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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