Atop a flat roof common to homes throughout the Arab world, a young Muslim cried out to God in the dark of night.
Kamal* had been raised to become a mosque leader in such a strict Islamic home that his religiosity alienated even other Muslims. But since seeing an online ad stating, “God loves you” several weeks before, he had been reading the Bible on the internet.
He was studying in an internet café when he saw the ad, Kamal said.
“I returned home lost in thought, and when I decided to look more into God’s love, I found many Christian writings on the matter,” he said. “I began to read the gospel of Matthew online, and I fell in love with the Lord Jesus and His divine teachings.”
The university student was in crisis.
“I remember the night I stood on the roof and passionately cried out to God, asking Him to show me who He truly was,” Kamal said.
A few days later, he found the answer in the New Testament: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
“I decided to follow Jesus and spend my life in His service,” Kamal said.
The freedom he found in Christ began to spur him. He felt a need to know God more deeply through His word; the responsibility of making Christ known to his family, friends, “and everybody else”; and the drive to motivate his church to start revival in his country.
“To achieve that, I realized that I must join a seminary to increase my knowledge,” Kamal said, and he enrolled at a native ministry’s institution in a Middle Eastern country. The experience catapulted him into his calling back in his home country.
“Today, I lead the youth of my church as well as the worship and praise ministry,” he said. “I also share the gospel on the streets and on social media.”
Learning by Doing
About 37 percent of the students at the graduate-level seminary, unidentified for security reasons, come from Muslim homes.
Most students come from countries in the Arabic world. One former student now gives refugee children a chance at a better life by teaching them English, Arabic, math and Bible. A current student is learning how to better minister to troubled teenage girls.
“The girls I serve always ask me questions about God’s Word,” she said. “I am so happy to be a loving mother figure to them, but I would also like to be equipped so I can answer their questions and help them grow in their relationship with God.”
The seminary emphasizes hands-on ministry experience as key to learning, as does another seminary based in the Middle East. Based in another country, it also equips students to plant and strengthen churches in the Arab world.
“Seeing the students’ lives change, they develop vision and conviction,” the leader of the seminary said. “They have been mostly involved in planting churches.”
A couple that graduated from the seminary began an extensive outreach to Syrian refugees, including medical help, counseling and gospel proclamation that has led many to faith in Christ and church attendance, the leader said. They have begun a medical clinic and pharmacy and, with help from volunteers, have provided education for refugee children.
A recent graduate who continues to study part-time pastors a church serving a poor, downtrodden ethnic group that had been largely neglected. In five areas of a city where there had been no biblical Christian presence, he has established 20 discipleship groups with the aim of forming five more before the end of the year.
He leads two churches, one of about 100 people and the other of 60.
“His ministry is not just teaching, preaching and discipleship, but the Lord opened their eyes on the special and personal needs of these people,” the seminary leader said. “The ministry, with the help of the Lord, tries to fulfill these needs of clothing, food, material and financial needs. They have many challenges and needs.”
The pastor said his years at the seminary were among his most joyful.
“We learned much academically and spiritually, which caused a major change in my life, my family’s and my ministry,” he said. “The seminary planted in us love for others; it taught us the meaning of sacrificial love. All this ministry is a result of the education and training we received and learned there.”
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*Name changed for security reasons