A young Muslim’s family taught him that nothing was more important than serving Allah, and that their spirits could have no peace until their country was an Islamic power superior to all other states.
His entire city felt the same way, 23-year-old Ahmet Khalil* said.
“I was like that; I practiced my worship routines daily – I read the Koran and fasted during Ramadan,” Khalil said. “I visited Mecca with my grandpa and became a very young hadji.”
At the same time, he said, he was deeply angry and did not know why. Feeling like he never had enough of anything, he lived in a constant state of dissatisfaction, Khalil said.
“My soul was as if stuck in a shell that I did not choose, and that became narrower day by day,” he said.
After beginning university in 2016, he shielded himself from the competing worldviews he found there – leftists, atheists, LGBT and Christians, among others – by surrounding himself with like-minded Muslim nationalists. Exposure to people ranging from Mormons to Communists was a shock to him after growing up in a city with a single ideology.
Khalil and his Islamist friends saw themselves as locked in a jihadist struggle.
“We were attending a mosque together and fighting with others who were against our ideology,” he said. “I was arrested a few times, but the police always protect right-wing people in our country.”
One day a Christian student who had fallen ill asked him for help. He helped get her to a hospital, spent the day with her and did not let her condition stop him from asserting his views – and was surprised that her replies were so kind and peaceful.
“I told her my ideas in a very aggressive way, but she never became angry and answered me with powerful patience and understanding,” Khalil said, adding that they agreed to meet again with her friends at a café. “I was so excited to argue with them, because I thought I could change these lost young people and save them from their nefarious ideas.”
The ensuing conversations led to invitations to her youth group, studying the Bible and reading Christian literature, including a native ministry’s publication. Consumed by hunger for truth, he read every article in it, he said.
“After all the conversations, readings and research, I decided the true Redeemer of this world is Jesus himself,” Khalil said. “His Word changed my mind, and I left my rotten ideas.”
Khalil left Islam, and his family and friends left him.
“I lost my past and all the desires that I thought would make me complete; my ideas fell apart, and my mind was full of new questions,” he said. “I was also in a joyful situation because He saved me. I found my Savior and my Lord.”
The edifying biblical content and resources in the publication have helped fill a void that has deepened as COVID-19 lockdowns stop churches from gathering, and the native ministry that publishes it has also seen fruit in its online church services; recently two young women from Muslim families put their faith in Christ after participating in the church’s online worship.
The biblical lessons of another native ministry’s church are appearing on social media and other online sites, and they are also finding open hearts among young people.
“Due to this pandemic, we’re noticing that especially the young people here are more open to receive our Lord’s words, and they are visiting our church site, asking good questions quite a lot now,” the leader of the local ministry said. “What has surprised us the most is that, when asked how they knew about us, they all said it was from our online videos that they learned about us.”
In the past three months, two young adults have put their faith in Christ as a result of the online messages, he said.
“What a blessing to be able to plant the seeds of God’s love into the lives of so many through these video services,” he said.
The ministry is also reaching refugees in different parts of the country, bringing the gospel along with food, blankets, boots and coverings for their tents to keep out rain.
“The children were walking around in the cold, damp weather barefooted,” the leader said. “One of our workers said, ‘It used to be that these refugees only took what we gave them, but now they are also asking us questions about our faith.’”
Refugee children used to shove and push to ensure they received the aid, he said, but now they stand in line so that workers can pray for each one as they receive food.
“We were in a hurry one time and quickly passed boxes of goods to them; before we could leave, we heard them calling out, ‘Pray for us, pray for us,’” the leader said. “So I said, ‘I’m sorry, let’s pray.’ Then after we prayed, we noticed that their moms and dads standing in front of their tents were smiling with thankful expressions.”
These and other local missionaries are bringing Christ’s love to spiritually and physically hungry people throughout the region. Please consider a donation today to equip them for the task.
*Name changed for security reasons