NORGE, Virginia – More than 550 Christian leaders in 28 nations across the Middle East and North Africa have received crucial ministry training through the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) Training Center since its launch in 2020.
“This ministry was birthed out of a desire to help fill gaps within existing ministries so they could accelerate [the spread of] the gospel,” shared Dr. Jenn Murff, CEO and founder of the MENA Leadership Center. “We provide courses and coaching for high-impact ministries. We have courses such as strategic planning, religious freedom courses, virtual church courses, courses specific to the needs of ministries in the greater Middle East. We just want to fill in the puzzle pieces so they have the skills and tools to successfully navigate the mission God has put in front of them.”
Though Murff’s passion for evangelism is evident, she didn’t grow up in a Christ-centered atmosphere.
While many in her family have come to faith over the past five years, addiction and brokenness plagued her home as a child. Even so, she said she knows God has always had a guiding hand on her life.
“It was as if there was a scarlet thread of God’s goodness through my life, even when I tried to run from God,” Murff said. “God shielded me. I see God’s protection throughout my journey.”
Murff experienced what she dubbed her “Damascus Road experience” when she was 16 years old and driving home from school.
“I heard the voice of the Lord very clearly that he wanted my heart, and he wanted lordship,” Murff said. “I didn’t even know what that meant to be quite honest.”
That evening Murff visited a youth group meeting at a local church and committed herself to Christ. She said her life was radically transformed overnight.
One of the first things she did after joining a church was lead a group of other girls through the Experiencing God Bible study.
“[The study] was instrumental in me connecting with God in a tangible way. Me not just doing things for God but with God,” Murff said. “One of the things I loved about the book was that God was always at work around me, despite me. We can participate with the divine, and I’ve seen that throughout my life where I’ve been able to participate globally in the kingdom.”
Murff said ever since she was a teenager, she has made it her mission always to say yes to Jesus, no matter what he asks of her.
Several years ago, obedience to Jesus meant leaving behind her career in academia and saying “yes” to starting the MENA Leadership Center to equip Christian leaders to minister in one of the most difficult regions of the world to share the gospel.
“I’ve always felt called into ministry, and I thought I would be on the mission field. I thought it would look very different than it does, but now I couldn’t imagine anything different. The work God is doing in the MENA stirs my heart up, gives me hope for the future, and I believe revival is being stirred up, especially around Muslim-background believers,” Murff said. “I didn’t think I would work in the Middle East. But I said I would always say yes to Jesus. That has been the cry of my heart since I was a teenager.”
The MENA Leadership Center launched in 2020 as Covid-19 was sweeping the world. But despite the inevitable challenges the pandemic created, Murff credits it for accelerating the organization’s impact, especially through their online resources.
In its first year of operation, the center trained 141 leaders. In its second year, participation doubled. Most of the leaders who are currently enrolled heard about the program through word of mouth.
“Our participants are heroes of faith,” Murff said. “I’ve never met more strong, godly people in my life. They’re in the thick of persecution. It’s something many of them face on a daily basis.”
Murff shared how one Middle East-based participant in the MENA’s religious freedom course got a knock on his door one day from government authorities who ordered him to shut down his digital church. His classmates—many of whom had experienced similar persecution—and his teacher rallied around him and helped him keep his church running.
“He’s fearless. He comes from a non-Christian background and he’s fearless. He doesn’t care the consequences; he’s going to serve Jesus,” Murff said. “The whole point of the MENA Leadership Center is to strengthen the church and help strengthen organizations so they can accelerate the gospel. It has been amazing to see them implementing what they’ve learned and make really tough decisions that will affect generations. Religious freedom in the Middle East is a long game. It’s not something you can just turn on like a light. But we have seen a shift in some areas. God is moving and doing amazing things through many ministries.”
For Murff, launching the ministry and keeping it running goes back to the commitment to follow Jesus she made all those years ago as a 16-year-old high school student.
“I think it is so important not to get off-mission doing good things for God instead of great things with God,” Murff concluded, citing a truth she learned through Experiencing God. “I thought I was going to be a professor for the rest of my life, but God took me in a different direction. I had a narrow idea of what God could use me to do, but Jesus begins to show you your giftedness in a way you didn’t see it yourself. It has been an awesome journey saying yes to Jesus.”
For more info on the MENA Leadership Center, visit menaleadershipcenter.com.