Eight and a half years of silence. And then, the gospel. This catches my attention every time I’ve thought about your story. Can you tell us a little more about the day that Paula invited you to church? Had she brought up her faith before, or was this the first conversation like this?
This was the first conversation...On the day that she saw me struggling because of the loss of my grandmother. I was a broken person. The way she put the invitation was, she just said, "I'm going to church on Sunday. Do you want to go with me?" It's not like she had a plan, or she was strategizing how to talk me into it...It was just like,"By the way, I'm doing this, do you want to come?"
What was your reaction to this? And how did you feel Saturday night before you went?
I was so glad to get out of my home and be invited to something new...to something I had never experienced in my life before. Honestly, I think I would have gone anywhere at that point. I was so desperate to get out of this oppressiveness. I would've gone maybe even to a Buddhist temple. Anyone could have invited me, and I would have gone. I think in some ways, I was waiting for this. For someone to ask me.
How did you reconcile this anticipation with the fear you had of God...knowing that he was watching what you did, and your desire to please him through Islam?
I knew I was walking into an area that's absolutely rejected in my culture. But when she said that, my heart was kind of like..... [Sigh].
I was not really thinking about the consequences or anything. But yet in a way, I still had it in the back of my head that I'm walking into dangerous ground.
I knew that [what I was about to do] is not accepted. I wanted to make sure that no one in my family knew about this, of course.
I love that the pastor preached on Isaiah 61 that day. What are other passages or stories of Jesus that believers should make an effort to share with their Muslim friends?
There are so many Psalms...David, pouring out his heart to God. He would call to God for help, and his God would come and help him. Any of the passages that talk about going from darkness to light...
There is no joy in Islam. There is no light. There's no sense of light. There's no freedom. There's no... There's an oppressiveness. And Jesus...In the Qur'an, it says Jesus is the Light of God. And the Word of God, and the Spirit of God. All of these are from the Bible. If we can build a bridge on those words...
And it's okay not to have it memorized. If you would open it and read it in front of them, that can be better...So they can see in the book. Even though Muslims memorize Suras, that is only to be recited at certain times. Let them see it.
Tell the prophecies about Jesus. And talk about Jesus doing the miracles!
For women -- talk about all the times when Jesus reached women. The little girl raised to life, the woman with the blood issue who was healed, the woman who was going to be stoned... Jesus forgiving sins, that would not be in their vocabulary yet. For men: Lazarus coming to life...the blind man that could see...the man in the pool.
Jesus is different. To Muslims. Even if Mohammad didn't do these things, Muslims still believe in him as last and final prophet.
But Jesus is separate, and Muslims know that. He is the only prophet that came from the Spirit of God to the womb of Mary. He is the only one who did these miracles. So he is a set apart prophet, already in their eyes. Tell them his stories.
American culture tends to view conversation about God as taboo: impolite and unwanted. For a lot of believers, there's an unwritten rule: If you come inside a church building, you're showing that you're willing to hear about Christ. (But only during that time, and from a pastor.) Believers often assume that anything outside of that is invasive. What are your thoughts on this?
I understand that it's intimidating...We think of 9/11 and these fears come up. Or we don't know what to say. But honestly we're all called to share the gospel. This is who we are. God said go into all the nations and give the good news.
I want Muslims to hear about Christianity from a Christian...not from a Muslim imam in a mosque.
When we have these feelings, believers need to stop and say, "God does not give me a spirit of fear." And pray. Allow the Lord to do the work.
Islam imposes fear on people. It's not just imposing fear on its own people...it's also imposing this fear over Christians. If they're going to get caught up on this spirit of fear that Islam brings: of intimidation, or to be defensive and fight, then Muslims will never hear. We can't walk in that spirit. There will be people who accept and some who reject. That's not in our hands to decide.
My parents...I pray for them everyday. We have to do our part. And as we speak, our spirit of love is what is going to draw them to the Lord. If we believe that Christ came to die for them as well...we will have overwhelming love for them. True, genuine love. But if we're just doing this as a duty... a check mark in our Christian walk, then God knows that. And they will feel it too.
We have to love them first, accept them for where they are...
Our Lord went to many places where he was not accepted, but he accepted them. And he changed the whole environment through his obedience.
As it says in 1 Corinthians, "Be all things to all people so you might win some." Go into their homes, sit on the floor, eat the food that they give you. Have a meal and respect them. Invite them to your church, give the Word of God, disciple them. That discipling has to come first. Then the understanding will come (John 7:17). Pray for them: Always they will accept prayer. If they have a struggle - divorce, sickness, difficulty with their children - pray for them. Don't be intimidated by them.
Fear is the antichrist spirit; it exists to go against the gospel.
I had been viewing this as a matter of culture: We view religion to be taboo. But there's a spiritual reality to this belief as well. It reminds me of John 8:44. In some ways, this lie has become internalized to the point of becoming culture.
We don't see how much the enemy is at work in peoples' lives. Christians...he's freezing them with fear. And even boredom [with our faith]...like yes, I'll go to church; it's enough. And for Muslims, the spirit of, "This is the true way. Nothing you can say can matter to me." In both ways, there is a spiritual element that makes us disobedient to God.
We have to be obedient: God will do the rest. Now I say, "God, use me. Take me where you want to take me." I'm not going to be coward or be in fear because God is with me. I'm open to anything he says, to do it. When I was in Africa last year, this woman was brought to us...she was obviously with many demons. She was foaming at the mouth...you couldn't see her pupils at all. Her eyes were rolled back. She was crying, she was out of control. If we weren't holding her down, the demon was wrenching her body. And she levitated. I saw all this in front of me. And I realized...this is the world that we're living in.
But God will have victory over all of this.