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New Believers- September, 2019

September, 2019


Shakir and Akmed (not their real names) watched the bus pull away as they approached the Kera Tepe refugee camp entrance. They thought it was a case of bad timing, knowing they should have walked faster. The next bus would require at least a 30 minute wait, and it was notoriously late. By the end of the day, they would discover this was a case of providential timing.

As they waited in the hot sun, Shakir remarked that he was going to the refugee center about 100 yards away to get some water. He entered the Isaiah 58 Oasis center looking for a cup of water. He was greeted by Mohamad, an evangelist from Finland, and his friend Ahmar. After a 10 minute conversation, Shakir excused himself and went back to Akmed. He began to tell him about the center and his conversation. Akmed immediately wanted to know more, so both guys went to the center to talk with Mohamad. They talked for 40 minutes, exchanged contact info, and the meeting ended. But it wasn’t over yet.



Mohamad sensed the Lord prompting him to invite the two guys to supper. Shakir and Akmed were happy to be out of the Moria camp and experience an evening of Arab hospitality. Supper started at 7pm at one restaurant, and ended around midnight at a second. During that time, many questions were asked about Jesus and many insights were shared from the Bible and the Koran. When Mohamad showed the two guys how much the Koran has to say about Jesus, they were stunned. They exclaimed that the Imams had cheated them by never telling them any of this. By midnight, they both said they were ready to renounce Islam and follow Jesus.



Two days later, we drove to a remote location along the Aegean coastline for their baptism. The night before, Mohamad asked me to meet at a cafe for a short Bible study. We looked at Mark chapter 4 and Jesus’ teaching about the seed falling on 4 types of soil. It was not lost on me that the second type of soil produced a plant with not much root and “when afflictions or persecution arises they fall away.” We contrasted this with the soil that produces healthy plants bearing 30, 60, and even 100-fold. Akmed comes from a very devout Muslim family. He knows he will be in big trouble and persecution will come if the wrong people find out that he has left Islam to follow Jesus. I told both guys that I would be praying for them.


I didn’t want to let too much time go by before I began discipling Shakir and Akmed, so I arranged to pick them up at a remote location and bring them to our house. We arranged for Mohamad to join us via video call from Finland to do the translation. As we prepared to begin, Akmed began speaking to Mohamad. After two minutes, Mohamad began to translate. He said Akmed didn’t want to start the Bible study without asking me to forgive him. He had developed an intense hatred of Americans after the U.S. military began fighting in his country. When the military pulled out of his city, he welcomed the ISIS fighters who came to take over. Thinking that ISIS would make things normal again, he was not afraid of Sharia law. When the ISIS leaders began to jail and then execute those who broke minor infractions of Sharia law, Akmed knew it was time to run. And so it was, as Mohamad translated, Akmed looked at me as though he himself was speaking.

I was overwhelmed by the transparency of this young man. After experiencing the horrors of war, suffering the violence of religious extremism, and then suffering the indignity of becoming a refugee, he felt it necessary to open his heart, to confess his sin and ask me to forgive him of his hatred of Americans. I called on the Lord for the exact words to say. “Of course I forgive you. You are my brother, and I love you.” Akmed smiled. Now he could begin to study the Bible.

Mohamad told me later his own heart was touched by Akmed’s confession. He knew that Akmed had been a long time admirer of Al-Qaeda and ISIS, being a very devout Muslim- we were witnessing a miracle from God.



I write these newsletters to keep folks informed about what God is doing, so you can praise and pray. I also write to share some principles from God’s Word. From this experience, I was reminded to NEVER underestimate the power of the gospel to completely change people’s lives. Paul wasn’t kidding around when he wrote to the church in Rome saying, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16) As we let Jesus live His life through us, He will change people’s lives. In Acts chapter 3, we see Peter reaching out his hand to heal the beggar at the temple gate. In Acts 4, we see Peter say that it was God who reached out His hand through Peter. Let’s live our lives letting Jesus live His life through us.

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