Palestinian Muslims Coming to Christ, Story #20

This excerpt from my dissertation is the conversion-story summary of Respondent Twenty, a male from Hebron. Feel free to interact in the comments or download my dissertation as a free PDF!

The following is ©2014 University of Pretoria and Craig Dunning, and if used elsewhere, should be cited as:

Dunning, CA (2014) Palestinian Muslims converting to Christianity: effective evangelistic methods in the West Bank. Pretoria, South Africa: University of Pretoria, PhD thesis, pp. 373-376.

Respondent Twenty was raised by a single mother who became a MBB when he was about three years old. However, his mother had a very laissez-faire approach to passing her faith to her children, preferring to allow them to choose for themselves, which meant the children received no direct Christian instruction and only passive Christian influence. Instead, he had mostly Islamic influences from the neighborhood and Islamic teaching from school. However, occasionally, his mother did try to offer opinions from the New Testament when the children brought Islamic ideas into the house. In spite of the two varying religious views that were available to him, the respondent was not interested in religion. And while he recognized himself as a Muslim, he was not an active Muslim in any meaningful way during his early-to-mid teen-years.

When he was fifteen, the respondent suffered an extended and serious illness. The MBB community responded in ways that surprised him and that would be instrumental in his conversion. Even though he was a Muslim and did not believe the way they did, members of the MBB community visited regularly to pray for him and provide food for his family. They prayed openly and fervently for his full recovery, and he said, “God answered their prayer and healed me.” However, that did not immediately change his lack of interest in religion, though he admitted, “it probably softened me a little.”

About a year later, he went to a MBB family conference with his mother and sister. This was the first time he had been in an environment where MBBs expressed their faith in Jesus so openly. Of course, a number of them had openly prayed for him during his illness, but that was confined to his home; this was occurring in a semi-public gathering. When asked why he went to the conference, he said, “I was curious about my mother’s beliefs.” However, what he saw made him angry since he “was still a Muslim.” Although he was not religious, he did not like to see men and women praying and worshiping together, and he was bothered by the free references to Jesus as God, as well.

When the respondent and his family returned home from the conference, he asked for explanations of what he saw at the conference. What was all the singing? What was all the teaching? His mother tried to explain, but he dismissed her explanations. When his mother’s explanations proved unsatisfactory, he called a young man about his age that he met at the conference, to see if he could explain things any better.

As the respondent looked back on these events, he came to realize that calling this young man was an important event in his conversion process. “When [name redacted] answered my questions, I was partly convinced,” he admitted. Somehow, that a middle-to-late teen from a Muslim background could believe in Jesus made the answers more palatable for the respondent and lessened the anger he had toward his mother.

Although he did not immerse himself in this new community, the respondent did begin visiting his mother’s church and remain in touch with the teen that had somewhat satisfactorily answered his questions. This same young man invited the respondent to view the Jesus Film, which, looking back, he marked as another very important event in his conversion process. In fact, he said, “I was very influenced by the abuse Jesus suffered. No one suffered like him. And this drew me toward him.”

He began reading the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, but admits, “It didn’t seem like a special story and was difficult to understand.” His mother’s explanations about what he was reading were helpful, but not enough to maintain his interest in reading.

About three months after seeing the Jesus Film, some of his mother’s friends came to visit. During their visit, they prayed for the family, and during the prayer, the respondent’s mind vividly replayed scenes from the Jesus Film in what he called “a vision.” Once again, he was very moved by the horrors of Jesus’ suffering. After the people left, the respondent told his mother about the vision and told her he wanted to know more so he could “know if Jesus is the right way.” He confessed to his mother that he felt like he needed to believe, but could not yet do so. “I need to be sure,” he insisted. This opened the door for fairly regular discussions with his mother about Jesus and how He died for the respondent’s sins.

