We continue our discussion (the first part is here) with Abu Daoud, Anglican missionary to the Middle East.
5) How have your financial arrangements been for the work? What could be improved about this for you and others?
Like most missionaries all of our income comes from churches and people who support our work. Some people send in in $20/month, some churches send a couple hundred. Most of our support comes from Anglican/Episcopal churches and people, but we are very ecumenical, and have supporting churches and people from other traditions as well.
The American branch of the Anglican Communion is the Episcopal Church (USA), and it has been losing churches and people by the thousands over the last years. So this has been hard. We are theologically conservative and evangelical in spirit, but even those churches that really get what we are doing have lost people and money, which I understand. Our main sending church in the US was originally supporting us with $2000/month, which is fantastic. Then that was cut to $1600, still very good. But then last January to $800/month. In 2010 that church split in three. The funds are still a big help, but it is a one-way trend, it seems. The churches that leave TEC for some new group also don’t usually have time for us. They are spending money on lawsuits so they can keep their old church building, or if they are sponsored by some African bishop, they send their ‘mission’ money to Nigeria or Rwanda. Maybe our four bishops in the Middle East should start a new mission to the USA! Christianity is growing well in sub-Saharan Africa, and meanwhile the Middle East is bleeding Christians.
So I have come to the conclusion that it is ultimately individuals and families who will keep this mission going. They don’t make us fill out a five-page application every year or inform us of changing mission visions and ask how we fit into that, or what have you. Our supporters keep in touch by my blog (islamdom.blogspot.com) or email or phone. When we are back in the US we meet for lunch or coffee. It is very healthy and organic, for want of a better word. So yes, it has been difficult, but I feel like we are in a better place than many other missionaries. One good thing about Episcopalians is that the lay people really appreciate what we do, and will support us. And unlike most non-denominational churches they don’t have tons of people coming around asking for missions support each month.
6) Where do you see MENA going, especially in view of events such as the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and the Arab Spring?
This is the million-dollar question, isn’t it? First, the people who protested didn’t take political control, so as much as they wanted freedom and democracy, they just won’t get it, I’m sorry to say. The Egyptian elections were demonstrably corrupt, though the international press has not said so—I have no idea why. The Islamists will take power and they will not let it go. And why is this surprising? That is precisely what Muhammad did—engaged in diplomacy and compromise and so on, but once he had power he was ruthless. In the end, an Islamic society cannot be a free society. Islam and freedom are mutually exclusive.
The question I have is this: will it be like Iran? After the revolution in `79 Islam had a chance to prove itself in the political arena, and Islam, unlike Christianity, makes substantial guarantees in this area. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians have concluded that Islam failed—it did not deliver politically so it must be false in terms of its religious and spiritual claims too. They have turned to Christianity some of them, and some to secular humanism or atheism. Will this happen in these newly Islamist states? Perhaps. I pray it will. Islam’s love of political power may well be its Achilles’ heel. Meanwhile, that means the native Christians need to stay as long as they can, and foreign missionaries like me need to stay no matter what. I will do it. Maybe the kids and wife need to go back to the US, I will do everything I can to stay here even if all hell breaks loose.
7) How has your time in the region impacted you personally and your family?
It has made a huge impact on me and all of us. Our oldest child has lived most of his life outside of the USA. After a while I came to realize that Islamic civilization, for all its faults, is in some ways superior to Western civilization. I am a harsh critic of Islam, but also of the West—I try to be fair. Muslims still have a great deal of appreciation for family, marriage, and children, something lost in much of the West. The West is on its way out, people just don’t have enough children and we are without traditions. A people without traditions has no collective memory or sense of identity. Consequently, they have no sense of value, no sense of why their culture is worth perpetuating and continuing. Muslims have that. And they have kids.
You could ask my wife this question too, and I’m guessing she would say the hardest thing for her has been trusting God with the kids. For me, I worry about money and visas and so on. She worries about our son making friends with Arab kids in his school and things like that. So I really respect the old paradigm of monastic missions now. I mean, sending out monks and nuns to do mission work makes a great deal of sense to me. American evangelicalism has no way to utilize the great charism of celibacy though, unfortunately.
Finally I would say it has made me more direct and more bold. Maybe I’m just more opinionated. (In case you haven’t noticed.) I would say my faith is much stronger. You really learn that sometimes you just have to launch out in a direction because you sense that is where God is leading you, even without knowing you will arrive. Imagine me telling you to get in a boat and row south-southeast into a huge lake at night, without me saying how long or why or even if you will arrive for sure. It’s like that.
8 ) What can Christians outside of MENA do to further efforts such as yours?
The first thing is to ask if God and his Church are calling you to this mission—to the mission to Islam. Are you called to go to the Muslims? Will you be a missionary with us? That would help!
Second, everyone can pray, and that is very valuable. On our mailing list we send our prayer letter to religious houses and convents and prayer groups all over the world actually. We never get money from them, and the printing and postage and labor come out of our pocket, but I know it is worthwhile. So pray.
And finally, give. I don’t have a secretary or administrative aid. When I need paper I walk down the hill to the paper store and buy it. We don’t have a professional consultant to do fundraising or anything like that. Unless someone lets me use office space for free, I just work out of our home. Our overhead is very low, so I think we are very strategic in terms of finances. So by all means, people and churches can pray about supporting our mission financially.