Take any great idea or movement throughout history. It was once a particle of an idea, a seed, or an infinitesimal action that happened to grow into something that changed the world.
If the Rock Church’s Middle Eastern Outreach Ministry becomes the movement that beats the threat of terrorism around the globe as James Elia, the leader of the ministry thinks it will, he can already identify the seed.
“He was a hulking 6’6, 240 lb. man who was dressed entirely in black, with a menacing look on his face, and who had just walked into the investment firm where I worked,” says James, a financial advisor. “The first thing I noticed about him was that his hands shook.”
The imposing figure had just taken a seat at James’ desk. He took another look at the man who was nearly coming undone. James could see that he had just experienced something traumatic. He fidgeted. He moved anxiously. The more the man talked and answered questions about his financial goals, the clearer it became that he was buckling under the weight of a recent event.
James, who had given his life to Jesus four years earlier, had been feeling that he needed to step up and share Jesus with his customers. After all, Jesus was the only one who could turn his heart from cold and hopeless, to crazy levels of joy and purpose. He just never felt that he had found the right time to share.
All that was about to change.
He looked at the man again, who grew seemingly more troubled as the moments passed. “Are you a Christian?” James asked.
The man looked a bit taken off guard and responded curtly, “What’s that got to do with anything?”
“I just want you to know that whatever you are going through, if you give your life to God, He will see you through your problems. He will be there for you.”
The man looked at him with a bit of distrust in his eyes. He stood to leave and James thought that it was now or never. He came around his desk, placed his hand on the man’s shoulder, and prayed for him. It seemed the entire office stopped to watch what was going on. After the prayer was over, the man left abruptly. He didn’t like being prayed for.
James felt like a fool. He looked around at his coworkers who immediately acted as if they hadn’t seen a thing, and weren’t freaked out. But they had, and they were.
Oh no, James thought to himself. That was a disaster. I’m never going to do that again. He went back to work and tried to keep his head down.
About four days later, a dark shadow appeared over James’ desk. James looked up. “Oh hello!” he said to the man who had returned and now wore a smile. “How can I help you?”
The man put out his hand. “I just came by to tell you that what you did was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me,” he said. “When I came in, I was convinced that my wife was going to leave me. I had a fifth of scotch and a .45 caliber gun in my car. I was going to kill myself and the reason why I came in was to make sure that she was the beneficiary of all my assets. But when you told me that God would be with me, and then you prayed for me, I felt His presence immediately. Everything is going better now and I want to thank you so much.”
James was elated. God had taken his moment of trust and blessed the man, his wife, and himself. “I knew right then that I would share Jesus with anyone who needed to hear it. Everybody needs it,” James said with a smile.
And so, whenever a customer, any customer, sits across his desk, James will give them sound financial advice, and then tell them about the gospel, using whatever he can think of to open the door: science, college pursuits, tattoos, sports, the Chargers, anything. “I tell them about the God who wants to come alongside and be with them. It’s a security that I think most of them are after, thus the reason they are looking for financial advice in the first place.”
Soon, just as expected, James was called into the Human Resources office. “We need you to sign this document saying that you won’t talk to people about religion,” the HR representative said. “You’re a good guy and we know you don’t want to cause trouble, so just sign it, alright?”
“If you have to take action, by all means do so,” James replied, “but I’m not going to be signing this paper. It would make me a liar because I absolutely will be talking to people about Jesus again.”
After the meeting, the matter seemed to subside. Then James found that instead of the company getting complaints, customers actually had nice things to report about their time with him.
Hmm, James thought. I wonder if…
It prompted James to start trying to figure out if he had just happened upon his future. Now that he was feeling a wave of certainty that evangelizing to the lost was his purpose, he began to consider what God was really calling him to—how was he going to use it? As an ethnic Chaldean, he had always felt burdened by the growing terrorist threats out of the Middle East. Thinking about his desire to evangelize in combination with the danger the world now finds itself in, he got an idea. Could it be that the Chaldeans are the key to peace and I’m being led to push it into gear? he wondered to himself.
The Chaldeans are a people who are originally from ancient Babylon and then later became the inhabitants of Mesopotamia, then Assyria and Iraq. They have been conquered and dispersed many times. They could have easily been lost forever; an extinct race. But the Chaldeans, a very proud people, survive to this day.
As it turns out, San Diego’s East County is home to a massive Chaldean community. But East County is also home to a large and growing Muslim community as they migrate here from the Middle East. The problem, and therefore the opportunity, is that no one in East County speaks Aramaic, which will keep the Muslims from assimilating into American society—no one, except for the Chaldeans.
“And that’s why they are the key to peace in the Middle East,” says James. “I feel God is calling me to share Christ with the Chaldeans. As the Middle Eastern Outreach Ministry grows and God raises up a vibrant community of believers among the Chaldeans, we will turn our attention toward loving the Muslims. And from those who choose to follow Jesus, they will share the scriptures with their families back home in the Middle East. The tide will begin to turn.”
“Not only that, since last year, more than 14,000 Christians, our brothers and sisters, have been killed in Iraq. Over 1 million have been kicked out of their homes and towns because of ISIS,” he points out. “One of the reasons I started this ministry is to raise awareness about all of this. It's my goal to bring every Christian in Syria and Iraq to the United States where they are safe.”
What started out as a troubled man wearing black and walking into a financial institution, has turned into a grand plan to save the world. “Sure it might sound crazy,” says James. “But does anybody really believe that the answer to worldwide terrorism won’t come through the power and saving grace of Jesus Christ?”
James has since left his job to attend seminary, work on a degree in theology, and lead the Middle Eastern Outreach Ministry. To find out more or get involved, contact James at [email protected] or go to sdrock.com/middleeastern.
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For more information about the Middle Eastern Outreach Ministry, click here »