A short time after his mother’s friends visited and he saw the vision of the Jesus Film, the respondent began to have a series of nightmares in which a power was controlling him, holding his body, and pressing him to the bed. These dreams were terrifying and vivid. He could not discern the identity of the power that was controlling him, and each time he awakened in a pool of sweat and breathing hard as if he had been in a struggle for his life. After a few occurrences, he told his mother about the dreams; she told him to “demand that it go away in the name of Jesus.” Within a few days he had the same dream again, but he was afraid to say the name Jesus in his dream. However, in the next dream, the third, which occurred about one week later, the power was strangling him to the point he thought he was going to die, and in desperation he began to speak the name of Jesus. Each time he said, “Jesus,” the power weakened until it eventually released him.

Once he spoke the name of Jesus and the power subsided, he had a different type of dream twice within the next week. In these dreams, the respondent heard a male voice (there was no image) that said, “You can be certain.” When asked if it was an audible voice that he heard with his ears or only an inner voice, the respondent said, “It was an inner voice that sounded like it was on the phone.” When he told his mother about the voice, she suggested the voice might be that of Jesus, which seemed correct to the respondent. This specific dream was the final event that moved the respondent from unbelief to belief.

In an effort to understand better what the respondent believed were the pivotal events that led him to believe that Jesus died for his sins, he was asked to fill in the blank in the following sentence: If it were not for _____________, I don’t think I would be a believer. He answered very quickly: “The power of the dreams, Jesus’ help, and fellowship with MBBs.”

He was asked to elaborate briefly on those answers, which he did: “The dreams were so real and powerful and frightening that they grabbed my attention. Jesus helped me when I was sick and also in my dreams, the Qur’an and Muslims didn’t. When I was sick, the believers came to help my family and pray for me. They were also patient with me when I was angry about my mother’s belief. All of those things were important in me coming to believe in Jesus.”

Themes that emerged in this interview: Personal Bible reading, “moved,” Q and A, the kindness of Christians, prayer, dreams, retreats/conferences/special events, the Jesus Film, meeting Christians/MBBs, an open witness, common objections to the gospel, fear or shame as a barrier to the gospel, and a lack of interest in religion.

NEXT: Palestinian Muslims Coming to Christ: Story #21

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Palestinian Muslims Coming to Christ, Story #19

This excerpt from my dissertation is the conversion-story summary of Respondent Nineteen, a male from Nablus. Feel free to interact in the comments or download my dissertation as a free PDF!

The following is ©2014 University of Pretoria and Craig Dunning, and if used elsewhere, should be cited as:

Dunning, CA (2014) Palestinian Muslims converting to Christianity: effective evangelistic methods in the West Bank. Pretoria, South Africa: University of Pretoria, PhD thesis, pp. 370-372.

Respondent Nineteen was thirteen years old when he made an initial profession of faith.[1] His profession of faith was connected to his family’s conversion process. Initially, due to a medical need, his parents began visiting with some Christian men from Jerusalem who gave them Bibles, Christian literature and told them Bible stories.

In the process of his parents and siblings coming to faith (see Respondents Four, Five, and Six) he repeatedly heard the gospel from about the age of ten. However, as a result of the religious environment in which he had been raised, even as a pre-teen, he had certain objections based on the teachings of the Qur’an and general Muslim culture. For example, he knew that Muslims did not believe that Jesus is God and he had heard that Christians prayed differently than Muslims. He was also afraid of the social problems that could result from converting. Specifically, he was afraid of losing his friends, but only occasionally did he voice any objection to the process his parents were undergoing.

As the meetings continued, several things lessened his concerns: he specifically mentioned the teaching of the Christians, reading the Bible, and the conversion of other family members. Privately and secretly, he began to read the Bible and pray for specific things. He prayed for his sister’s medical problem to be solved. It was. He prayed for good grades at school, and he received good grades. He also saw the positive changes that occurred in the lives of his family members who professed faith in Christ.

At the age of thirteen, he considered the things he had heard in the family Bible meetings during the past three years, the things he personally read in the Bible, the answered prayer, and the changes he saw in his family and made a profession of faith in Jesus, which was cause for celebration among the other family members who had already done the same.

Shortly after his profession of faith, his family he was relocated to a safe house and given a recreated identity. In that context, the family participated regularly in a fellowship of MBB believers. In fact, all members, except the pastors, were from a Muslim background. For approximately three years, the respondent lived with a Christian identity, and during that time, he experienced no serious doubts, regularly participated in the fellowship, and read his Bible. However, at the age of sixteen he had a disturbing dream that he marks as a turning point in his faith.

