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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