In This Issue...
- A Theology of Humor by Cheryl Taylor
- Ministering With Humor by Stephanie Nance
- Christian Leaders Having Fun? by Pam Morton with Kathy Jingling
- The Health Benefits of Humor and Laughter by Dwenda Gjerdingen, MD, MS
Missionary/Church Planter to the Middle East/North Africa Area
WIM: What is your position and general job description? How long have you served in this position?
Irving: I am the executive director of a café for women, and I am the church planting team leader in a city in the Middle East/North Africa area. I've been team leader for about a year and in the process of opening the café for about a year as well.
As executive director, my responsibilities surround the large vision of the café. I oversee all aspects of the café including overseeing the director of operations and all managerial staff. I also oversee the spiritual component of the ministry by modeling and encouraging team members to share Jesus with employees and clientele and facilitate meetings.
As church planting team leader, my husband and I oversee five other long-term personnel and two short-term personnel as well as interns and short-term teams. We work to keep our vision of a church planting movement always in front of our team members. We encourage team members in their language study as well as sharing and discipling. Our goal is an indigenous church planting movement led by local Muslim background believers.
WIM: What steps/preparation led you to this position?
Irving: I was in another Middle Eastern country as the only AGWM person for 2 1/2 years, studying Arabic and working at church planting among the unreached people group. I was forced to leave because I was turned in by the family of a woman I was discipling as a missionary. I'm not sure if this alone prepared me for my current position as team leader, but God continually directs my journey to give me a great passion for church planting among the unreached. Most of the time I feel unprepared being a team leader, but it forces me to rely more on the Holy Spirit for direction. I've learned there that every day my job is to be obedient to the Holy Spirit. I cannot save anyone. I cannot plant a church or a church movement. All I can do is follow the Spirit's leading and be obedient.
My degree is in education, and I'm an ordained minister, so going into business was not something I was prepared to do. However, when the Lord placed this plan in my heart, I began reading as much as I could about entrepreneurship and talked with friends with MBAs. I still don't feel prepared, but I know the Holy Spirit will give me all I need to make the café a place for His truth to be known.
WIM: Is this role a vocation, a "calling" for you? If so, how did you live that out?
Irving: Living in the Middle East/North Africa area has to be a calling. If it wasn't for moments in my life prior to moving here, I wouldn't be where I am. The Lord told the Israelites to construct memorials at various places to remember what He did for them. I have taken that to heart and journal things God has spoken to me and things He has done through me. When I am discouraged, I can look back and see what God has done and be encouraged to know that the Lord's hand is on me. Living out my calling is simply doing what the Lord asks me to do every day.
WIM: What are the joys of this role?
Irving: The most beautiful thing in the world is watching a Muslim begin to understand who Jesus is. It's the reason I do what I do.
WIM: What are the challenges of this role?
Irving: The challenges are too many to list here. It is not legal for Muslims to leave Islam and become followers of Christ. The consequences for new family members are great. It can lead to being ostracized from family, prison, and even death. I wasn't prepared to deal with friends being persecuted before moving here, and I have had to take real stock in what I believe and what it's worth to continue. But Jesus is worth it.
Another challenge is simply international business. We've spent almost a year just getting the necessary paperwork finished through the government. There are various fees and issues that continually come up. They see us as "rich Americans" to exploit. It gets very frustrating and discouraging because it takes a long time to get things done.
WIM: What would you tell another woman aspiring to work in this field in terms of preparation, needed skill set, etc.?
Irving: Abide in Jesus. Without abiding in Jesus, none of this is possible. Spend unbelievable amounts of time in prayer, worship, and the Word. Read all you can about Arabs and sharing Jesus with Muslims. I would recommend The Camel Method, and Understanding Arabs. And pray for Muslims, a lot.