Pastor John, you have been busy traveling the second half of 2013. From Knoxville to Minneapolis for the Desiring God National Conference on C.S. Lewis, then on to Ohio, Atlanta, Idaho, Texas, and now you’re out of the country altogether and will be spending just about all of November in the Middle East. I guess the place to begin is to ask if you’ve traveled to the United Arab Emirates before?
I have never been to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). I have never been to the Middle East at all. In fact, it might help people to know where that place is. My guess is that lots of people couldn’t put their finger on it. The major cities in the UAE are Dubai and Abu Dhabi. There are, of course, others, but those are the two where I will be. The UAE is on the southern part of the Persian Gulf. It borders Saudi Arabia to the West, and then across the Gulf is Iran. So that gives you a perspective on where it is.
On this same trip, I am going to Ethiopia to Addis Ababa with Jason Meyer, my replacement at Bethlehem. And this is really exciting to me. We are going to do a pastors’ conference in Ethiopia. He is not part of the event in the UAE. So we will be working through the first five chapters of 2 Corinthians there in Ethiopia and just trying to encourage pastors. And my sense is what I want to have there is that pastors not only get encouraged to keep looking at the book and digging, but to be confident they can find meaning for themselves. Jason and I both want to help them see what is there so that they can see how they can get it without dependence on us.
But in the UAE, I will visit two Christian churches, one in Dubai, and one in Abu Dhabi. And political leaders in Dubai and Abu Dhabi have been very generous to Christians to approve the building of these churches, even to help in the land, I believe. And Muslims, of course, do not believe it is right for any Muslim to convert to Christianity. That is forbidden there. But they know that there are thousands of expatriates in the UAE who are not Muslim, and they have been willing — and it seems, eager and supportive — for these Christians to have a place of worship in both of those cities.
Prayer for Strength
So, I will be ministering part of the time along with Mark Dever to these churches — or to one of the churches with Mark and I don’t think with the other — in doing a conference there. And our hope is that we would encourage them, strengthen their faith, show them the greatness of God, and stir them up for the kinds of love and good works that Jesus commands of them there in the UAE. It is just a huge privilege to be called to do this.
Traveling, Tony, is not my forte. I do not like to get on planes and stand in customs lines, and I get so uptight about these things and don’t sleep all the way on long flights. So I would just love for the folks to pray for us in this for strength and health and the fullness of the Holy Spirit and for ripple effects for the glory of Jesus in ways that only he can dream of. The dates of the trip are November 3–25 for the totality of it. So, if folks any time during that time find it in their heart to pray, that would be great.