his voice in the wilderness. We're not the Holy Spirit, we're not God, we're not the ones who change people. I wish that I can open everybody's hearts up and everybody's minds up and put Jesus in there, but I don't have that supernatural power, this is the work of the Holy Spirit, this is the work of Jesus, he will call the fish from out of nowhere to command them to come underneath your boats, remember that.

Fares Abraham: [00:51:21] Number three, take a leap of faith, just like Peter did. You worked hard all night, but Jesus is coming and giving you another chance, take a leap of faith. Jesus instructed Peter to go into the deep water, the deep water is full of fear, full of anxiety, full of the unknowns, stuff that you're not familiar with. Maybe your comfort zone God is calling you to step out of, take a leap of faith and do like Peter did and go into the deep water.

Fares Abraham: [00:51:55] I don't know where your deep water is, but I know where mine is, it's in the Middle East. And to so many people, this deep water in the Middle East seems so scary, it seems so fearful. There are so many uncertainties, how could you live, how could you survive, how could you handle all the harassment and the persecution, and in some cases, death, and threats? God is calling us not to the comfort zone, but God is calling us to go into the deep water, take a leap of faith.

Fares Abraham: [00:52:22] Number four, never, ever, ever, ever, give up. Never give up. We have worked all night and have not got a thing. Let me ask you a question, what has the Lord put in your heart lately? What have you given up on lately? You know, I heard the saying that the wealthiest places on Earth, the richest places on Earth, are not the oil fields in the Middle East, they are not the diamond and gold mines in Africa, but they are the cemeteries, and they are the graveyards. Because in these cemeteries, in these graveyards are buried, so many dreams, and ideas, and passions, and dreams, and visions, that God has given us during our life here on Earth, but we have decided not to wake up from this dream and make it a reality, and we have taken those dreams down to the grave. I don't know about you, but I don't want to go down to the grave, I don't want to go down six feet under without fulfilling and pursuing this higher calling that God has given us. So never, ever, ever give up.

Fares Abraham: [00:53:39] Number five, the keys to pursuing a higher calling, we have to widen our nets. Widen your nets. The Bible says in Luke Chapter 5, that their nets begin to break. Many people pray for God's blessings, but they fall short of how to handle it. So many times we pray God, bring me more fish, bring me an extra, you know, a new opportunity, give me new field in the ministry, I need to be used by you in a great way. But so many times when the fish start coming, our nets cannot handle all this expansion, our boats begin to sink because we cannot handle the overweight. Perhaps we need to take a moment and expand the nets, maybe strengthen the nets, build up a bigger boat, build up a capacity. Maybe there's something in the inside that we need to work on, an issue that we're struggling with, our net has to be strong enough. If you want God to trust you with the little, with the big, with the extraordinary, you've got to have a solid net, you've got to have a solid boat. And what a beautiful picture it is for us to be like Jesus, and to shape our character, and conform to his image and his likeness. Widen your net.

Fares Abraham: [00:55:02] Number six, ask your friend for help, and as I alluded to this point earlier in my message, it takes a team to achieve the dream, it takes Levant Ministries partnering with Venture to reach the Middle East. It takes Venture Christian Church with so many different partners, and organizations, and churches all around the world to fulfill the great commission. And this is exactly what Peter did, he signaled to their partners on the other boat to come and help. You know, perhaps, some people, they like to take the monopoly in ministry, and they like to do things by themselves. And they always say, hey, well, we've been hurt by the other boat, we've been disappointed by the other boat. At least, from my perspective, this boat that is in the lake fishing is better than a boat parked at the marina, only complaining, and pointing fingers. So it's better to have the merrier, the better, we need more people, we need more workers. The harvest is plentiful, let's pray for the Lord of the Harvest to send workers. We are all on the same team, we are all wearing the same jersey, with one mission and one purpose and heart, to reach the lost for Christ and the disciple people to become faithful followers of Him.

Fares Abraham: [00:56:18] Number seven, and I close with this, always give God all the glory. Always give him all the glory, when Peter experienced the great success after failure, he knelt down at Jesus' feet, and he said, Lord, I don't deserve for you to be in my boat. I thought I had it going, I thought I am good at this, but I failed. And I even failed to believe you, I even doubted you, I didn't want to even go into the deep water, depart from me, Lord, I am a sinful man. And isn't this the greatest message, and isn't this the greatest thing that we can do as believers and followers of Jesus Christ? When God gives us great success when he blesses you, blesses your business, blesses your home, blesses your ministry, we've got to take a step back and say, it's not about me, it's not about my tools, and resources, and talents, and strategy, and financial resources, and all of that, it's all about Jesus stepping into my boat and showing me where to fish, instructing me all the way through it, and bringing me back to shore, bringing me back home with a great deal of fish. Friends, if you are seeking a higher purpose in your life, let's start by giving God all the glory. And always remember that your best days are still ahead, God still wants to use you in the great and mighty ways in the days to come. Amen.

Recorded in Los Gatos, California.
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Venture Christian Church
16845 Hicks Road
Los Gatos, California 95032