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When most people reach retirement age, their focus is on hobbies, travel and family time. But Paul P. Hancock III (known as Trey) is not like most people.
“I don’t know anything about retreat,” he says, “but I know about ministry, and that’s what we’re going to do until Jesus takes my breath away.
The ministry Trey, 65, knows so well is Muslim outreach. Pastor for 21 years at Springwell Church in Dearborn, Michigan, he teamed up with his wife, Becky, to connect with the city’s Muslim-dominated community. But on October 17, he officially resigned as pastor. Now he and Becky – the two Assemblies of God american missionaries in Cross-Cultural Ministries – can focus on starting a training center for missionaries serving Muslims. The effort is in cooperation with Assemblies of God World Missions.
Becky, 64, says that since moving to Dearborn three decades ago, they had considered opening such a center. Years ago, the Hancocks purchased two office buildings in Dearborn, thinking that one day they would house the training facility.
That day has come. The training center is conveniently located in the city of 110,000, which is 40% Muslim and has the largest Islamic population per capita in the United States. In the eastern neighborhood of Dearborn where the Hancocks live, virtually everyone is Muslim.
Senior Director of Cross-Cultural Ministries Wayne Huffman boasts the uniqueness of the center.
“What better way to get an education than to go where we have one of the highest concentrations of Muslims in America and be able to learn from those who do and not be alone?” said Huffmann. “It’s a great tool.”
Currently, Trey and Becky are traveling and recruiting for the center and organizing staff. In partnership with Undead, a church planting organization among unreached peoples, the effort will include classroom teaching on topics such as Arabic language and culture, spiritual warfare and Christian theology.
“Interns will have more time to interact with the community,” says Becky. “They can’t just be on the books while they’re here. They must be in the neighborhood.
And this is where missionaries will find their greatest challenge. Obstacles preventing Muslims from converting to Christ include separation from family, loss of jobs and even endangering lives.
Huffman describes the Muslim mission field as “a lot of plowing, but not much fruit.” Trey knows this first hand.
“For them, finding Jesus is a struggle,” says Hancock.
The center will be a vital help in this regard. Becky says experiencing the realities of the hard ground of evangelism will strengthen missionaries’ character and build their stamina so they don’t give up on their mission.
“Muslims are people like us, except they have an all-encompassing religion,” he says. “He wants to take them away from Jesus.”
The Hancocks are well aware that some missionaries may go through their program and decide that this mission field is not for them. And that’s OK with the Hancocks. But that won’t change their “retirement plans” caring for the Muslims they have come to appreciate and appreciate.
“We can’t leave our friends alone,” Trey said. “That’s not an option for us.”
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