Dave went overseas for a year in 1992-1993. Half of that year he lived in Middle East and received his calling to work with people living there.
He moved back to the Middle East in 1990 to study Arabic. This is his story.
Because relationships with people from the Middle East takes a lot of time, many hours were devoted to visiting, calling, talking, eating food, drinking coffee and tea and just talking and sharing the Gospel. Whenever possible he would look for opportunities to share how God is working in our lives and to communicate bits of truth, while living Jesus before them. It often took months, if not years, to discover the felt needs of people via friendship, and then to get to the point where we had the freedom to really address those needs. For example, Julie, who was his Arabic tutor, had contact with several people like Dave (and his wife, Janet) over the years before we met her. We were just beginning to see a breakthrough with her where she felt comfortable enough to share with us about her personal life and discuss deeper spiritual issues. She even asked Janet if she would trade time studying the Bible for Arabic lessons. She seemed close to deciding, but, as she put it, ‘still had some doubts, especially about the Trinity.” Nevertheless, she regarded us as real friends and we even had opportunities to pray with her when she visited. Then, just as we returned to our new home after a visit away, she called to say she was marrying a foreigner and was leaving the country. That effectively ended our relationship with her. Or so we thought. We heard from her again after a few years. In 2010 she and her two children came to live with us in the States for 6 months. She is now living in Africa.
During our time in the Middle East there were moments of real encouragement. Take, for example, Dave’s friend Sammy. During the 11 years we lived in his city, they had some good conversations about spiritual things. It was exciting to see how God was working in his life. Sammy was, and still is, a good friend and has helped us in innumerable ways. He once said to Dave: “God has blessed me by giving me an older friend to talk with.” Before leaving the Middle East, Dave introduced him to a friend who has also been a good friend to him.
Another encouragement was Dave’s Bible studies with Alan1. They went through a series of 10 studies starting in Genesis, working their way through the Old Testament, culminating in the life of Christ.
We had contact with many non-Christians each day we lived in the Middle East. We wanted Christ to shine through us in these encounters too. We could not distribute Christian literature, but we could show people the grace of God and be an aroma of Christ in our speech and conduct. In a place where there is so much strife, a kind word, friendly greeting and gentle spirit can go a long way toward pointing others to Christ.
One example of this was illustrated to us through the death of one of our shopkeeper friends. We discovered that he died by seeing a sign on his shop. But we did not know when the funeral would be. (It is usually within 24 hours.) The next morning as Dave was leaving to attend a church service, he asked another shopkeeper when the funeral was. He told him it would be right after the noon prayer. So that afternoon Dave walked over to the place of worship and waited for the men to finish their prayers. Then he went with them to the cemetery. The family was deeply moved by this and went out of their way afterwards to express their appreciation. We were surprised by how a small gesture went a long way. One of the sons told Dave that he was now their brother.
Another example of opportunities for Dave was during taxi rides. With a captive audience, he would often ask the driver to read a passage of Scripture he had written on a card and explain the meaning. Sometimes there were other passengers in a shared taxi, so they got to listen in on the conversation with the “foreigner.” This often led to discussions of spiritual matters and the planting of Gospel seeds. According to a well-known preacher, many non-Christians in the Middle East have and are coming to faith in Christ. But we do not often hear about them.
The spiritual hunger of those around us was evident. Everywhere we went we saw people trying to please God through good works and trying to ward off evil through talismans. The spiritual void in youth was especially evident. Many of them were dissatisfied with their parent’s religion and were trying to fill the gap with the materialism and freedoms offered by the West. The press for modernization could be seen everywhere, from the use of cellular phones to the satellite dishes on the rooftops. Many leaders in the Middle East were trying to hold back the influences of democracy, Western materialism and immorality. But it was only a matter of time before the Arab Spring came. The tension could already be seen and felt by the time we left the Middle East in 2006.
Another factor that affected Dave’s ministry in the Middle East was class distinctions. It was unthinkable for people from divergent social classes to have contact on a friendship basis. Social inequities affected where people go and with whom they associate. For example, one day Dave was asked to help deliver some donated items to the church he attended. Magdy, the church doorman, met him after he finished teaching English at the American Center. One of Dave’s students, Abraham who was a judge, was with him and offered him a ride home. Dave declined, saying he had to meet someone. When Dave met Magdy, Abraham was with him. When he saw Magdy. Abraham said to Dave, “You’re going with him?”
Still another factor that affects people’s attitudes in Middle East is what is commonly called the “Pharonic mentality.” This is the mindset that looks back to the glories of the past. It says, “We were once great and we want to be that way again.” It can also say that we do not need what you have to offer us in the way of spiritual truth. After all, we have our own religion. In other words, “What more could we want and why would we want to go back to what was inferior (Christianity)?”
During our time in the Middle East, we had limited contact with believers from a non-Christian (BNCB) because being around foreigners represented a security risk for them. Being around foreigners was like a red flag to the authorities. After all, what BNCB have done – received Christ as their Savior – is essentially illegal. It is permitted for a Christian to convert to the dominant religion, but not the other way around. We met several BNCB and were involved in counseling some of them. But we were not directly involved in their discipleship.
Since 2006, one of the aims of our ministry has been evangelism and discipleship and equipping the church in the Boston area to better understand Muslims and build bridges with them. For this reason, Dave became Minister Christian-Muslim Relations. Since relocating to the States, we have been ministering among the 50,000 Muslims who live in the metro Boston area. Ministry to the 7 million Muslims who live in the US is highly strategic because they do not have the political, legal and cultural barriers that often deter those living in the Middle East from investigating Christianity.
