Featured speaker: Ralph Sauers and his wife, Maridee, joined Serving in Mission (SIM) in 1983. Throughout the 1980s, they served as pioneer evangelists and church planters among a nomadic Muslim people in West Africa. Returning to the US in 1991, the Sauers worked at SIM USA’s headquarters in Charlotte, NC, coordinating screening, placement, and orientation of long-term missionary candidates. They then served as SIM’s Southeast Regional Directors from 2000 to 2006.
Ralph and Maridee returned to West Africa in 2006 to disciple leaders in the young church emerging among the nomadic people they served among previously. Now back in the US, the Sauers continue to support SIM’s West African ministry as non-residential missionaries, while recruiting and mobilizing new missionaries to serve among the unreached, particularly Muslim and nomadic peoples.
In a season of heated political debates, pervasive terrorist attacks, and the devastating refugee crisis in the Middle East, Cairn University focused its annual Global Mission Week on the theme of “Christianity and Islam: An Examination.” It was a week of cultural engagement, dialogue between ministry representatives and students, and testimonies of Muslim individuals whose lives have been transformed by the gospel.
The week started on Monday, January 23, 2017, with a chapel featuring guest speaker Ralph Sauers. Sauers spoke on ministering to Muslims in context of building personal relationships, while also understanding their tradition, history, and theology. “I actually had a whole PowerPoint presentation of the key theological issues within Islam and Christianity,” he told the audience before he began, “but then I decided to share these issues in the context of building relationships and entering the mission field as learners.”
Ralph Sauers described his experiences with his wife, Maridee, ministering to nomadic Muslim groups in West Africa. Serving as pioneer evangelists for SIM, the Sauers learned that their service was not about simply speaking a message, but also about entering into people’s lives; the couple learned the value of intimately walking alongside families, experiencing their pain and joy. “Building relationships was the key,” Sauers said as he shared stories of individuals he and his wife had ministered to. During their years of service, Ralph and Maridee discussed theological differences between Christianity and Islam with the Muslim people and worked alongside translators to publish biblical books in the local language, Tamajaq. Throughout their time in West Africa, Ralph and Maridee learned how to share the gospel in a way that connected to the people’s proverbs and cultural understanding, founded on a groundwork of personal relationship and discipleship.
To conclude his chapel, Sauers drew on Philippians 2, pointing at the incarnation of Christ as an example for believers to follow as they minister to others, whether in a foreign country or their local communities. In Philippians 2:6–8, it says, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Sauers stated that Christ’s humility and faithful obedience in this passage must characterize the life and ministry of a believer. While the proclamation of the gospel is valuable, we must also let our lives reflect Christ’s incarnation by walking with the people “who have yet to know why Christ came.”
Global Missions Week continued with an afternoon message from Sauers on Tuesday, January 24, where he delivered a message on the theological doctrines of Islam. That evening, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics Dr. Timothy Yoder welcomed members of the local and Cairn communities to attend his Tuesday night class on Islam. Other highlights for the week included a missionary panel discussion on “Working and Serving within an Islamic Country” Thursday afternoon, featuring Sauers, Dr. Yoder, and Wednesday’s chapel speaker, Kate McCord (Santé Ministries). Sauers closed out the week with another chapel talk on Friday.