The Harvesters: In Philadelphia and Beyond

by Andrew Stroud | 8 min read

We hope that with the series “The Harvesters,” you will be introduced to many different followers of Jesus who are striving to make disciples of Jesus out in the world; whether you’re in the military, a missionary, a scientist, a stay-at-home parent or anything else under the sun. Check out the full series here and may you be encouraged to do likewise in your own “fields of harvest.”

Tell us about yourself

I am currently living and laboring in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with my roommate and ministry teammate.

My greatest passion is to raise up laborers for Christ from the nations of the world to reach all nations of the world, with a specific heart for Arab Muslims. But, this year the Lord led me to move here to Philly to help pioneer and partner with church planting movements in the city, the Northeast region, and beyond.

Who are you focusing on in the harvest?

Since moving to Philadelphia we have started a small church made up of Philadelphians who are eager to grow and learn how to better reach their city and follow Jesus. We all decided to name it “Movement Church” because that is exactly what we want to see happen in this city.

We also find ourselves busy outside of the Philly area, helping with the greater No Place Left NorthEast Network were we had our first training this summer and have scheduled more for this next year.

And as it would happen, even though Jesus has me primarily stateside during this current season, He allowed me to help a team of missionaries in Greece in their refugee community there. It was such a joy to be back training Muslim background believers in a place where they will be able to go and immediately reach their own community for Jesus!

How did that come about (is there a story there?)

When I was 14, the Lord used a time of depression, anxiety, and doubt in my life to lead me to my knees. I cried out to Him to take away all my pain and fears. I heard Him tell me that what I had learned about Jesus growing up was true, that He was the Way, the Truth and the Life. And that He was with me. I just needed to give Him control of all of my life. I surrendered everything to Him and told Him that I would do whatever He asked, and go wherever He would tell me to go for the rest of my life. He gave me immediate peace and joy!

That same year, I went on a mission trip to Mexico where I first experienced people who were living out their lives in obedience to Jesus and his command to “Go, make disciples of all nations…” Through this trip, the Lord called me to be a long term missionary to the nations.

In college, the Lord brought Muslims into my life and my heart was broken over the great need for laborers among unreached and unengaged peoples of the world.
In 2013, I moved overseas and labored in the Middle East for a two and a half years. The Lord unexpectedly brought me back to the States, where He placed me in the No Place Left Army community. This was the first time I experienced a community of people in the States who were loving Jesus and others by intentionally obeying the Great Commission.

We were in the harvest together, being and making disciples of Jesus, planting churches, and training others to do the same. I had previously only experienced that type of intentional community overseas, but was encouraged that people were also doing that here in the States!

Over the last couple years, I learned biblical, simple, and reproducible tools for how to share the gospel, for training others, and also began to see a big-picture vision of how God works with us to spread His Kingdom throughout all the earth. Wherever we are, whether we live in the States, the Middle East, or are on vacation in Europe, we go, share the gospel abundantly with the people in our lives, disciple those that the Lord gives us by gathering together into church, and find key leaders to train to do the same.

What is the hardest thing about being in your harvest place?

Personally, the past few years have been a series of constant transitions and unknowns. It was difficult for me to leave the Middle East, where there is little to no access to the gospel, and coming back to a country with seemingly a lot of access to the gospel. In the midst of this, I have had to fight off a lot of discouragement that the enemy tries to throw my way.

This has been a major faith-building season for me, as I have had to live by faith in God’s promises, trusting that He has me where I am supposed to be and that my identity is in Jesus and obedience to Him.

Laboring both in the States and in the Muslim world are difficult in their own ways. Compared to other countries of the world, there is a lot of wealth and comfort in the States that feeds the illusion that we are “fine”, in control of our own lives, and don’t need Jesus. We have also spent time discipling people who at first are super enthusiastic about following Jesus and making disciples, but then get distracted by things of this world and fall away and leave the church.

