Palestinian Muslims Coming to Christ, Story #11

This excerpt from my dissertation is the conversion-story summary of Respondent Eleven, 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. 338-340.

Respondent Eleven spent much of his life in Kuwait, but returned to the West Bank in 1990. He returned as an atheist, believing completely in Communism. His religious and political views were not held secretly, neither were they unusual in his social circles. He said that while his family was non-religious, they were respectful of Islam, if for no other reason, because that is the context in which they lived in Kuwait and the West Bank.

Very early in the interview the respondent listed his major complaints with Islam: 1) the status of women, 2) Islam’s apparent hatred for those outside Islam, 3) the violent nature of the religion, and 4) a complete uncertainty about the future. He also mentioned a general dislike for the Qur’an. And, since he had been an atheist, he was also quick to point out that he had also had some objections to Christianity: 1) Christianity’s apparent identification with the West, over and above eastern cultures, 2) Christianity’s belief that God has a Son, and 3) Christianity’s belief that God made man, rather than his then belief that man made God.

The respondent’s motivation to investigate Christianity was not religiously driven. In fact, it was a sociological or philosophical concern for the status of women within the Islamic cultural context that motivated him to examine other ethical systems in order to see what their view of women might be. The most obvious first system to examine, he thought, was Christianity because “it is the largest ethical system in the world.”

The respondent did not really have a plan of how he would examine Christianity’s view of women other than reading the New Testament. He did not feel it was necessary to seek the counsel of a pastor or priest. Rather, he was confident that a self-directed reading of the New Testament would give him a sufficiently clear understanding of the status of women in the Christian ethical system. However, he did not own a New Testament, so he went to a bookstore in Ramallah and purchased an Arabic Bible.

Knowing nothing about the New Testament, he thought the best approach would be to start at the beginning. So, he began reading the gospel of Matthew slowly and intentionally, and was so moved by the words of Jesus, that he “could not put it down”; he read the whole book (all twenty-eight chapters) every day for six months. While he found something precious in every chapter, he said, “I could not get past the words of Jesus in chapters five to seven, the Sermon on the Mountain Top. These words were so different than anything I had ever heard from Islam. They changed the way I viewed Christianity and life.”

Throughout the six months of reading the gospel of Matthew, the respondent desperately wanted to talk with someone about the things he was learning. However, he did not know any Christians, and he thought no one from his atheist circles would be interested. As the months moved forward, he became less and less afraid that others would find out that he was fervently reading the New Testament. Slowly, he started to leave the Bible sitting on the counter in open view at his work. Occasionally, others would see it and look at him as if to ask, “what’s this?” However, no one ever said anything until a doctor saw it and said, “I know someone who can talk with you about this book, if you want.” The respondent was not sure what he should do, but he was so taken with what he had read daily for almost six months, that he blurted out, “sure, I would like to talk to someone who knows something about it.”

This was a very important event in the respondent’s conversion because it gave him the opportunity to meet someone else who had walked the path he found himself walking at that time.

As he began embracing Jesus’ teaching in Matthew’s gospel, particularly chapters five through seven, he recognized the change in his life. And his wife noticed, too, though she had no idea why he was changing. He understood his wife’s recognition of changes as a sign of confirmation that he was on the right path. So, not only had he and others recognized these attitudinal and behavioral changes, he also “found the answers to [his] objections to Islam.” The major contrast he noted was love: “Christianity is based on love. Love your enemy. Be kind to others. Forgive those that hurt you. It’s about love; God loved the world. That’s so different from Islam,” he concluded.

The respondent met with the doctor’s friend, who was a MBB, every few weeks for about one year. At the end of that year, the respondent was convinced that he had become a believer in Jesus and made it known to his wife and others. He said that he “did not say a prayer of salvation,” so he can’t mark a specific day on which he became a believer, but he is certain that he has “believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

In addition to personal Bible reading and meeting with the doctor’s friend the respondent said he was influenced by three miracles that occurred in his life during the period with the doctor’s friend. He understood these miracles to be confirmation that he was a believer.

The first miracle was that the respondent passed several hardships, which included a failed business and personal betrayal by people close to him, without anger, bitterness, or denying God’s existence. He recognized God’s work in him, giving him “a peculiar ability to forgive” those that had hurt him, which he said, “would not have been possible when I was an atheist.”

The second miracle was connected to the death of his newborn baby. He said it was a miracle how God helped him (and his wife) through their grief. Once again the respondent saw evidence of God’s work in him, changing the way he responded to severe heartache.

The third miracle was more personal than the previous two and he did not want to elaborate more than saying that God had worked out some problems he had with his wife’s family.

Themes that emerged in this interview: Personal Bible reading, being “moved,” doubts about Islam/Qur’an, crisis, miracles, meeting Christians/MBBs, the “prayer of salvation,” and common objections to the gospel.

NEXT: Palestinian Muslims Coming to Christ: Story #12

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