Crowded streets. Women covered from head to toe. Men stare as I walk by. Hagglers approach to sell the item of the day. Hood on my head, hands in my pocket trying to fight off the chill flowing from the sea through the city.
With each step I feel my legs become stronger, as walking is the means of transportation here. I hear the prayer call begin. I see men taking their shoes off to enter into the mosque. Thinking to myself, I wonder if Christians in America pray 5 times a day? I peek in as I walk along and see men kneeling, rocking and praying. With each step onward I see men, women and children with a questionable looks upon their faces. Who is she? What is she doing here? Why is she looking at me in the face?
I feel like a piece of the puzzle that does not fit and it’s obvious to all. My destination stopped at a place where I encountered a young native man whose testimony sent me on an emotional roller coaster as I sat and listened.
This is a Muslim country; 99% Islam and 1% Christian. Islam is not only a religion but it’s a way of life and anything counter that is unacceptable so much so that Christian evangelism is illegal and jail time is the consequence. This young man grew up Muslim to very Muslim parents. One day he was listening to a satellite radio station by the name of Sat7. A woman was talking about the love of God and gave a telephone number to a prayer line. He began to call this number several times a day wanting more and more to know this love and this God of love.
As the days continue, outwardly he was Muslim but inwardly his heart was turned to and completely sold out for Christ (Romans 10:9-10). The telephone bill came in one day and the father questioned him about why there were so many international calls he. He continuously told his father he did not know about the calls until one day when he could not hide his true identity any longer. He told his parents he was a Christian and that is when things began to change. His parents increased the Muslim rituals and forced the Koran on him. He would obey and do what was required of him but he never stopped believing and reading his Bible (Romans 12:2).
Eventually, word got out at his school that he was Christian and the kids began to taunt him. He received several phone calls at home from his teachers because he did not want to participate in the Muslim rituals and events. In an attempt to rebel, he painted a cross on his book bag (Matthew 16:24). Talk about carry your cross! I was in awe at his bravery.
Soon after his mother died he had to leave that city to be reunited with his grandmother in another. The reunion soon turned sour because his family, feeling betrayed and disgraced by his decision, began to disown him for professing Christ(Matthew 10:21-22). Family is everything here. Sons and daughters live with their parents until marriage or sometimes even while married by adding an addition onto the home in order to stay together. Everything is centered around family, community and relationship. For this young man to be disowned was a big deal. My heart broke. With all he’d been through, I looked at him as he spoke and you can see the joy and zeal he has for Christ in the face of danger, jail time and persecution (James 1:12).
Disowned by his family, he thought about fleeing to another country where he can freely worship because he felt like he was the only Christian in the land but for some reason he stayed (Matthew 13:57). He contacted Sat7 to see if there were any other Christians in the area with no avail. Five years later out of the blue he received correspondence from a guy saying that he was a North African Christian and wanted to meet. He was leery, thinking it might have been a set up but he met with him anyway because he had a good feeling about him. Now there are a few Christians who met up together, pray, share a meal, sing songs and study scripture. Sounds like Acts 2:46 doesn’t it?
I was overjoyed at their faithfulness. When asked will he stay or leave he said he will stay because it’s his country and continue to live as a Christian (Isaiah 10:21). He will continue to share his story with whoever will listen ~ John17:17, “Sanctify them by your truth for your word is truth.”
By April Roebuck, M.Div Student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.
North Africa was one of five trips World Misison Initiative sponsored this year. Learn more about WMI and the work they do by liking their page on Facebook or going to their website: http://worldmissioninitiative.org/