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How God Called Us to Move to Abu Dhabi

abu dhabi

Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is a city of 1 million people located in the desert between Saudi Arabia and Oman in the United Arab Emirates.

It is a melting pot of cultures and religions. Although the native population practices the majority faith of the region, the government allows workers from other countries to practice their own faith and to worship freely.

Some of the largest and most vibrant of these expatriate Christian churches are English-speaking congregations comprised of people from many different nations. And God has led us to plant one of these churches in Abu Dhabi, which will give wonderful opportunities for ministry.

So how did God lead us in this surprising direction?

A Shocking Dream

A year ago September I had a dream in which I was being sent out from our existing church to pursue some other ministry.

This was troubling, because I love Mercy Hill Church.  But I took this dream seriously, because in the past God has used dreams to nudge us into new ministry directions.

So Jan and I started asking God for wisdom.  We also shared the dream with our church leaders, and asked them to join us in praying.


A few weeks later I was walking by a creek near our home, crying out to the Lord for wisdom.

As I prayed, I suddenly had an overwhelming sense of God’s nearness, with an unmistakable feeling that he was, in fact, calling me to be sent out from my church.

I felt both joy in receiving God’s guidance, and sadness that I would be leaving the church I have pastored for many years.

But now I knew that God was calling me to different ministry.  And yet I did not know what that ministry was.

A Crucial Question

A friend of mine suggested that I start looking at ministry employment sites, to see if anything stirred my heart.

So I did.  I saw dozens of openings for pastoral positions.  But surprisingly, none of them interested me.

Then one Sunday afternoon at a membership class someone asked: “If it’s true that lost people will not be saved without hearing the gospel, and there are people who have no access to the gospel, shouldn’t that change the way we live?”

I knew the answer was Yes.  And I have taught that for years.

But this time as I answered the question, my heart was unusually gripped.  I felt a stronger-than-usual burden for the unreached.

Then that evening, as I looked at the ministry employment site, I saw that an international English-speaking church in a needy part of Southeast Asia needed a pastor.

And my heart was deeply stirred.  It dawned on me that this could be the way that I as an English-speaking pastor could minister in unreached areas.

Feedback and Resumes

So I sent out emails to missions leaders, to learn more about international churches, and to get feedback as to whether this would be a good fit for me.

The feedback was positive, so I sent out resumes, and started talking with international churches who needed pastors.

Then I received an email about two international churches in Abu Dhabi who wanted to join forces and plant a third church.

I was not thrilled at the idea of a church-plant, since I had already planted one church, and knew that it was a lot of work.

But out of obedience to the Lord I thought I should send in my resume, so I did.

Learning More

One of the Abu Dhabi pastors emailed back and said he and his wife would soon be vacationing near San Jose, and asked if we could have dinner together.

We had a rich time hearing their story, and learning about Abu Dhabi.  But as Jan and I drove away, we were still not convinced that we wanted to take on another church plant.

Then a few weeks later I had a video-conference with that same pastor and three other leaders from those churches.  I was encouraged by their love for the Lord, and their passion for church-planting.

But I still did not think I wanted to pursue a church-plant.  And besides, we were talking with other international churches, and praying about other possibilities.

A Surprising Change

Then I received an email from the Abu Dhabi leaders. They told me that after much thought and prayer they believed I should lead their church plant.  They wanted us to pray to see if we thought this was God’s will for us, and that if it was, they wanted us to come and visit.

So Jan and I started praying.  And almost immediately God started changing our hearts about church-planting.

He started to give Jan and me faith and excitement about church-planting.

I made a matrix of our options to see how they compared with each other.  And as I typed “church-planting” under the Abu Dhabi option, I felt a Holy Spirit stirring that this was what he was calling us to do.

I had a dream in which I was preaching in an English-speaking church in Abu Dhabi.

And as I talked with our church leaders, and other trusted counselors, everyone agreed that this would be a good fit.

So I emailed the Abu Dhabi church leaders, and told them we did believe this was God’s call to us, and that we would like to come visit.

One More Mercy

But God had one more confirmation for us.

The Sunday before Jan and I took this trip to Abu Dhabi, I shared with Mercy Hill Church how God had been leading us.

At the end of the service people gathered around to pray for us.

But before they started to pray, a woman said that the night before God had given her a dream.  Then, with tears, she said she did not want to share this dream, because it meant God was calling us to Abu Dhabi.

But out of obedience she said that in the dream Jan and I were planting a small plant in the desert, which grew and flourished.

