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The sun blisters down, softening the tarred road where IMB worker Augusta Knox* prayerwalks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Five women from the Philippines join her in praying over the city, asking God to begin a revival among Malay people.
“You can’t share the gospel here [among Malay people],” begins Reina Salazar*, who lives in Manila, Philippines. Glancing down for a moment, she looks up, then continues, “Well, you can, you just have to be willing to pay the price.”
As Salazar explains, she believes prayer can change people, towns, and even cities. Each month, she and Knox prayer walk the 17 cities that are a part of metropolitan Manila in the Philippines.
To understand how they ended up traveling from the Philippines to Malaysia, you have to go back almost 10 years. At that time, Knox attended a meeting of the Philippine Woman’s Missionary Union (PWMU), a mission organization started by IMB missionaries in the 1950s, patterned after the USA-based Woman’s Missionary Union.
She challenged the women, saying, “God brought Christianity to the Philippines 500 years ago. Now it’s our turn to take the gospel to the nations.”
Filipina believers began to “intentionally intercede” or prayer walk across cities throughout the Philippines. Prayer walks allowed the women to see and hear stories of how God moves in various communities. Sharing the gospel among unbelievers led to national missionaries being sent to minister in various islands throughout the Philippines.
Now, 10 years later, they’re traveling on their first mission trip beyond their home country.
Nearly 15 million Malays live in Malaysia, and only a handful have made the decision to publicly claim Christ as their Savior. Sharia Law (Islamic Law) governs the Malay people, and the legal system does not allow Malays to leave Islam for any other religion. Those who choose to convert often find themselves in one of Malaysia’s controversial Islamic immersion camps where they undergo a re-education in Islamic beliefs.
Salazar recalls what she learned about the Malay people in her Bible study, saying, “They (the Malay) are very dedicated to Islam. There are strong religious roots here.”
Salazar and the other women acknowledge God has called them to help share the Gospel with the Malay. Not many Christian organizations target the Malay for fear of what the government will do if their members are convicted of proselytizing.
Despite the risk, they decided seeing a church planted among the Malays was worth the risk of being caught.
Early the next morning as the sun ushers in a new day, the Achaan, or Muslims’ call to prayer, can be heard creeping over the city. Roadside restaurants pop up along the roads, eager to welcome the freshly groomed businessmen on their way in to the city. Knox, Salazar, and the others select a nearby open-air restaurant wedged between two lumbering cement structures and order plates of stuffed roti, or Indian bread, and teh tarik, a popular tea unique to Malaysia.
Their order sizzles on the grill as Knox discusses the previous day’s events. She asks what God revealed to them on their first prayerwalk, and Salazar offers her impressions.
She says, “It is not an accident we are here. It is a privilege. … Prayers are really needed. Prayer warriors need to rise up.”
Steaming plates arrive at their table, and conversation switches to the itinerary for the rest of the trip. The women will see several cities in Malaysia and hope to capture a vision for sharing the Gospel among Malays.
For this trip, the women bought their airline tickets, but First Baptist Church Temple Terrace (FBCTT) in Temple Terrace, Florida donated money toward on-the-ground costs. FBCTT has partnered with Knox in her work on the field and wanted to help international missions efforts in the Philippines.
After breakfast, the women walk through several neighborhoods praying, then prepare for the next leg of their journey. They’re about to meet a former Muslim who is now a believer.
Meeting a Believer
Mariana Sayid* has arrived. Coming by taxi from an undisclosed location, Sayid bursts into the room, excited to meet those who carry a vision to reach her people for Christ. Shaking hands, the women exchange bright smiles before the conversation begins.
Sayid says, “I am thankful for those who will hear and the revival which will come as you pray. We rejoice today (over) what will come tomorrow.”
Sayid tells the story of how she found Christ and the pain of her family disowning her. Since that time, she’s reconciled with her father, though he is not yet a believer.
Sayid, not one to shy from being honest, tells the women that persecution is a part of the deal in Malaysia.
She shares, “If you are called to prayer walk and share, trust that God has those [to share with] in mind, but persecution will come.”
The Fillipina have somber eyes as they reflect on the full weight of that statement, and resolve that when persecution comes, they will be ready. Soon the hours are gone and Sayid must return home. The women place their hands on her, praying for safety and blessings as she continues in her journey of faith.
Hearing her story, Salazar is not deterred in the face of persecution, acknowledging it is God who goes before them.
Their final night in Malaysia, Salazar talks with Knox about plans to present their trip to supporters back in the Philippines and share the vision among their churches.
Salazar says, “The Lord is waiting for us to join Him. We join by praying on site with insight.”
The women plan to return and pray, bringing more Filipina believers to share the gospel and pray over the country of Malaysia.