In the respondent’s dream, a regular Christian man [i.e., not Jesus], who was dressed normally, died and resurrected threee days later. When asked what the dream meant, the respondent said, “I felt away from Jesus when I had the dream, and it meant that Jesus is the right way.” He could not explain why he felt “away from Jesus,” but was certain that he was. As a result of the dream, he prayed the prayer of salvation and began to distinguish himself as a “real Christian.”

The respondent was unable to distinguish what made this profession of faith different than the first. It was not clear if the lack of a prayer of salvation on the first occasion was an issue. Neither could he say that anything in his life – sin of some kind – convinced him that he had not believed on the first occasion. Everything rested on a single dream that he understood to mean that he was “away from Jesus.”

In an effort to clarify what he saw as the pivotal points of his conversion, the respondent was asked to fill in the blank: If it was not for ___________, I don’t think I would be a believer. The respondent quickly answered, “family.” He went on to explain that had he not seen his “family go through the process of believing in Jesus, going from darkness to light,” he would not have been able to believe himself.

Themes that emerged in this interview: Personal Bible reading, formal Bible studies, prayer, dreams, crisis, family/group conversion, the “prayer of salvation,” common objections to the gospel, and fear or shame as a barrier to the gospel.

[1] The respondent was age 19 at the time of his interview.

NEXT: Palestinian Muslims Coming to Christ: Story #20

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Palestinian Muslims Coming to Christ, Story #18

This excerpt from my dissertation is the conversion-story summary of Respondent Eighteen, a male from Nablus. Feel free to interact in the comments or download my dissertation as a free PDF!

The following is ©2014 University of Pretoria and Craig Dunning, and if used elsewhere, should be cited as:

Dunning, CA (2014) Palestinian Muslims converting to Christianity: effective evangelistic methods in the West Bank. Pretoria, South Africa: University of Pretoria, PhD thesis, pp. 366-369.

Respondent Eighteen introduced himself by giving some details of a hard teenage life, most of which were related to the family not having much money. While he worked during most of his teenage years, going to work at an automotive repair shop in his village at age eighteen was the beginning of his journey to faith in Jesus. Shortly after he began working there a Messianic Jewish[1] customer began to regularly stop by to say hello. Eventually the Jewish man began to ask questions about the respondent’s religion, primarily focusing on issues of sin and forgiveness.

Soon after the Jewish man started asking these questions, perhaps a month later, the respondent began to have a series of similarly themed dreams. In the dreams, a man in white clothes with a bright glow over his face asked the respondent in Arabic, “Are you chosen?” The respondent was confused because he originally thought the man in the dream was asking if he was the village chief, which he was not. So, he answered the man in white, “no.” He always awoke from this recurring dream frightened and sweating.

In the final dream, the fifth or sixth, the same man in white appeared, but this time he placed his hand on the respondent’s shoulder and said, “You are chosen,” and the respondent replied, “No!” At that point he awoke, again frightened and sweating and confused about the meaning of the dream. After this last dream, the respondent told the Jewish man about the dreams. His response was, “God is trying to tell you something important.” Then, the Jewish man began to tell him about Jesus and encouraged him to read the Bible.

At the time, the respondent considered himself a religious Muslim, so he was a little confused that a Jewish man kept telling him about Jesus and suggesting that he should read the New Testament.

The Jewish man also introduced the respondent to a Christian couple that regularly brought Christian tourists through the area. The respondent noted that this contact was very important in his coming to faith. “Once, they stopped by my work with a group of fifty-one tourists who brought boxes filled with clothes and food items.” Almost as an afterthought, the respondent added that the boxes also included Arabic Bibles and Christian books amongst the food and clothes. Even though there were no oral or written instructions or demands to read the Christian materials, the respondent understood the inclusion of such items in the aid boxes as a quid pro quo. Therefore, because he wanted to please the Christians who were bringing him food, the material aid became the catalyst for the respondent to begin reading the Bible. Each time a new box of aid arrived, the respondent was asked if he was reading the Bible, to which he always replied, “Yes, I’m reading it regularly.” He was actually reading the Bible, but he admitted that in the beginning, his “thoughts were more on the boxes than the Bible.”

