If you ask Ray Register how his work is going, you'll see his face light up and hear excitement edge into his voice. You will hear how he saw more results in evangelism during 1996 than in thirty years of ministry in the Galilee.
For three decades this veteran Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board worker has traveled the highways and back roads, sharing the gospel with thousands of people in the small villages that dot this rugged land.
In the past two years, things have changed.
Now he is working with a small congregation of ten believers in one of the many new communities springing up not in Galilee, but between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Register and his wife, Rose Mary, have moved to this area to be closer to the believers. It is a career and spiritual high for Ray. And he likes it.
In Israel, after 2,000 years, church starts are still among the slowest in the world. A ten-member congregation is a miracle of God, a flower blooming in a desert. "Our lives have changed! Considering the thirty years we've served here, this is like a landslide," Ray says.
The congregation actually affects more than ten people, because some members are sharing their faith and drawing small groups together in other villages. One believer says he has twenty men coming to him, asking questions about the gospel.
"We finally came to the place where there were ten baptized believers of Muslim background. They invited me to come down and disciple them," Register says. The invitation came at a point when he needed to decide about renewing the lease on their rented house in Galilee.
He and Rose Mary prayed through it and decided they should be where God was moving the most. Now they live in a new, still-growing housing development where they hear more Russian than Hebrew or Arabic, and where bulldozers still chug away on unpaved roads. Although generally a Jewish area, there are large pockets of Muslims.
Now Register spends his days preparing for weekly house church meetings and leading the small group through an Arabic-language course called New Beginnings, which begins with a simple introduction to the Christian faith and can culminate in a master's degree.
"They are hungry for the Word," Register says simply. And that hunger for the Bible has had miraculous results. "We find one of the first things that happens to a Muslim when he reads the Bible and comes to know the Lord is that he loses his hatred for the Jewish people.
"We've seen Muslims witnessing to Jews about Christ and Jews witnessing to Muslims. It is a truly unique situation. They both get a heart for each other," Register says.
These results are exciting but not always easy.
New believers have problems with family members and friends who think they've abandoned their families, culture, heritage, and senses by reading the Bible and following Jesus. "One man was threatened by his own family and his wife's family as well," he says.
Sometimes, Register says, he has no idea what to tell them. Sometimes he prays and tells God, "You'll have to solve this one. We're beyond our limit." In one such case, a disruptive brother returned within two days, repentant.
Register believes that the key to the breakthrough has been the steady, concentrated prayers of Southern Baptist supporters.
So, ask Ray Register about his work. But have some time to listen when you do.