The Middle East, however, wasn’t Jose’s first choice, geographically speaking. He and his wife had both known since they were teenagers that they wanted to serve the Lord overseas. But Jose also had a strong affinity for his job in IT and didn’t want to leave his professional career behind for full-time ministry.
“When we started praying and looking at the opportunities, the Lord started to develop in us an interest and love for the culture and for the people here,” Jose explained. His family took an exploratory trip to the Middle East, which confirmed the region as a possibility.
Then there was his job. “We understood that coming to the Middle East, it would have to be by using my profession and getting a job here; that felt very natural and right in what the Lord had been working in our lives,” he said.
Jose, a software engineer, found a position managing a multi-cultural team for a company in the Middle East. His interest in engineering and general mechanics merged with his desire to combine all of his life with his ministry. “My work and my faith—I always saw them as very much integrated,” he said.
In the Middle East, it’s actually been easier for him to share his faith than it was in his home country in Latin America. “Here, people are very interested to know my faith, and they will come directly, and they will ask me questions. By being open and honest in the way I live and work, it has allowed me to show my faith at work in motion,” he said. “It’s given me the chance to share openly from the Bible, to pray with my colleagues… and people have come to the Lord from different religions.”
Introducing biblical principles to his team transformed the way his colleagues related to one another. He modelled how to use soft answers to diffuse anger and how to speak the truth in love. “It actually changed the whole way of working for the teams, and it produced very good results for the company,” Jose shared.
In order to stay focused on their mission, Jose and his wife meet regularly with other like-minded expats—those who want to see people in the region reached with the gospel of Jesus. They also look for glimpses of what God is doing in the lives of the people they are sharing with.
“We have had the joy to see some people coming to the Lord and being transformed and walking steadily with the Lord, and that has made it all worth it,” he emphasised. “I love doing what the Lord has [allowed] us to do.”
As the new coronavirus reached the Middle East, lockdowns and other extreme preventative measures compounded a season of change and transition that Jose and his wife were already walking through. When his company decided to dissolve his position in late 2019, Jose set apart a period of time to search for a new job and focus even more on discipleship before, eventually, deciding whether to leave the Middle East and return to Latin America.
The company allowed him time to close out his responsibilities. God used that period to give Jose new opportunities to share his faith and discover how He had already been working in the hearts of many. “One of my direct co-workers recently was checking on me and wrote: ‘Jose, your presence is every day with me; you are the first person I have seen living the spiritual principles that you believe,’” he shared.
“It was so good to see the result of living openly for others to see; it was way more than what I could have imagined and overwhelming,” Jose said.
With more time on their hands, Jose and his wife used the beginning of 2020 to get “into full swing,” organising Bible studies and trainings, in English and in Spanish, to equip and mobilise the believers already living in their city to reach out to local Arabs.
“Once the lockdown started and virtual meetings became the norm, things got even easier to organise and meet,” Jose said. He started hosting daily online meetings of different types: Bible studies, one-on-one discipleship calls and mobilisation training.
“We are really encouraged to see several of the Latinos now being prepared to share, lead study groups, actively engaging in evangelism and discipleship, mobilised to reach the unreached. We feel that if we need to leave the city, the ministry should be able to continue growing,” he explained.
With new immediate needs popping up in their city, Jose and his wife also began offering practical help to people, both tourists and those struggling to purchase food after losing their sources of income. Physically but not socially distanced, Jose spends his time “connecting to people, encouraging [them] and praying [for them], not just in this country but all around the world.”
Published: Tuesday, 14 July 2020
Credit: Nicole James