Thursday, September 16, 2004

Goat Ministry

From an email from Christian Aid.
Arab Countries: Goats Open Doors for Gospel
In Arab lands, the Gypsy people are an isolated, rejected group, focused on survival and often apathetic or closed to the gospel. Indigenous ministries are finding new ways to reach them with the truth.

Many Gypsy families are nomadic, often camping in the middle of the desert in tents made of canvas and wooden poles. In most countries they are societal outcasts, denied jobs and opportunities others enjoy. Children resort to begging on city streets or rummaging through dumpsters in search of food scraps. Survival is a priority, so education is often a remote idea. In their isolated communities, many Gypsies have no access to medical care.

Native missionaries realize that in order to reach these ostracized people, they must make inroads by meeting practical needs. Also, in a few Islamic countries, openly preaching Christ can result in death, so practical outreaches are a more effective and safe way to spread the gospel.

One such outreach is conducted using goats. Gospel workers give poor Gypsy families goats for free, as long as they agree to use the animals as a consistent form of livelihood and not sell them for quick money. Not only do goats provide families milk and meat; they also give missionaries a reason to visit Gypsies regularly, building relationships that often lead to open discussions of the Christian faith. For those Gypsies who already know Christ, the visits can be times of discipleship as well.

Since this "goat outreach" began three years ago, a number of Gypsies have given their lives to the Lord. Several Bible study groups have been formed.

The goats have also opened doors to meet more of the Gypsies' needs in the name of Christ. In one area, native missionaries are in the process of establishing a school for Gypsy children who would otherwise receive no education. Missionaries in another region were able to help one sick girl receive medical care when, on a visit to check on the goats, they found her in terrible pain from a hernia, with no way to get to a hospital.

This goat ministry is just one way in which native missionaries in Arab lands are reaching the Gypsy people.

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