NORTH AFRICA AND MIDDLE EAST – I first met Khalid* through an online follow-up request, a way some people seek answers for their troubled souls.
We have seen our opportunities to share the gospel in our area gradually change over the past couple of years, with a new openness that has not been present for many generations. We are now increasingly having open conversations in coffee shops, malls, or while sitting on park benches, about the hope that lives within us and how that allows us to live and serve with joy.
We have seen that there are two distinct thresholds in a Muslim’s decision to follow Jesus – the point of accepting that Jesus is Lord, and the “all in” point of baptism. Both are critical statements in their lives, with baptism being the “no turning back” line in the sand.
Discipleship looks very different here. It is extremely rare for a person of a Muslim background to just up and “accept the Lord as his Savior.”
The much more common route is through watching YouTube videos or television programs, establishing a relationship with a believer, either a foreigner or another national, and then probing that believer with questions about Christianity. We are often meeting with people like this for months or even for years as they weigh the cost of leaving everything behind and taking up the cross to follow Jesus.
Let me use Khalid as an example. Before we first met, I had heard about him and his walk of faith up to that time. I was told that he was a new believer who was looking for someone to help him grow in his faith.
He had been on a three-year faith journey that spanned three countries and encounters with several believers. The first time we met, I asked him to tell me his story. He was a delightful young man who was sincere about knowing more about Jesus and what it looked like to live as a Christ follower. Together with other believers, we dug into the Word each week and answered his multitude of questions – some of which I had never been asked before.
As the weeks turned into months and the questions and discussions got deeper, we could see Khalid’s faith growing. It was not long before he was pleading with me to baptize him. On that momentous day, as Khalid gave his testimony to the small group of believers gathered in the room, he outlined his walk of faith in coming to Jesus. What caught me off guard was his proclamation that he didn’t actually become a true believer until after several months of our discipling him.
The faith walk from Islam to Christianity is most often a long one. We may be given the privilege of 15 minutes of sharing our faith or 15 months of discipleship time. We are not his or her whole story. We may get to see them baptized, but most often we will not. We desire to use every moment and opportunity that the Lord gives us to share the hope that is within us with gentleness and respect. The rejoicing will be in heaven.
It is now up to Khalid and others who have taken the plunge and gone all in with their faith to do any future baptisms. Someone else planted the seed, and I got to water it. God can now make it grow into a vibrant and healthy fruit-bearing tree.