Initially and for some time, perhaps six months, he did not understand anything he was reading in the Bible, and his assessment was that the Old Testament was for Jews and the New Testament was for Christians. The frustration that resulted from unintelligible reading eventually led him to stop reading the Bible for about two months. However, in spite of the frustration, his interest in the aid boxes caused him to begin reading the New Testament again. “This time,” he said, “I began to slowly understand a little more each time I read it, which made it more interesting.” And over the course of “about two years,” he realized his interest in the New Testament had become greater than his interest in the aid boxes: “Originally, I was motivated by the boxes, so I read more. But, the more I read, the less interested in the boxes I became,” he explained.

As his interest in the New Testament grew, the political situation flared up again and the Jewish man stopped visiting, as did the tourists. Even though they never showed up again, he continued to read because he felt compelled to read. He “spent long nights reading through the New Testament.” Of course he was still thinking about the aid boxes, but he “was thinking more about the New Testament and Jesus.” In fact, he said he felt like he “was being drawn not just to the New Testament, but also being drawn to know this person [i.e., Jesus].”

Eventually he changed careers and started to drive a taxi, which he really enjoyed because it gave him many opportunities to read the New Testament secretly. On many occasions he simply stopped his taxi on the side of the road so he could read the New Testament, which continued to draw him toward Jesus.

An important turning point in his conversion came when he picked up a MBBfor a fare. During the commute the MBB began to witness to the respondent, which he enjoyed very much, though he did not tell the MBB about his obsession with reading the New Testament. After meeting a few times, the respondent asked if he could become the MBB’s regular driver, hoping that they could have more conversations. Their conversations eventually turned more personal, including discussions about life as a MBB and the deity of Jesus and a confession by the respondent that he was reading the New Testament. After a few months of conversations, the respondent was invited to visit a MBB church, which led to an invitation to a MBB couples retreat. Though he was still an unbeliever, he convinced his wife to attend with him, ostensibly “to pray.” She had no prior knowledge of his reading the New Testament, nor his consideration of conversion. When she witnessed people worshiping Jesus, she refused to stay, declaring the meeting “haram!” [forbidden] for Muslims. And because of his wife’s negative reaction, the respondent kept his further study and eventual conversion to himself.

After returning from the conference, the respondent realized he believed Jesus died for his sins. He was by himself when it occurred to him, so he phoned the MBB to tell him the news.

The respondent said the love that he discovered in Jesus and Jesus people compelled him to believe. While admitting there was some level of hesitation in the beginning, he also said, “believing was easy because one thing led to another.” The initial seeds that were planted by the Jewish believer and the tourists were watered by the reading of the New Testament and conversations with the MBB, and ultimately drew him to believe in Jesus.

Themes that emerged in this interview: Personal Bible reading, “drawn/compelled,” the kindness of Christians, dreams, retreats/conferences/special events, meeting Christians/MBBs, an open witness, and common objections to the gospel.

[1] In this context, Messianic Jewish means a Jewish person who believes Jesus is the Messiah. Though the phrase has mostly gone out of use, Jewish-Christian has also been used in reference to Jews who believe in Jesus.

NEXT: Palestinian Muslims Coming to Christ: Story #19

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Palestinian Muslims Coming to Christ, Story #17

This excerpt from my dissertation is the conversion-story summary of Respondent Seventeen, a female from Nablus. Feel free to interact in the comments or download my dissertation as a free PDF!

The following is ©2014 University of Pretoria and Craig Dunning, and if used elsewhere, should be cited as:

Dunning, CA (2014) Palestinian Muslims converting to Christianity: effective evangelistic methods in the West Bank. Pretoria, South Africa: University of Pretoria, PhD thesis, pp. 362-365.