In the Arab world, you see the stronghold of the religion of Islam and layers of misconceptions about Jesus that they are taught from birth. It is difficult to labor hard for several years and not see the fruit for which you are believing and praying.
I need to constantly be reminded of the promise that the harvest IS plentiful (Luke 10), and of the truth that we can do NOTHING apart from Jesus and His Spirit (John 15). Therefore, any step of obedience we see is cause for celebration and thanksgiving!

What has encouraged you the most about your work (in the harvest)?

People’s openness to hearing the gospel and feeling loved by sharing with them, whether they agree with the gospel or not. I have had strangers open up and share their life struggles with me, others in tears, and one guy even came around a store counter to give me a hug and thank me for sharing! A woman at a piercing shop told me that my message was clearly a sign from God that she needed to hear that day. I have seen that directly sharing the gospel with someone by using my one-minute testimony or another simple tool, and asking them a question inviting them to respond makes people feel respected and loved.

What has surprised you the most about bringing Jesus to people in everyday places?

I am most encouraged by constant reminders of God’s faithfulness, that the harvest is indeed plentiful, and that the Holy Spirit is advancing the Kingdom of God all over the world!

I am amazed by the amount of people in Philly who tell us they have never heard the gospel before when we share with them! I am encouraged to be in an area of the States where there is great lostness and need. We have experienced some intense spiritual warfare since coming to Philly. Although this might sound discouraging, it’s a clear sign that the Holy Spirit is moving, and that the enemy does not like it.

Before coming to Philly, I felt like the Lord spoke a promise that He was going to do something more than we can imagine from our steps of obedience to move, and that there was a remnant of people in the city with a heart for Jesus and for the lost.

Only a month after coming He connected us to some of those people! It’s super encouraging to be leading in a church where everyone is excited to go out and share the gospel. A woman from one of the roughest places in the city literally walked into our gathering the first day without even looking for church. Turns out she had committed to follow Jesus a couple days before and was hungry for training so she could train others. She had been trying to share the gospel with everyone she came across, but had never had a simple way to share. It has been super encouraging to see the Holy Spirit move in ways that we are clearly not in control of and for the Lord to have us join Him in this work.

The Holy Spirit is also moving mightily among the nations! We got to see firsthand how the Lord is using current political climates to bring incredible openness to the gospel among Muslim refugees in Greece. One out of the many refugee camps saw 80 Muslims baptized this last month, which is actually slower than normal. The men and women we met and helped train had a hunger for the gospel that I had never experienced before. One Arab woman upon welcoming us to her house, apologized for not wanting to chat more, went directly to get her Bible, and started asking us questions about the creation story. After being trained in a way to share the gospel, one man went out that night and shared with two Arab women, and those two women showed up the next day at the women’s training eager to learn about Jesus and how to follow Him! The women also shared stories of how they have shared with their family, neighbors, friends, and even with people still back in their home countries via Whatsapp. Through these refugees the gospel is flowing into Europe and back into the Middle East and South Asia!

Do you do church in the harvest? How does that look different/the same as what we traditionally see as church today?

Yes, and it definitely looks different! Our church meets weekly and we follow what is called the “3/3rds process”. We want to make sure everyone gets to participate in church. We spend time caring and praying for one another and worship Jesus together. We always make sure to talk about ways we obeyed Jesus that week, who we shared the gospel with, and cast vision for how the Lord wants to use us to make disciples and multiply churches.

We look at scripture together and ask questions to discover what truths about God and people, and ways we can obey. Then we practice something, like sharing the gospel, sharing the Bible story, or even baptizing people so we will be ready to do the same out in the harvest. We ask the Holy Spirit to show us how we can obey Jesus this week and make tangible goals to help us follow Jesus and share with others.

We also will meet together often to go out in the community and share the gospel. We typically start at a Dunkin’ donuts, pray, then head out to share Jesus with people that cross our path. We believe and practice the priesthood of all believers, which means we release authority for all to baptize, give and take the Lord’s supper, and believe it is the identity for all members of the church to be obeying the Great Commission.

This week’s Harvester requested to have a smaller internet footprint due to her ongoing involvement with missions in sensitive countries where the gospel is not accepted. While we did not share her name, we do ask that if you’d like to partner financially with her, you may do so by contacting the Into the Harvest team.

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