This was an encouraging confirmation for us, and it strengthened our church that this was, in fact, God’s will.

Additional Confirmations

So Jan and I visited Abu Dhabi.  We interviewed with both churches’ leaderships, and they confirmed our call.

Then we visited a second time, where I preached at both churches.  And both churches’ memberships confirmed our call.

So it’s official.  In the Spring Jan and I are moving to Abu Dhabi in order to plant an English-speaking international church.  So please pray for a new pastor for Mercy Hill.

And please pray for Jan and me.  It is hard to leave our church, and it is painful to think of being far from our children and parents.

We will need much grace for the move, and to make all the cultural adjustments.

But Jesus has called.  And he is worth it all.

Questions?  Comments?

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Category: Stories from My Life


24 Responses

  1. Debbie says:

    Fantastic news Steve! I will keep you both in my prayers that God will continue to bless, guide and protect you in this wonderful new ministry! May this new church grow and flourish and bring many people to know God’s amazing grace and love.

  2. Jason Belk says:

    Thanks for sharing how God has worked through the whole process. May the Father continue to bless you both as you open this new chapter in your lives for His Glory.

  3. Bill Schuler says:

    WOW STEVE!!! That is so AWESOME!!! You are like a character straight out of the Bible! You’re a Knight in God’s armor in service of the King! Be courageous and be strong, and tell our brothers and sisters in Abu Dhabi of the magnificent Jesus, our hero and savior. Show them how to find their joy through trusting in him, and all of His wonderful promises. Tell them of Heaven and elaborate as much as possible so as to help them fix their eyes on the eternal joy and love that awaits us all. I will be praying for you and Jan, with the rest of the Saints, and trust that God in His mercy, will hear us and keep you in the center of His perfect will. I love you brother! Bill Schuler.

  4. Katherine F. says:

    Wow! Very exciting! If you ever want a getaway from UAE to Europe, come stay with us in Zurich 🙂 Plenty of room.

  5. Ted Alford says:

    This is good news. Your dad has spoken to us about this possibly happening. Congratulations to you and Jan. One of our retired pastors was in that area as an in trim pastor. Enjoyed it very much but was glad to come home after eight months or so.
    Said summers outside were unbearable.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Wow! Ray and I will be praying for you and Jan as you faithfully follow his leading. Love and hugs to you both. Ray and Kathy Ferdig

  7. A brother says:

    Praise God for your obedience – please don’t stop writing on This blog – also i would like to make a contribution for moving expenses etc where could I do that?

  8. Mike says:

    Thanks for sharing how God has prompted you to make this exciting move. I pray this move is a blessing to you both and that many hearts will be filled with the gospel message. God Bless!

  9. Dana Olson says:

    Steve and Jan, I am excited for you! I am greatly moved by your willingness and desire to follow the Lord in this. I will gladly follow the journey as you take it. May the Lord bless and confirm and provide and keep you all along the way! What a glorious God, and what a precious gospel.

  10. Kane Hardy says:

    Very excited for you guys as I read this post. Our awesome Father is trust worthy in every way and I know that this will be a continuing journey of stretching your faith to greater depths and drawing you guys ever closer to him. Also exciting to wonder at the rich blessing he has for you as you both step out in obedience. Will be thinking of you and Mercy Hill church. Your grateful brother in Christ!

  11. Rachel Bolton says:

    Dear Steve, as I sit and read your letter, I am happy and sad at the same time. I am happy for you and Jan that you are obeying God’s wishes, however, I am sad for me and the countless others that look forward to reading your blog every Saturday. You have truly been a blessing that was heavenly sent by God to me. You have no idea how you have helped me to trust and love God more, or how you helped me through my unemployment. Selfishly, I will miss you, but I know that we must all be ready to do God’s will. I will pray for you and Jan.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Rachel –

      I am so encouraged to hear that this blog has been helpful to you. And I do plan on continuing it from Abu Dhabi.

      And thank you for your prayers for Jan and me –

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  12. Deb Aguilar says:

    It is so exciting to see where God is calling you. Thank you for being obedient. I can’t wait to see the fruit of your labors. We will pray for the 100 fold harvest. Love you.

  13. Cory says:

    Just stumbled accross your journey because of a church job board for Mercy Hill. I will be praying for you guys as you go, and your ministry in Abu Dhabi. I’ll also be praying that God will raise up colaborers for the new church plant and the existing churches already established. My heart has been burdened for the NAME region for years now, and I can’t wait till God gives me the green light to move.

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