Greg Kernaghan, a writer for OM International, travelled through the Middle East in November 2013. He observed and listened to the hearts of Christian workers who have invested decades in understanding and loving their Arab neighbours. Greg writes this collection of stories from the perspective of the OM workers in the Middle East, in their own words, fastidiously avoiding using real names and places so that the story itself may be told widely.
We’re hearing of women and whole families coming to Christ, which is significant. Normally we would know of individual men but, as the culture places such importance on the family unit, this is a major step forward.
One girl is writing hymns and posting them on the Internet. That was where she learnt of Christ and has “met” workers, although she has yet to meet other Christians face to face. Two of her sisters also believe in Christ. A Bahraini across the country is gifted in playing local Arabic instruments. He puts her hymns to music and posts them on YouTube.
Media makes a difference
Another young girl came to Christ through media. When her parents found out, they were incensed and made attempts to marry her to a fanatical Muslim. People began to pray for her, and their prayers were answered when the wedding to this man was cancelled. The family’s emotional abuse ceased, and her sister, having seen her bear up under suffering, has come to Christ.
One brother, Yazid*, was introduced to Christ through visions and dreams. Bored, he was surfing the Internet at work when the Holy Spirit spoke clearly to him to read the Injil and learn about Christ. He downloaded it and began to read the Scriptures. Every time he returned to his desk, God told him to read more. At first it was like a dark cloud, as he began at Genesis, but he read through until the Gospels when the darkness lifted and he understood.
Later, he began to follow video Bible teaching online and called to ask for more information. The teacher walked him through the Gospel and led him to Christ, then put him in touch with us and we began to meet together. He was soon baptised but still had doubts about his sins being forgiven. In a vision, God told him he was utterly forgiven. Since then, he has been telling friends, family and colleagues about his faith, knowing well the possible cost. His family put his bags on the street and locked the door, but a few days later relented. One daughter has been reading the Gospels.
Women have freedom to go shopping and socialise with women. I was able to meet periodically, usually in my home, with one who had become a believer. Two of Fadila’s* sisters and one brother were in the US and came to Christ through the love and ministry of an American. One sister sent her an email explaining the gospel and her own testimony; when Fadila read it, she immediately believed. She had had a dream the previous night about her sister, but didn’t know that she was a believer. She was so amazed at this coincidence that she visited her sister in the US, and her husband came along because he wanted to understand what was going on. He met with the man who had discipled the family and was satisfied that it was OK for his wife and the others to continue in their faith. They returned to Saudi Arabia and she is quite open in sharing her faith.
One of her friends had a dream, in which she saw a dark bird in a cage. Then she saw a white bird, flying free. She told her believing friend, hoping for an explanation. Her friend said, “This is God speaking to you. You are that dark bird in a cage, but He wants you to become the white bird flying freely by believing in Jesus.” This believer depends entirely on the Internet for fellowship, as she lives nowhere near other believers. She and her siblings and their spiritual father in the US meet regularly online, even celebrating Christmas in this way. She prays that she could meet face to face with another woman believer. There might be someone nearby, but mistrust or fear can prevent them from meeting.
Steps of faith
An older man, Nazim*, is a large man. Going up a stairwell, all of a sudden he had a vision and literally fell down. He saw a light and angels that proclaimed, “Behold, the King is with you.” The message kept repeating. He knew this King was Jesus – Saudis have a sense of who Christ is. The man immediately began to proclaim the gospel even though he knew almost nothing. The police stopped him because, in his zeal, he had put a cross on his car. He told the police about Christ…but took down the cross. Likely they didn’t know what to do with him!
A friend connected us with a Saudi woman in the US who was a secret believer and could not likely ever return to Saudi Arabia. One of her sisters in Saudi asked another sister to get her an Arabic Bible on a trip to London, which she did. Upon receiving and reading Scripture, she became a believer. Her husband did not forbid her but asked her to be careful and private about her faith. She had thus far been barren – a huge shame – but, immediately after she trusted in Christ she became pregnant and bore twin sons – a double blessing so rare that this was understood by her family and community as clear evidence that God had blessed her step of faith in Jesus. She prays openly for her sister and others to know the Lord.
Faith in action
A young Saudi had a dream about Jesus, began to read Scripture and trusted Christ. He then married, but his wife did not accept his faith. They later had a child who became very ill. The husband told his wife that they were going to pray to Jesus and that only He could heal the child. The child was then healed, and the wife, and also her mother, came to faith.
Peace with God
As two workers walked past a sidewalk café in Europe, five Arabs invited them to join them. God prompted one of the workers, a Saudi – whose dialect was immediately recognisable and thus a surprise to the five men – to share his testimony. The hearers asked, “Aren’t you afraid of confessing this because of the consequences in your country?” He replied, “No, because I am at peace with God and know where I will spend eternity.” As he continued to speak one of the listeners, also a Saudi, began to weep. Their time ended with the workers praying for the five men.
The next day, they met one of the Saudi men who said, “As you spoke yesterday, I felt real peace within me for the first time.” He asked for materials to share with the other four friends.
While the workers were in conversation on the street with another Arab, an Iranian woman approached them – shocking it itself – and said, “You must listen to this man; he speaks truth. I am an Iranian and was not only a Muslim but also part of a terrorist family. Jesus appeared to me in a dream and changed my life. Do not miss this!” This caused the man to begin thinking and questioning deeply; not long after he came to Christ.
Fear is a huge factor to be overcome for Arabs, whether in trusting the gospel or in sharing it among their peers. This can be accomplished for both witness and listener through prayer.
This is just one article in a series that explores what God is doing in the Middle East. Click here for more articles in this series.