Violence continues to ravage this predominantly Muslim country, causing many people to flee and start new lives in neighbouring countries or further abroad. In a time of war, Christian named his son Peace. “We believe in the Prince of Peace, and we believe in peace,” Christian expressed. “God has given us many local friends through that name.”
"The people are tired of terrorism; many are leaving Islam. Now is the time to offer hope," Christian said. “The harvest is plenty.”
Christian, who was raised in a devout Muslim family in his country, spent five months in the late 1980s with his businessman uncle in Dubai. The time in the emerging capital city enforced not only Christian’s economic acumen but also his adherence to Islam. Upon his return home, Christian ordered his mother (and female classmates) to wear the traditional hijab, headscarf.
“When we were in [our country], the only thing we knew was Islam when it comes to religion. There was nothing else. [Our] book was Muslim, nothing else. We didn’t have any other books we were allowed to read. It was not easy to get a Bible, even though there were missionaries there,” Christian explained.
Outbreak of war in the early ’90s caused many people in Christian’s country to leave. “It was a very bad time for the country. At the same time, it was a good time,” Christian mused. “Many people went outside [the country].”
Christian, too, left his home country again, travelling throughout northern Africa and the Near East. By that time, he was married with one child and another on the way. They stayed behind.
In Christian’s final stop, Lebanon, his Islamic fervour began to crumble. “I heard a lot about Mohammed and Islam,” Christian explained. In pursuit of truth, “I met different Imams (religious leaders) who [had] different ideas about Islam…my mind is changed…I convinced myself this is not from God.”
Eventually, Christian decided to leave Islam, continuing to believe in the existence of God but wondering how to find Him. “I read the Bible. Before that, I couldn’t read it. When you are Muslim [in my country], you cannot touch it. It’s haram (shameful),” Christian said. “When I left Islam, I felt free. I could read whatever I wanted. I could ask people—priests, pastors, regular Christians—‘What do you believe?’ But I didn’t get any answer that inspired me in my soul.”
Finally, Christian returned to his country to take care of his family. “I shared with my wife, my closest person in this world at that time…‘If there is a faith, the nearest faith is Jesus, but I don’t believe in Him.’”
The next morning, Christian’s wife told the entire community. “I became a kaffer (disbeliever)," Christian recounted. “They wanted to kill me, my own family.”
Christian fled the country, ending up in Ethiopia. One day, he encountered a huge gathering of people—thousands gathered at an open-air church, listening to someone preaching. The pastor noticed Christian, a foreigner, and pulled him aside. “Why are you here?” he asked.
Immediately, Christian began pouring questions at the pastor. “He listened to me, very patiently and kindly,” Christian recalled.
The pastor asked, “Do you believe there is a God and that God created you and me and earth?”
“Yes, I believe,” Christian responded.
When he said, ‘Ask Him,” everything was open in my mind,” Christian explained. “I was always asking the questions I had to the people. He told me no one can give you the answer you’re looking for except for Him—ask Him.”
That night before Christian went to bed, “I had a real talk to God in my language: ‘You know that I love you. Why don’t you show me Yourself?’ And I was expecting that He would give me the answer because I was believing there is a God.”
After midnight, Christian recalled hearing someone knocking on the door. He got up, looked outside, right and left, but saw nobody. He locked the door and went back to his room and laid down in bed, continuing to wonder who had been at the door.
Then, Christian said, he felt he was suddenly lifted up in the air—suspended between his bed and the ceiling for several seconds. “I was shaking. I became very scared, and I went down to the bed slowly,” he described.
When he reached the bed, he sat up and said, “What?”
Christian, he heard in his own language. I am Jesus. I’m the Son of God. I’m your Lord. Will you follow Me? Follow Me. Follow Me.
“All of my soul went to Him. From that morning, I decided Jesus is my Saviour and Lord,” Christian said.
“From that time, I started serving the Lord... Everything changed. I became a new person.”
Christian returned to tell his wife what happened. “She believed me, and I and my wife were baptised on one day,” he said. Then they moved to Europe to escape the continuing violence in their country.
As the couple, by now parents to four children, settled into their new community, Christian sought to evangelise the people of his country. “There were thousands of [the people group] living in our town, and my wife was afraid to isolate from the community, and she was telling me to stop it,” Christian remembered.
“No,” he responded. “You have to obey the command of God. We have something very beautiful we have to share because our people need it.”
“I can’t calm down,” he told her. “Even if I want to, the Holy Spirit is pushing.”
Christian began sharing his faith on the Internet, where he encountered other believers from his country. His wife, however, was not happy.
“One day my wife came to me and said, ‘You have to choose: your Jesus or your family. I have never been a believer; I just said that to win you.’ It was a very bitter decision in my life. It changed everything,” Christian shared.
When he chose Jesus, his wife left him, taking their children with her.
Despite the tragedy of losing his family, Christian continued ministering to other people from his country on the Internet. Two or three years prior, if someone had asked whether there were believers from his country, Christian would have said no, the nation was 100 per cent Muslim. “But if you go to the Internet today, you can see many believers say, ‘I am [from this country], and I believe in Jesus Christ. You have many believers giving their testimony, even teaching. But what we need is physical meeting.”
In 2006, Christian met a long-time OM worker who had pioneered OM’s ministry amongst Christian’s people group. The two began to pray together. In 2007, for the first time, believers from Christian’s country gathered together in Europe. “In my town, we were three persons,” Christian remembered. “We prayed together. Our vision was clear. We want to see people [from our country] coming to the Lord.”
In 2015, they gathered believers from the people group again. This time, more than 80 believers attended the meeting. “There is a joy,” Christian stated. “I see every day new faces who are very, very thirsty… and they don’t know how to find God. We cannot win the people, but He can win the people through us.”
“I lost everything, but I won Him…and I believe one day, everything will be ok,” Christian said. “I lost some friends, who were killed because of their faith in Jesus. They can kill our body, but they cannot touch our soul. I feel all the time that I have a good thing. Jesus is with us.”
Christian’s first wife eventually married another man in their ethnic community, providing Christian a chance to reconcile with his children. Later, Christian also re-married a believing woman. Their son is named Peace.
Christian now leads OM’s ministry among the diaspora of his people. According to the OM field leader for the Arabian Peninsula, Christian wants to spread the gospel amongst his people through media made by ethnic believers. “They know how to reach their people in very difficult circumstances. We’re walking the road with them,” the field leader said.
Pray that God will transform Christian’s people from those promoting violence to those proclaiming Jesus as the Prince of Peace. Pray for believers from his country to endure through the persecution they face. Pray they will grow in their knowledge of God. Pray for God to provide financially for the ministries that reach out to this people group.
Nicole James is an international writer for OM, passionate about publishing stories of God’s work among the nations and telling people about the wonderful things He is doing around the world.
Published: Friday, 25 August 2017
Credit: Nicole James