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The Restaurant of Arwa

Since the Arab conquest of North Africa, between 647–709 AD, Muslims have called the five nations of North Africa the Maghreb, meaning “land in the West.” A nuance of the same word is also used as the last of five daily prayer rituals Muslims observe as the “sunsets in the West.” Over 77 million Muslims live in the Maghreb completely unaware of Jesus Christ, living in hundreds of villages and towns throughout the desert and the mountain range that stretches throughout the region.

Our team took a five-hour drive through those mountains. During the drive we saw dozens of small towns in what, for us, was in the “middle of nowhere.” I asked our local teammate why these people live so far from the major cities. He explained that the majority of the people living in these towns were Berbers, or Amazigh as they prefer to be called, and during the Arab conquest most of them lived close to the Atlantic Ocean. When the Arabs invaded their lands, they gave them three options. Either you become a Muslim, keep your religion and pay heavy tax, or death. Hundreds of thousands of them fled to the mountains.

Over a thousand years later, Islam has become the official and practiced religion in the region. The Islamic practices survived even when the French colonized the country from 1911 to 1934. In every town we passed, we could easily identify the minaret from the local mosque first, even from afar.

Driving through these towns, I was once again reminded of the urgency and reality of the task at hand. These people need Christ just like someone in a major city like Atlanta or New York. The only, and major, difference is access to the Gospel. Our teammate confirmed that most of the people living in these towns have never heard about Jesus even once in their lives.

Our destination was a medium-sized city where a house-church that was planted by our team was meeting. Upon arriving in the city, we drove to a local restaurant. After enjoying a delicious meal, we spent time with the chef, Arwa who opened a restaurant at her house. Her husband, Ali, hosted us the entire time. Arwa is a follower of Jesus but her husband who is open to the Gospel, is still a Muslim. We openly talked about the scriptures together and with the permission of Ali, we took the Lord’s supper together in order to encourage our sister in her walk. The message was that she was not alone. We acknowledge that she may feel lonely, but that God was there with her always. And we, as part of the body of Christ, were there in prayer.

Our experience reminded me of the story in Acts 16 when Paul and his companions met a business woman named Lydia. The Bible says, “she was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home.” (Acts 16:14-15) The house of Lydia became a point of Gospel access to the local community. The Restaurant of Arwa is the only point of Gospel access for thousands of Amazigh people.

As the Gospel message goes forward, join us in prayer for house-churches, or in this case a restaurant-church, being planted in some of the most distant places on earth.


This story was provided by Ken Katayama the President of Crossover Global and Executive Director of the USA Base.


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