Intern – Africa
Abdullah was a teacher of Islam when he became disillusioned and eventually converted to Christ. Now he serves as a pastor of an underground church in his primarily Muslim home country. He is currently enrolled in a 1-year internship program with a church in the Arabian Penninsula, after which he will return home to continue his ministry.
Testimony of Conversion
I was born in Africa in 1979, but I grew up in the United Arab Emirates, where I studied Islam in a town called Ajman. My family is from the Sunni Muslims. I studied Islamic studies from 1994 to 1997 and afterwards became a Muslim preacher in the mosque. Then in 2000 I went back to my home country to teach the Quran and Arabic language in high schools. I taught this way for four years, from 2000-2004. All my students were already Muslims but I was teaching them the Wahabiya doctrine – an Islamic doctrine upheld by Sunni Muslims in Saudi Arabia.
In the year 2004 I married my wife and went with her mother to Mecca for Pilgrimage (Haj). This was not my first time to go for the Haj but it was my first time that I took the pilgrimage seriously. It was my turning point. The Haj has some principles to be followed by all those in attendance. There are two mountains by the names Safa and Marwa which are about 7 kilometers apart from each other. People run between the two hills seven times so that God can forgive them. When I went to that place with my mother-in-law, I ran the distance half way. I wasn’t getting any satisfaction with the whole exercise and I began to ask myself how I was pleasing or worship God by running. I had left my mother-in-law with someone to carry her the distance. At that moment, I decided not run anymore and sat down. When my mother came to where I was sitting, she (like many other people) was startled that I wasn’t running though I was young. At that time, I began to ask God to show me the right way, for I realized what I was doing was futile.
Afterwards we went to a place called Ramyi Jamarat. This is a tower which is referred to as the tower of Satan. The Muslims claim that at one time they saw Satan standing in there. The tower is believed to be the image of Satan just as the people are the image of God. When people come to this tower, they bring with them some small stones and throw them at the tower, saying they are killing Satan with the stones. When anyone comes to the tower, they have to have about 13 stones. My mother-in-law couldn’t throw the stones, so I took her stones and started to throw them at the tower for her. When I finished her stones, I put my stones away because I didn’t want to throw them. She then began to question me why I wasn’t following the principles as I ought to have done and admonished me to do it for I had this opportunity to do so.
Next, we went to a place called Zamzam, which is a spring. Muslims consider or believe that the water in this spring is holy. Here you have to buy the water. When we bought the water, it made me think about all the money I had spent to be in the pilgrimage which was about $4,000. The Water wasn’t expensive but it made me think about the much money each of us had spent for the trip. I began to reason out with myself that maybe the idea of pilgrimage was all serving economic purpose for the Saudi government after all. I began to feel a lot of dissatisfaction about Islam and its ways.
When Muslims return from Haj, the family members welcome them exceptionally because they are thought to be very holy at that moment of return. When we returned, my family made a big ceremony and invited a lot of my relatives and they slaughtered a lot of animals for the feast. When I arrived, I told my wife to stop all the celebration and tell the guests to go away (which was against the Islamic beliefs). To her, it looked like I was falling away from Islam. My wife didn’t like that idea because she was very proud for her husband coming from the Haj. Her mother told her all that I had done during the Haj and that I couldn’t throw the stones at the tower. My wife asked me a lot of question about what had happened with me and I explained to her all the frustrations that I was feeling.
The Mosque I was working in was near my house and I stopped going there. Thereafter the people from the mosque, leaders of the mosque and even my students came to me inquiring what was going on with me. At that point, I began asking a lot of questions, like whether the Quran is really the word of God. When I shared with my wife she thought I had gone crazy. From that year, I was in a hard situation, though I didn’t make any decision during that confused period. In 2006, I decided to be an atheist. I decided that I would close my heart totally to all religions. When I took that decision, I lost my sleep. I went to see several doctors but they told me I was in good health. On the nights I couldn’t sleep, I would go spend the night in the airport, the only place that was open. Police noticed me after going there several times and they began to question me. Sometimes they took me to the hospital to be checked whether I was alright. I wasn’t feeling disturbed in my mind for lack of sleep and something was telling me that I was fine though I wasn’t sleeping. I lived that way until 2010.
At that time I had a honey selling business in 2010. One day, two of my regular customers – a white American and an African – came to buy honey from my shop. Though they had been my customers for a while, we didn’t know each other’s names. That day they ordered 10 kg of honey but realized they only had half the money. I had already packed the honey for them, so I told them to take the honey and to bring the remaining cash some other time. After several days, I was out of town and left my worker in the shop. While I was away, the two men came back and found I wasn’t there. They took my phone number and called me regarding the money they owed. I told them just to leave it with the worker.