Respondent Seventeen was raised in a secular Muslim family. She was the odd member of the family who was interested in politics, believing political activism was the gateway to freedom. She identified herself as an atheist communist who was interested only in “political activism against the Zionist occupation.” When the respondent was in high school, she attended anti-occupation conferences throughout the Arab world, and eventually spent her college years studying in Jordan.

It was in Jordan that the respondent was first exposed to Christianity. Her college roommate was a Christian who became a good friend, and while she never evangelized the respondent, neither did she appear to be embarrassed or try to hide her Christianity. During the respondent’s studies in Jordan, she learned English. And, even though she had no religious interests, she read the Bible to practice her English and to gain general knowledge of Christianity.

Upon completion of university, the respondent returned to Palestine with the assumption she would become involved in the movement for the independence of Palestine on university campuses in the West Bank as well as in Europe and the United States. Equipped with her English skills and personal experience of the occupation, she pictured herself to be an indispensable member of the “voice of Palestine.” She said, “I wanted to use my English skills to inform the West of the realities of the occupation. I wanted to be the voice of Palestine that convinced America and Europe to stop supporting the occupation.”

In hindsight, she said she held the “naive belief” that the people were waiting for her to step forward, education and experience in hand, to be the one who would finally succeed in convincing the West to stop supporting Zionism and liberate the oppressed. However, reality was something different: “No one doubted my academic credentials or English language skills or my experience of the occupation, but it became clear that no one was interested in my help. These were people who knew me because, as a youth, I had volunteered in different anti-occupation movements. So it was not that they needed to get to know me before they could trust me. Then the light came on: the people I thought were fighting on behalf of Palestine and the Palestinian people, were actually involved for themselves. That’s why they were not interested in me; they saw me as competition, not as help. I could not believe it and refused to believe it for a couple months. But it was true and I could not deny it any longer. What made it worse was to realize that, as a youth, my idealism and belief in Palestine were exploited for the personal gain of the leaders of our movement. How could they do that? They were worse than the Zionists!”

Suddenly, the respondent’s “world came crashing down. All of life was crashing in on” her. The only thing she knew to do was to hide herself away in her bedroom. She hibernated for two days and began entering into severe depression. During this time, she repeated the same questions over and over: “How could they do that to the people? How could they do that to me?” Every explanation she could think of was void of any comfort. And each cycle of questioning increased her sense of betrayal and drove her closer to despair.

Because her family had never believed in political activism as she had, they did not realize how hurt and crushed she was. She said, “They could not understand that my whole world had suddenly crashed. I had dreams of changing the realities of Palestine. I had envisioned being part of the movement that broke the occupation. That’s what my life was about. And all of that was gone! Did it ever really exist? I don’t know. Perhaps in other areas or movements, but not in the one I was in.”

After more than one month of hiding away in her bedroom, the respondent realized she needed to find a job and start moving on with her life. This was really difficult because she felt like her life was totally upside down. She eventually got a secretarial job, doing a variety of office tasks. In many ways it was mindless work, so she was able to manage without too much trouble. A couple months passed before someone told her about a place where she could learn computer skills from teachers who were really nice people. Since she did not have any other real vocational options, she thought she might as well give it a try. Eventually, this decision would change her life in ways she could never have imagined.

The courses she attended gave her the opportunity to meet a MBB for the first time. Over the course of a month she had become close enough with a few MBBs to ask to join them on a group trip to Egypt. By this time, she knew all those who would be going on the trip were believers in Jesus, though she did not fully understand what it meant to be a believer in Jesus. The group was traveling to Egypt to encourage fellow believers and to share their testimonies with whoever would listen, and the respondent ended up being one of the listeners.

Each morning the group began the day with devotions led by the group leader who was also the founder of the learning center (See Respondent Eleven). The morning devotions were followed later in the day with a group Bible study. The devotions and Bible studies were primarily directed toward the believers for the purpose of encouraging them in the faith, but they were also intended to challenge the respondent to consider belief in Jesus. The bulk of the day was spent around Cairo witnessing wherever possible, and the evenings were given to group time with local brothers and sisters in the Lord.