Our vision was to see every Muslim living in the Boston area presented with the Gospel in a way they could understand, to disciple those who believed, and integrate them into local churches. Our main objective was to equip the church in the Boston area to develop effective ministries to Muslims in their communities. This was because there are simply too many Muslims to reach with the Gospel for a handful of people to do the job alone. The Church is the only hope for Muslims to hear the Gospel.
Another ministry strategy Dave leveraged was Meetings for Better Understand (M4BU). M4BU provided an opportunity for the Muslim and Christian communities to share their spiritual beliefs to understand one another better. Muslims and Christians sat together at a table in a mosque or a church to seek to better understanding each other’s beliefs in a friendly and civilized way. They also provided an opportunity for relationships to be established and for Muslims to hear a clear presentation of the Gospel. In early 2007 Dave visited one of the local mosques. He suggested to the imam that it might be a good idea for the mosque to engage in a series of M4BU with two local churches. They arranged a meeting between the leaders of the mosque and the churches. Dave presented everyone with a proposal outlining the details of how the M4BU could be conducted and a list of potential topics. Each speaker had a ½ hour to present their view on the topic. Then there was to be ½ for questions for clarification, which often lasted much longer. We all agreed on the format and our Muslim friends hosted the first meeting in March. They had invited some Muslim friends from a local Muslim association to join them. Yacoub suggested that everyone present share briefly what they value most about their faith. So, the Muslims present got to hear 14 testimonies that night! Of course, we heard testimonies from our Muslim friends too. The second M4BU, in April 2007, was hosted by one of the two churches. Though it was less well attended, it was still good. The topic was the “Attributes of God.” I spoke about the attributes of God’s holiness and love. It was a good opportunity to share how these attributes relate to the Gospel.
At the third M4BU in May 2007, we were back at mosque. The topic was “holy books.” Dr. Timothy Tennant from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary did a superb job of presenting why we believe the Gospels are God’s Word. The Muslims present had numerous questions, not just about the Gospels, but about salvation, assurance of salvation, the Christian view of grace, forgiveness, etc.
The fourth and final M4BU, in May 2007, was back at one of the churches. Dr. Todd Johnson from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary did a great job explaining how to raise children in a secular society. Though there was much less discussion in the way of theological topics, it was still a good opportunity to interact with our Muslim friends and find common ground with them.
In December 2007, one of the churches involved in the MB4U invited our Muslim friends from the mosque to attend a Christmas party. To reciprocate, during Ramadan of 2007, the mosque invited one the churches to an Iftar meal.
During the Fall and Spring of 2008, we had another series of MB4U.
The churches hosted another Christmas party in 2008. We invited our Muslim friends to join us. It was a wonderful time of sharing and building relationships.
Dave has also been involved in numerous training and outreach opportunities with area churches and students from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (GCTS) and Gordon College. He was also active in mentoring students in ministry to Muslims.
One other ministry opportunity which Dave led was a quarterly prayer meeting to pray for the Muslims of Boston. This event brought together the diverse ministries participating in ministry to Muslims in the Boston area and encouraged those who were just getting started in ministry to Muslims or are thinking/praying about becoming involved.
Of course, Dave did not do these things alone. He was part of a ministry team.
Another creative ministry Dave helped to begin was an ESL program at a local church. The course has attracted many Muslims, some good relationships were formed with these students, as well as good opportunities to share the Gospel! What is more, prior to the Covid pandemic, the church had weekly meetings for Muslims.
Dave wants to see churches in Southern CT energized and equipped to reach non-Christians with the Gospel.
These are the 3 things he is planning to do in 2021-2022:
- Learn the new ministry context
- Visit non-Christian places of worship in the area
- Connect with a local team already doing outreach on a university campus
His Mission Statement is:
- To assist churches in building bridges with the non-Christian community
- To disciple those who become believers
- To assist the Church in sowing gospel seeds among their non-Christian neighbors and friends
- To mentor men who want to do ministry with non-Christians
Dave became a believer while in college. In 1974 his grandmother, Nana, sent him a tract called, “Verses of Comfort, Assurance and Salvation.” He was studying the environment and as God showed Himself through to Dave through His creation, He did the same through His Word, the Bible. Next, Nana sent Dave a New Testament, which he also read. The summer of 1977 Dave gave his life to Jesus, after reading, “Steps to Peace with God” by Billy Graham.
Janet became a believer when she was twelve at Pioneer Girls New England Camp Cherith (now Cedarbrook).
Dave and Janet met in the country of Jordan in 1991. Janet was working as a nurse at a mission hospital and Dave was studying Arabic.
While in college, in 1978, Dave sensed God calling him into some ministry. But he was not sure what kind. So, he decided to go overseas after college, for a year. While in the Middle East, the Lord called Dave to ministry. He sensed the Lord telling him to return to the States and prepare himself to return to the Middle East to bring the Gospel to the people there.
Janet attended the Urbana Student Missions Convention in 1981 where she received her calling to work with people from the Middle East.
Dave and Janet were married on April 3, 1993. They have 2 adult children, Joseph and Gabriella.
Dave graduated from Berkshire Community College in 1974 with an AA in Environmental Studies. In 1978 he graduated from UMASS Amherst with a B.Sc. in Individual Studies. In 1984 he graduated from Moody Bible Institute with a certificate from the Advanced Studies Program. In 1989 he graduated from UMass Boston with an MA in TESL. In 1992 he graduated from the Kelsey School in Jordan with a certificate in Arabic.
Janet graduated from Roberts Wesleyan College in 1983 with a B.Sc. in Nursing and from All Nations Christian College in 1989 with a certificate in Bible and Missions. In 1991 she graduated from the Kelsey School in Jordan with a certificate in Arabic.