Due to persecution from his countrymen after coming to faith in Christ, Utep fled his native country for several years. He has since returned in order to plant churches among his own people.
Testimony of Conversion
Before believing in the Lord Jesus, I was a Muslim. My family was known for being religious, and my three siblings and I all followed Islam faithfully. When I was very young, I was entrusted to teach Muslim children in the mosque, and I also joined the mysticism of tenaga dalam, which means “Inner Power.”
After high school, I did not continue my education because my family didn’t have the money to send me to college. I decided to work. Six months after high school ended, my former school teacher told me of a job in a town nearby, so I left my home.
The Christian Boss
When I first started working at this new job, I was afraid because my boss was a Christian, however I thought that instead of returning home, it would be better to stay and keep working even if it’s with a Christian. When my mother found out that I was working with such a person, she told me to stop because she was afraid I’d be converted. I refused and I told my parents, “Don’t worry: I’m mature, and it will not be easy for me to become a Christian.” My mother believed in me. I continued to work, and I even prayed for my boss to become a Muslim. The opposite happened.
One day, after my Isha’a prayers [the first of five daily prayers for a Muslim], I heard a voice calling me: “Follow me. I am the straight path.” Oddly enough, in my heart I knew it was the Lord’s voice, but, my heart immediately rejected the voice, and I did not tell anyone about it. The voice was insistent, and continued to speak within me; I felt restless. After two weeks, a desire rose in my heart to go to church, but my heart hardened, and I didn’t because of the consequences. If I would go to church, I would be driven from my family, and so, I was afraid.
God had other plans. The need for truth grew, and I eventually went to church for the first time. When I arrived, my boss and the people who knew me were surprised to see me there. My only intention for going was to make the voice stop, but God knew what was happening in my life, and if anything, the voice strengthened. Apparently, it was His will that I not simply go to church, but believe in the Lord Jesus. After a period of time, without realizing it, I had started to regularly attend Christian activities. I even forgot what would happen to me if my family knew that I was actively participating in the faith! I was now trusting in Christ.
Proclaim What You’ve Received
Soon after this, I had a dream. In it, I was planning to return home. There were two men who offered me a lift to my village, and after negotiating a price, I agreed to go with them. On the way there, the two men did not follow through with the fare we had negotiated, and they told me I needed to pay more. I didn’t have the money. They said, “Fine. Since you don’t have the money, we’ll leave you somewhere else.”
Seeing no other option, I consented. They took me to a high mountain near my village. When I got out of the car, one of them took me up to the highest peak, and said, “Choose the path that you think is right.”
Then they left me.
I saw that there were two roads: one on the left and one on the right. I saw my village far away, and the surrounding cities with it. Before I could begin my journey home, a voice spoke close to my ear, saying, “Proclaim what you have received to your relatives.” Then, I examined the two different paths before me. The one on the right was straight, and though it was slippery and short, it had a beautiful end. The one on the left was wide, with clean cut steps, but without a clear ending. I took the road on the right – the slippery, short, straight path which had a beautiful end.
Suddenly, I woke up and immediately prayed, giving thanks to God. After a few minutes, I remembered the voice in my dream that had whispered, “Proclaim what you have received to your relatives.” I felt, then, that I must obey, and do so without any compromise. That morning, I was determined to go to my village, and honestly tell my family that I’d become a Christian, and that the Lord Jesus was my Savior. The next day, I asked my boss for permission to return home. I told him about the dream. He gave me permission to go home after we prayed together.
When I returned to my village, I found my entire family gathered together, even though I had not told them that I was coming home. I believe God had arranged everything. After greeting them, I told them of how I had lived for the last few months: following the Lord Jesus, and that He was now my Savior. When I finished telling the truth about my situation, my mother and father fainted. My entire family was angry, and they were all crying. I was confronted by two clerics who told me to return to Islam, but I refused, and was then pronounced an apostate.
After three days, my family came together and decided that I had to leave home. They made me give my word to not ask any responsibility of them for my livelihood. I left them, and went to back to the city I had been working in, but I did not go to my boss. I slept in the warehouse with the guards of the building.
I thought everything was over, but apparently it wasn’t. A family member of mine went to my boss’s house and threatened him. I could not bear to see the threats continue, and I asked to see the relative that was causing so much heartache. They scolded me again, and told me to go for treatment. I said that I was not sick, but I was forced to go, and decided to comply in order to appease my family.
I was taken to a pesantren [Islamic boarding school] and met with the leaders, where I was forced to read the shahada [Islamic creed – “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet”]. My family thought that I had gone back to Islam. I lived in a relative’s house, and was not allowed outside. I was grieved for having to pretend to be Muslim again. I cried and begged forgiveness of the Lord.
Escape to a Safer Place
After that, I was determined to leave home in order to seek God and know Him in earnest. I prayed that the Lord would open the way. Finally, God showed me a province in my country, and I was sure I needed to go there. I waited for the right day to go, and when that day did arrived, I went through the window because all the doors were locked from the outside. I did not take anything with me, save the clothes I was wearing. I was desperate to go, but before leaving, I contacted my boss so that we could meet one last time. He told me of his village, and I decided to go there.
During the four days of the trip, I shared the Gospel with several people on the bus, and told them that the Lord Jesus is the Savior of mankind. On the fourth day, I arrived in the village and began life as a farmer where I helped my boss’ parents in the fields.
I was baptized, and began to be more engaged in the church services. I was entrusted to serve a small village far from my boss’ village. I walked for five or six hours to get there, and served in that place for six years. I once sent word to my parents, but I did not tell them where I was living.
At the end of my time in that small village, I went back to the city of my work, and met my parents again. I lived in their village for three months and testified to some of my friends; two of them responded to my testimony!
After that, I moved away again, and continued to serve in the local church.