On the sixth morning, in a private conversation, the group leader spoke directly to the respondent about salvation – her need for and the way of salvation. In this conversation, which was prefaced with six days of morning devotions and daily Bible studies, the group leader explained from the New Testament how the respondent was a sinner and in need of forgiveness. He contrasted the certainty of Jesus’ forgiveness with the uncertainty of Allah’s final judgment as presented by Islam. He also emphasized how each of the MBBs on the trip experienced personal peace when they “accepted Jesus as Lord.”

For the first time, the respondent actually considered the existence of God. In fact, the existence of God, though a new thought for her, simply became a reality as she listened to the testimonies of her fellow travelers. She doesn’t know exactly when her belief about the existence of God happened or a specific thing that changed her view, but she does connect it directly to the personal testimonies she heard daily: “Knowing them and hearing their testimonies was very important to me,” she said.

After returning from Egypt, the respondent wanted to know more about believing in Jesus. She said, “I wanted to believe, but I needed more assurance that I was on the right path.” During the next week she had “non-stop conversations about believing in Jesus” with the group leader. When they were not talking, she was reading the Gospels. “Finally, after a week of talking and reading,” she told the group leader that she “believed in Jesus as Lord.” He said that he was not surprised that she had come to believe in Jesus and led her in a prayer of salvation.

When asked what she thought was important for others to know about her conversion experience, she said, “Jesus is the right way of salvation. Don’t stop hearing about Jesus. He gives peace if people believe.”

Themes that emerged in this interview: Personal Bible reading, formal Bible studies, crisis, meeting Christians/MBBs, the “prayer of salvation,” culture center, lack of interest in religion.

NEXT: Palestinian Muslims Coming to Christ: Story #18

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Palestinian Muslims Coming to Christ, Story #16

This excerpt from my dissertation is the conversion-story summary of Respondent Sixteen, a female from Nablus. Feel free to interact in the comments or download my dissertation as a free PDF!

The following is ©2014 University of Pretoria and Craig Dunning, and if used elsewhere, should be cited as:

Dunning, CA (2014) Palestinian Muslims converting to Christianity: effective evangelistic methods in the West Bank. Pretoria, South Africa: University of Pretoria, PhD thesis, pp. 358-361.

Respondent Sixteen was raised in a very religious Muslim home. She married a religiously observant Muslim man and proudly maintained her home in the religious ways she had learned as a child. She dressed modestly, including the hijab (see Figure 10). She was very happy to find a man who felt the same way about religion that she did and who wanted to raise children as observant Muslims. However, after a couple years of marriage she began to feel dissatisfied and empty in all of her religious observation. While she maintained all the expressions of her faith, like modest dress, eating only Hallal food, and praying daily, she had an empty feeling that she could not shake. She wanted to get rid of this feeling no matter what it took to do so, but the only thing she could imagine doing more was praying more. So, she began to pray more intensely and more than the prescribed five times daily.

She could not remember how long she followed this plan, but does remember that she noticed the more she prayed, the more distant she felt from Allah. Often after praying she asked herself, “Where is Allah?” But, “He was nowhere to be found” she said. She struggled terribly with why she felt so distant from Allah. Eventually, unable to solve this riddle, she began to blame herself: “Maybe I have sinned in some way,” she reasoned. However, she could not think of any way that she had done anything to merit Allah’s distance.

She was desperate to feel the closeness of Allah? “What could I do?” she wondered. Again, praying more was the only answer that came to mind. She was afraid to speak with her husband about her crisis, so she did the only thing she could think of: She prayed more. However, praying more did not offer the closeness she desired. In fact, she said, “Every time I prayed, I felt Allah’s absence more and more. But I didn’t stop praying. How could I? Everyone knows that good Muslims pray. I was a good Muslim all my life, so why should Allah feel so distant?” she added to explain her frustration. This feeling of distance from Allah led the respondent into a form of depression.

Her husband noticed her depression and recommended that she attend a culture center near their home. In this particular center, women were offered both computer courses and self-confidence courses. She was somewhat hesitant to attend the courses because she did not know anyone there. However, the self-confidence course sounded interesting, and she decided to enroll. She really enjoyed and benefited from the confidence course, which lasted two months. Afterward, she enrolled in the computer course and found that she was starting to make friends at the center and wanted to be there outside her scheduled class times.