After I returned, the two men came back to visit. The American asked if he could give me a Bible in my language. I accepted the offer but I didn’t expect him to follow through, because I thought there was no Bible in my language. A few days later, the African brother brought me a parcel wrapped in black. At that time there were a lot of customers in the shop, all of them strong Muslims. He tried to give me the parcel but I didn’t accept it, but kept asking him what it was. He couldn’t tell me what it was but kept on urging me to receive the parcel. I finally accepted it from him and opened it. When I saw that it was a Bible, I asked him if he believed in it. He answered me that he believed but I retorted back to him, “Then while are you afraid of it?” He became very afraid and left.
Some of my customers began to ask me what it was, and I plainly told them it was a Bible. I decided to start reading the Bible. Since my home was not a comfortable place to read, I went and rented a hotel room and read the whole Bible in three days. When I finished reading the Bible, I finally started to sleep again as I hadn’t in a long time. Even though I didn’t understand what I was reading, I was enjoying it. When I started to sleep again, I told my friends and the doctors who were treating me about my experience with the Bible. They all told me that it was Satan who was trying to deceive and confuse me. I continued to read the Bible and after some weeks, I called the two men to come and share something about the Bible. They explained to me about salvation and I decided to become a Christian.
Call to the Ministry
After one year as a Jesus follower, I called some Muslim friends to share with them my testimony. At the end of 2011, I made the decision to preach the gospel of Christ that I had believed to my fellow countrymen. It is about this time I met Pastor John who has been very helpful to me and has been discipling me. Though I didn’t know much about the Bible and preaching, God has always led me. I developed a philosophy to help me preach: “If not me, then who? And If not now, when?” In this way I started running with the Great Commission. I began using an idea I got from Matthews 28:19-20: “Go” – but I added the idea, “Don’t come.” So it became to me, “Go, not come.” That is the way I understood why Jesus told us to go. I asked myself, what would happen if I didn’t go? I realized that if I didn’t go to the people, they would come to me and preach to me what they believed.
It was hard for me to decide to whom I would go then. God gave me an answer from Mark 16:15-18. I got an idea from this scripture which I called, “Any Three” – meaning any place, any time, and anyone. Then another question came to my mind: “What could I do for the people?” God gave me the answer by telling me to teach them the Good News. I used Luke 4:18 and Matthews 24:14 to begin discipling and teaching. God also showed me a map of a place where I could begin. He gave me Acts 1:8 on where I would start my preaching – my home. In my teaching, I showed people their God given values (Matt. 5:13-14).
I also encouraged them with Rom 8: 31. I have been doing this since then under the leadership and guidance of Pastor John. He has been very helpful and I thank God for causing me to meet John. If I met a new Muslim who had never heard about Christ, I would ask the person some very basic questions like, “When did you become a Muslim?” Many Muslims believe they are Muslim by birth even though they don’t see the logic in that. The Quran says that faith is not something you inherit but that each one has to believe for themselves. So when they answer that they were born Muslim I ask, “Then what is the difference between your faith and what is taught in the Quran?” It becomes very hard for them to answer that question.
Another question I like to ask them is, “What is the date today?” When they give me a date, I follow with another question: “Are you a Christian?” Muslims believe the calendar started from the time Jesus was born. Then I would ask them, “Why do you use that calendar if you are not a Christian?” But they could not give me any answer to that question.
The best question I ask the Muslims is this: “Where is Jesus Christ right now?” Muslims believe that Jesus Christ is with God in heaven. They also believe that every creature can die but God cannot die. They believe that Jesus Christ didn’t die but He is with God. Based on their beliefs that it is only God who cannot die, I tell them that Jesus Christ himself is God because he is not dead. They believe also that Jesus Christ will come back and judge the people. At that point, I tell them what Christians say – that Jesus is Lord. Then they begin to ask questions like, “Who can judge the people?” Always I make a comparison between other prophets and Jesus Christ. The answer they always arrive at is that Jesus is different from all other prophets. At that point they begin to understand who Jesus is and it becomes easy to talk to them about Him. At other times I ask them the meaning of “Seyid.” This word means “Lord.” Muslims call Jesus “Seyid Issa.” So I show them that both Christians and Muslims call Jesus Lord.
Muslims believe in six pillars of faith: believe in God, believe in His angels, believe in His books, believe in His prophets, believe in the last days (doom’s day), and believe that whatever happens (whether good or bad) is God’s will. From this I ask them one question: “What are His books that you believe in?” They answer me that they believe in four books: the Quran, the Injil, the Torat, and Sabul. From that point I ask them if they know or have read these books. The answer is always no, except the Quran. Then I follow them with another question: “How can you believe in something that you don’t know about?” This is a hard question for them. This question opens the door for me to give them the Bible and read. My goal in asking all these questions is to make them read the Bible.
Now I am a full time pastor of a church in my home town, which has a population of around 4 million. We are the first church and the first local Christians here. I believe all of these things are from God. We have about 120 underground believers in the city, half of whom are in the Army. Others of them are now living outside the country because of the persecution and to seek better opportunities.
Note: For security reasons a pen name is used for this missionary.