By Rebecca Hopkins, Paraclete Mission Group – Writer about nonprofit work. http://www.rebeccahopkins.org.
This article is part of the series Pursuing Partnership: Men and Women in Ministry.
Part 24: Leadership Profile on Karen Beijani
Americans don’t know how to talk to their Muslim neighbors about their faith. Meet the woman who wants to change that.
Karen Beijani knew how to check all the good American Christian boxes. Go to church. Check. Attend Bible study. Check. Work hard. Grow your business. Double check.
But sharing her faith?
“In my mind, the Great Commission was for missionaries, not every day ordinary Christians,” she said.
When the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened, Muslims entered her world for the first time—but, in her mind, as people who hated her. Then when Muslims started moving into her city, she wondered what that meant for her life.
“Soon after, the Lord began to stir my heart for the refugees that were coming here and I went through a refugee orientation class,” she said. “And I remember sitting across the table from men and women from other cultures and economy. And it was the first time that ever awakened, that the nations were among us. And so, I began to feel a stirring in my soul that I was supposed to be engaging with and sharing my faith with women of other faiths or cultures.”
She struggled to learn how to do that from within her church at the time.
“I lived in a bubble in the suburbs (with) white evangelical Christians and when I would talk about it with my friends, it would become like a mic drop moment,” she said. “They would say, ‘No one’s doing that. You’re crazy.’”
In the meantime, she met her husband, Renod, who grew up hating Muslims and then denying God because of persecution he experienced growing up Christian throughout the Middle East. But eventually, his heart changed, and he spent a decade interviewing and studying testimonies of Muslims who came to faith in Christ. He discovered common patterns in their journey to faith and began calling them the “5 Essentials.” He began practicing the five essentials, found them fruitful and began teaching them to others. They offered training to churches, yet met a dead end.
“There were just a handful of mosques in our area at the time, and churches weren’t interested,” she said. “Yet with Islam growing fast and Christianity declining fast here, we felt passionately about changing the way everyday Christians thought about sharing their faith with Muslims. So, we rented our local community center. And we borrowed lawn chairs from every home group leader we knew. Just over 100 people showed up. Well, those people told people who told people and then over a period of just a few years we ended up training 7500 people in North Texas, all completely grassroots.”
But at this time, Beijani was also a successful corporate executive, working long hours, living the American dream. Her income supported their growing ministry, called iHOPE Ministries. Then a few years ago, she went on a solitude retreat connected with a Women’s Development Track conference. When she wasn’t taking time to rest and reflect, she was eating meals with other women who are leaders in Christian nonprofits and mission organizations. It planted a seed. Soon after that retreat, she and her husband decided it was time for her to step away from her corporate career to devote themselves full time to catalyze everyday Christians to share their faith across religious boundaries.
She brings one set of strategic leadership skills. He brings another. Through resources like in-person and online workshops, podcasts, videos, and blogs, the Bejjani’s are changing the way everyday Christians think about sharing their faith with people of other faiths. (https://www.iHOPEministries.org)
“We’re on this top end of the funnel, inspiring and empowering everyday Christians who are unaware, unwilling or lack skills to walk across the street to say hello to their Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu neighbors,” she said.
Through their new Blue Cord initiative—based in Numbers 15:38—the Beijanis hope to catalyze women. specifically, to make a major contribution to the spread of the gospel in our generation.
“Many Christian women are afraid,” she said, but not of terrorism. “They want to be politically correct.”
She regularly interviews faith-filled women on her podcast who are paving the way. (Look for “iHOPE Empowers,” Blue Cord episodes on Apple Podcasts, iHOPE’s website, CPN.com or wherever you listen.)
“I’m interviewing and featuring everyday women who are boldly in the trenches, fearlessly sharing their faith, so that their stories can inspire and embolden everyday women to get involved.”
This article is submitted by Wendy Wilson of Missio Nexus and of Women’s Development Track. Women’s Development Track is a Missio Nexus member. Member organizations can provide content to the Missio Nexus website. See how by clicking here.