Amsterdam. Berlin. Brussels. Frankfurt. Paris. Madrid. Rome.
Premier cities like these in Western Europe conjure up images of vacation travel. Well-heeled tourists stand in line to snap photos of the Eiffel Tower, sample haute cuisine and spend fortunes on fashion and entertainment.
But for millions of immigrants and refugees who call these cities home, there is no glamour.
Instead of financial success, they find language barriers. Instead of a new life, they find alcohol and nightclubs. And instead of hope, they find spiritual darkness and despair.
Southern Baptists would like to change that.
With a vision for reaching these seven strategic gateway cities in Western Europe, a ministry group called "Tsilent Tsunami" (pronounced: silent soo-NAH-mee) has made inroads with the gospel. Tsilent Tsunami's team members are reaching out to pockets of immigrants and political refugees, many of whom enjoy Europe's religious freedom in contrast to that of their birth countries in Asia, northern Africa, and the Middle East.
The name "Tsilent Tsunami" came from the idea of a tsunami, or tidal wave, of prayer and outreach spilling quietly across Western Europe. Using avenues like praying, teaching English, crafts, dancing, singing, and cutting hair, team members are sharing the gospel among otherwise closed people groups.
"Many refugees come from closed access countries where it's illegal to witness or to convert to Christianity," says Chris Mills, associate director of International Mission Board work in Western Europe. "They bring with them the religions they know, and often, hurting, empty hearts ravaged by wars and persecution."
Volunteers are needed for prayerwalking and distributing Christian materials in a variety of languages.
"The world is moving to Western Europe," Mills says. "In London, for example, there are areas where English is by far a minority language. In fact, over 140 languages are spoken in London."
In Germany, he added, "I've been told that the largest Turkish population outside of Turkey resides in Germany."
Besides breaking apart the image of people groups contained each in their own country, the flood of immigrants to these gateway cities has done much to deconstruct the view of Western Europe as a "Christian" area.
In fact, Southern Baptist strategists have dubbed Western Europe "the new Last Frontier."
In most countries, evangelicals account for less than 1 percent of the population. Spain, dotted with ornate cathedrals, is considered one of the least evangelized countries on earth. In France, practicing Muslims outnumber both Catholics and evangelicals combined.
"Most Americans think of the great cathedrals in Western Europe and conclude, 'It must be a Christian place, just look at all the churches,'" Mills explains. "The truth is, those church buildings are just monuments and mausoleums. They're filled with people, all right - tourists who take pictures and whisper aloud while a solitary priest pronounces Mass over a small group of aged congregants."
Most western Europeans know "church" as an old, cold stone building where "dull, backward-thinking old priests and pastors who care little for the people live in the shadows of their crosses," he adds.
Instead, Tsilent Tsunami teams want to present the New Testament idea of church as a living, vibrant extension of salvation in Jesus Christ.
Mills believes now is a strategic time for reaching Western Europe with the gospel.
"Compared to [immigrants'] home countries, Western Europe provides a very safe environment to witness," he says. "While they are in transition, these people are especially open to receive Christ. But the window doesn't remain open indefinitely. We have to respond while they are ready."
With a goal of placing 1 million volunteers, plus long- and short-term missionary personnel, in the seven gateway cities, Tsilent Tsunami team leaders want to give Bibles to every member of an unreached people group.
"That's an enormous task," Mills acknowledges. "Sound impossible? It's never been done before. Then neither had anyone walked on water or fed 5,000 with a few loaves and fishes until Jesus did it. We're looking for God to do something marvelous in our midst."
To "ride the wave" and help reach Europe's strategic gateway cities for Christ, contact Chris Mills at cmills@IMB.org or call 1-804-353-0151, extension 1286. Also, visit the International Mission Board Web site at www.IMB.org.
The International Mission Board
"Leading Southern Baptists to be on mission with God to bring all the peoples of the world to saving faith in Jesus Christ."
We will lead Southern Baptists to be on mission with God to bring all the peoples of the world to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
The mission of the International Mission Board, SBC, is to lead Southern Baptists in international missions efforts to evangelize the lost, disciple believers, develop churches, and minister to people in need. Leading Southern Baptists is done by mobilizing prayer support, appointing missionaries, enlisting volunteers, channeling financial support, and communicating how God is working overseas.
• Our basic commitment is obedience to the lordship of Jesus Christ and to God's infallible Word.
• Our basic belief is that Jesus Christ is God's only provision for salvation and that all people without personal faith in Him are lost and will spend eternity in hell.
• Our basic means of understanding and fulfilling God's mission is prayer.
• Our basic purpose is to provide all people an opportunity to hear, understand, and respond to the gospel in their own cultural context.
• Our basic task is evangelism through proclamation, discipling, equipping and ministry that results in indigenous Baptist churches.
• Our basic strategy is to send and support gifted, God-called missionaries who, with mutual respect, accountability, and cooperation, carry out the Great Commission in an incarnational witness.
• Our basic role is to lead and facilitate the international missionary involvement of Southern Baptists in partnership with overseas Baptists and other Christians who are fulfilling the Great Commission.