Although she was enjoying her courses and felt that she had gained some self-confidence, she still struggled with depression and a sense of loneliness. But she continued to pray because she knew she was supposed to pray, even though the end result was more discouragement.

She thought that one of the men who ran the programs was a Greek Orthodox Christian, but did not realize that a number of the Muslims were actually MBBs. As Christmas approached, the center sponsored a Christmas party for all the students. Though the respondent was not a Christian she was interested to attend because she had become friends with a couple of the other students who would be attending, and also because she had never been to a Christmas party and wondered what would happen there.

When the respondent entered the party, she saw an atmosphere of joy unlike she had ever seen or experienced. There were only a few people that she knew to be Muslims, and most of the people in attendance she did not know. She assumed they were Christians because they were singing songs about Jesus. She was both uncomfortable and amazed at the same time. She was uncomfortable because she, a religious Muslim, was standing in the midst of Christians singing about Jesus, and she knew that Muslims should not be doing such a thing. She was amazed because she, a religious Muslim, was standing in the midst of Christians singing about Jesus in a way she had never imagined and in a way that was passionate and joyful and fresh and free. She never joined in the singing, but she did enjoy watching the others sing.

After the singing, the Greek Orthodox man (whom she did not know had been born again) asked everyone to join him in praying. She had never seen Christians pray, and was quite amazed that they did not have a ritual (i.e., specific form or words): some closed their eyes, others did not; some held their hands high in the air while others held the seat back in front of them; some looked to heaven while others bowed their heads. She was partly annoyed that they would dare to pray so freely, while at the same time she was attracted to the idea of praying so freely. After the prayer, the Greek Orthodox man asked everyone to be seated and give him their attention for the next fifteen or twenty minutes. “The next fifteen minutes changed my life,” she said with big smile.

The man began to tell the Christmas story. He spoke very carefully and passionately about Jesus, the Son of God. She knew that Muslims could not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, but this man’s passion seemed to override that objection. He continued to explain how Son of God doesn’t mean that God and Mary had sexual relations (as many Muslims think), but rather that it was a way of saying that Jesus is equal with God. Again, she knew this was contrary to Muslim belief, but the man’s passion and clarity were convincing.

The respondent was drawn in as the man began to read and explain chapter one of John’s gospel. She described the process as follows: “Step by step I was coming to understand that Jesus is God. I was not afraid to find this out because each step led me to more understanding. The question I had asked each time I finished praying – ‘Where is Allah?’ – was finally answered when he got to verse fourteen [JN 1:14]. God came to earth to live among his people in the person of Jesus. Finally, it became clear to me. I was so relieved when I realized this truth. Then he explained that Jesus died on the cross to pay for the sins of the world, and for the first time, Christianity became attractive to me. Very attractive.”

Though she had heard little about Christianity or Christians in her village, every reference she had heard was in a negative context. That changed at the Christmas party; her view of Christians and Christianity were now very positive. She said, she “felt the depression leave; everything was different!”

As the speaker closed his sermon, he suggested that any who might have made a decision to believe in Jesus or had more questions about believing in Jesus should speak with one of the leaders of the center. She had been enrolled at the community center for four months, and everyone had become like an extended family, but she was still cautious about revealing to others her new beliefs. Soon after the sermon ended, she casually approached one of the leaders whom she trusted and explained all that had happened. She detailed her strict religious observance, her disappointment that Allah seemed distant, and the relief she had in her new understanding that Jesus was God who came to earth. The counselor discreetly prayed for her then asked if she wanted to pray a “prayer of salvation.” She agreed, and discreetly, in the corner of the room, he led her in the following prayer: “God, I am a sinner and I need forgiveness. I have longed for your presence and now I have found you in Jesus. I believe that he died for my sins and that He is God. Amen.”

Themes that emerged in this interview: “Drawn/compelled,” doubts about Islam/Qur’an, crisis, meeting Christians/MBBs, “prayer of salvation,” culture center, and common objections to the gospel.

NEXT: Palestinian Muslims Coming to Christ: Story #17

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