In the backyards of churches across America, the Muslim population is growing.
According to a report from Pew Research Center, the number of Muslims in the U.S. increased from 2.35 million in 2007 to 3.85 million in 2020. Pew projects that number will more than double during the next 28 years, reaching 8.1 million by 2050.
This represents a significant mission field. Yet many Christians are hesitant to reach out to their Muslim neighbors.
Missionary Lynda Hausfeld has a two-word suggestion: Say hello.
Hausfeld is the founder and director of Say Hello: Serving Muslim Women, a ministry of Assemblies of God World Missions (AGWM). “Say Hello” suggests the starting point for interaction.
“No conversation starts without saying hello,” Hausfeld says. “It really is that simple.”
Say Hello focuses especially on female relationships. The idea is to equip Christian women — leaders and laypeople alike — to befriend and minister to Muslim women.
“Muslims are not just coming to America,” says Saehee Duran, lead pastor at Life360 Intercultural (AG) in Springfield, Missouri. “They are already here, and the number is increasing rapidly. They are living among us and working alongside us. We need Say Hello in this day and generation.”
Hausfeld started Say Hello in 2011 after she and her husband, Mark, returned from the mission field in Central Eurasia. They noticed that while many Muslims in the U.S. were receptive to forming relationships with Christians, churchgoers were often afraid to reach out.
One woman who converted from Islam to Christianity told Hausfeld she drove past churches and worked alongside Christians for eight years after moving to the U.S. before she finally heard the gospel.
“We’ve been surprised over and over by the hunger of Muslims to learn more about Christianity,” Hausfeld says. “But most Muslims don’t have any meaningful Christian friendships, and most Christians don’t have any Muslim friends.”
Say Hello, part of AGWM’s Global Initiative: Reaching Muslim Peoples, is seeking to change that. Hausfeld and her team lead seminars and conferences in churches across the country and conduct online sessions with congregations and organizations around the world. Say Hello not only encourages conversations, but it also provides cultural training for more effective ministry to Muslims.
Greenhouse Church (AG) in Gainesville, Florida, has partnered with Say Hello for 10 years now.
Andrea Levings, the church’s missions pastor, says a number of women in the congregation reported approaching their Muslim neighbors and co-workers for the first time after just one training session.
The church recently set a goal of making sure every Muslim in Florida hears a clear gospel presentation.
“I have little doubt we would be on such a mission without the leadership of Say Hello,” Levings says. “They have truly mobilized our church to joyfully reach Muslim people.”
Levings says the training helped counter fear and misinformation regarding Muslims in the community.
“We have the nations gathered in our workplaces and neighborhoods, but most of us felt intimidated or ill-equipped to make disciples of people from an Islamic faith background,” Levings says. “Say Hello has helped our church become more obedient to the Great Commission.”
A woman draped in a burqa might seem strange or unapproachable to some westerners, but Hausfeld emphasizes commonalities over differences.
“Being in the Muslim world, I learned that every Muslim woman is more like me than I thought,” Hausfeld says. “She wants her children and parents to be well cared for. She wants friends. She wants to thrive. Most importantly, she is reachable.”
Since Islam’s teachings strongly discourage women from interacting alone with men outside their families, female connections are the best hope for building bridges and sharing the gospel.
“Every encounter matters,” Hausfeld says. “When I offer to help a Muslim woman read a package label at the grocery store, her encounter with me makes her more open to another encounter with a Christian woman.”
Some Americans worry that interacting with a Muslim woman could endanger or offend her. However, Hausfeld says learning to engage in culturally sensitive ways eases the tension.
For example, respecting a Muslim friend’s concern for modesty might mean choosing a secluded corner of a coffee shop for conversation rather than sitting in front of a street-facing window.
Of course, Hausfeld also encourages prayer and reliance on the Holy Spirit.
“I tell people to pray for opportunities to reach out to Muslims,” Hausfeld says. “Ask the Lord to help you know who you should say ‘hello’ to. We have the Holy Spirit to help us know when to speak and what to say. The Lord wants to see Muslims come to faith. The best thing we can do is start that conversation and trust Him.”
Duran says the training not only gave her congregation practical tools for outreach, but it also helped her form personal relationships with Muslim women.
“It gave me eyes to see Muslims and approach them without fear,” Duran says. “My life and ministry have been enriched as a result, and I now have many Muslim friends outside the church.”
In addition to its training for women, Say Hello has developed a kids’ curriculum, Forever Friends, to help first- through sixth-graders reach out to Muslim children.
Say Hello also partners with several AG churches that are settling Afghan refugees in southern Missouri. They assist with everything from housing and transportation to navigating the local school system.
“If we have Afghan refugees coming to our communities, we want to be a part of that,” Hausfeld says. “If we have Saudi students arriving at our schools, we want to be a part of that. If we have Muslim neighbors moving in next door, we want to be a part of that.”
Say Hello is not just about making converts. It’s about starting conversations, building relational bridges, and loving like Jesus loves.
“When you say hello to a Muslim friend, you’re introducing that person to the hope of heaven,” Hausfeld says. “In the process, you are becoming more like Jesus. Taking that step can be incredibly fulfilling and God-honoring.”
For more information about Say Hello, visit sayhelloinfo.com.
This article appears in the Spring 2022 edition of Influence magazine.
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