This excerpt from my dissertation is the conversion-story summary of Respondent Two, a female from Bethlehem. Feel free to interact in the comments or download my dissertation as a free PDF here.
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. 301-304.
Respondent Two – female – Bethlehem
Respondent Two was born and raised in Jordan, a Palestinian in exile. Her father was a teacher who encouraged his children to read, especially in English. This emphasis on reading gave her the opportunity to think and explore things outside of Islam and to question her family’s religion.
During her childhood years, her father’s answer to any questions that were raised about Islam was always, “don’t question Islam, just accept it.” This answer did not satisfy her, so she continued to read and think independently.
When the respondent reached high school, she began to notice what she described as “contradictions, logical tensions, and other problems,” in the Qur’an. However, she was always reminded that she should never “question Islam, just accept it” and that she should “believe in Allah, Muhammad, the Qur’an, and angels.” The more she read, the more she noticed what she thought were problems in Islam and contradictions in the Qur’an. One specific issue she found objectionable was that “Allah can’t forgive one mistake.” She also mentioned that her mind would wander during prayer and that she started to think that Islam might not be true.
While studying in college she became friends with a Christian, which not only was a new experience for her it provided a new way of thinking about religion in general, and Christians specifically, even though her new Christian friend never suggested that she should become a Christian.
It was at that time that her initial set of dreams occurred, but it would be almost ten years before she understood their meaning. In the first dream of this set, all the stars in the sky came together in a single bright mass before falling one by one to the ground beside her. Having no idea what the dream meant, she asked trusted friends and family members who either laughed at her or said they could not interpret the dream. She wondered if the stars represented jinns – evil spirits. The last dream in this series of dreams was once again of all the stars in the sky coming together, but this time, they gathered together in the shape of a Christian cross. Like the previous dreams, she had no idea of the meaning of this dream, but this time she was too afraid to ask anyone for help.
About six years later, the respondent received an emotionally crushing blow when her six-months old son died suddenly. Many of the questions she had about her son’s fate were answered in a set of dreams. In the first dream she saw a white dove that told her that her son was okay. This was both understandable and comforting to her. However, in the second dream, “a man dressed in white with a face of light” appeared and said in Arabic, “come to me,” which did not make any sense to her at the time.
Although she was comforted by the thought that her son was okay, she did have a terrible nagging fear that he died because she “was not religious enough.” That resulted in her praying more regularly and more fervently, but she never could get beyond the fear of death. She said that she constantly worried that “someone else might die because I was not religious enough.”
During this episode of increased prayer and uncertainty, a family friend began to regularly visit the respondent and her husband. The focus of his visits was to talk with the couple about Jesus. It did not matter if they wanted to talk about Jesus or not, the visitor always seemed to get the conversation turned in that direction. This friend would regularly point out problems within Islam as well as testify of how his life was being blessed by Jesus.
Within a couple visits the friend gave the respondent and her husband a Bible, which she began to read immediately. Over the course of about twelve months, the respondent “read the New Testament five or six times and the Old Testament three or four times,” and she sensed her thoughts about Christianity becoming more positive. However, even though she was starting to gain a level of acceptance about Christianity and the possibility of becoming a Christian, the deity of Jesus remained a major barrier. She simply could not embrace the idea that God could come to earth in human flesh.
Soon after that first year of reading the Bible, she had her third set of dreams. The initial dream of this set took her to a large mountain upon which stood “a person of light” that spoke to her in Arabic. She asked the person of light, “Who are you?” Immediately, without giving the person of light an opportunity to answer, she answered her own question: “You are God.” Then she asked her final question, “What do you want from me?” The person of light answered, “It’s time to tell you about your first dreams. You can get the answer to your questions from Christians.”
The family friend introduced the respondent to a pastor in Jerusalem who interpreted her first dreams. He told her that, “the stars falling from the sky to the ground represented [her] leaving Jordan and arriving in Palestine, and that the stars in the shape of the cross represented [her] believing in Jesus.” This interpretation made some sense to her since she had come from Jordan to Palestine. The second portion was also reasonable, to a point. She could believe in Jesus as a man. However, she still could not accept Jesus as God.
This internal tension lasted another six months, but she continued to read the New Testament in large quantities. The more she read, the more she loved Jesus, the man and the prophet. However, the more she read, the more clear it was to her that “the New Testament presents Jesus as more than a man and more than a prophet. It presents Jesus as God, too.” “Obviously that’s one of the parts of the New Testament that Muslims believe was corrupted,” she offered as an apologetic against what she was coming to understand at that time.
Her husband had lost interest in their friend’s regular discussions about Jesus and Islam within the first three months, but she had not. In fact, she had become more interested, but she had to be cautious in order to avoid upsetting her husband, who eventually suspected she had become a believer and sent her to her father to be sorted out. Since she had not yet believed, her father could not get a confession from her, and with a stern warning sent her back to her husband.
Immediately upon her arrival, the respondent’s husband warned her that if she ever became a Christian he would divorce her and send her back to her father, who would certainly kill her for the family’s honor. Fearing for her safety, she replaced the Arabic Bible that she carried in her purse with an English one since her husband could not read English. She also began listening to the New Testament on an mp3 player, which gave her safer and easier access to the New Testament while riding the bus or cleaning the house.
Shortly after her return home from her father’s home, she informed the man who had been witnessing to her and her husband that she was “really close to believing,” but that she still could not believe Jesus is God. Within a couple days of this conversation, she had her final dream, in which “Jesus appeared dressed in white with a glowing light in his face.” In Arabic, he said to her, “I am the way.” At that moment, she awoke from her sleep “believing in Jesus.” She immediately got up and called the person who had been witnessing to her and whispered, “I believe Jesus is God!”
Themes that emerged in this interview: Personal Bible reading, doubts about Islam/Qur’an, dreams, a crisis, uncertainty, and common objections to the gospel.
Download my dissertation as a free PDF here.
NEXT: Palestinian Muslims Coming to Christ: Story #3