A minority within a minority
Fuad, Middle East
My people were a minority within a minority, living with a belief system we could not change if we wanted to, all of life pre-determined by an impersonal god. This is the worldview into which I was born in the Middle East.
No option to change
My family is part of a tribe that associates with, but is distinct from, a regional minority group. We were told God never makes mistakes, so, whatever faith you are born into, you knew you must always remain in that faith. To change would be evil and shameful. Furthermore, we believed, God determines who will grow up to be “bad” and who will be “good.” No sense of individual choice or personal sin nature. God was part of our world and speech, but not in terms of relationship – just as an all-powerful historical figure.
I never questioned these things when I was a child. But when I became a young man, I began to wonder. If all this were true, why did God give us brains able to make all kinds of choices?
As for my childhood, I have both good and bad memories. War broke out between my country and a nearby country when I was three. We always had to worry about bombs and so we always moved the place where school was held. Alarm sirens were always going off. Many people died. When I was six, I watched a plane get shot down right behind my house. It was a very scary time.
But I also have good memories, of growing up in a family that loved me; riding my bike, playing games, going to school and just being a boy. We had many visitors in our house and it seemed like I was part of a very large family. But I was sad that other boys had a dad and I didn’t. My dad had died suddenly in his sleep when I was three.
The Bible is not for you
When I was a teenager, the leader of my country began to persecute and kill people in my region. Many horrible things happened to my family and other people I knew during those years. When I was 18, I was drafted into the army. The service was hard, the pay low, it was quite difficult and I was lonely.
Three years later, I returned to civilian life and got married. I continued to wonder about Christianity. I remember asking Christian friends about their faith, but they couldn’t explain it well because their Bible was in a language I could not read. They finally told me it just wasn’t for me, it was only for Christians.
Something to make my heart clean
In 2001, I got a construction job on a church building. I met a man there who was a strong Christian. He took the time to get to know me and told me about Jesus, God and the Bible. He gave me a Bible in a language I understand. I began to read a lot and I kept asking him questions. We didn’t have a television at that time, so every night I would read the Bible to my wife and translate its meaning into our language for her.
For a long time, I’d felt like my heart was black because I’d done some bad things that no one knew about. I wanted to be different. When I talked with others from my tribe, they said it was the same for everyone and just part of life. Still, I longed for change, something to make my heart clean. I began to wonder if that could be possible with Jesus.
I asked my Christian friend about this and he told me it was possible. He told me I just had to ask Jesus. He also said he often prayed for me. He suggested that I spend time alone talking with Jesus, asking Jesus to open the door of my heart. I did and soon I knew for sure that Jesus had answered my prayers. He had come and cleaned my heart. This made me very, very happy.
A few months later, my friend helped me get a job as a security driver for a new Christian organization from America, working with the church and starting a school in our town. Over the next few years, I met many American Christians. I started attending meetings about Jesus, hearing stories of Jesus changing other people’s lives. It was an incredibly special time in my life.
It was such a joy to find out that Jesus loves everyone, that anyone who is willing, can, in fact, be saved! For so long, I’d heard it was impossible for someone who wasn’t born a Christian to choose to be one. Many people in my country still believe that.
I shared all I was learning with my wife. In December 2002, she gave her heart to Jesus. Our first child was born the next year. God blessed with us a second child in 2015.
Growing up in my faith
When a chance came along to learn about the Bible in a structured way, I wanted to do it. I signed up for Entrust classes when they started here in 2005. It was great to learn together with other brothers. I really enjoyed being with God in his word for a long time, on a daily basis. I graduated from the training program in 2010.
During those five years, I grew up in my Christian faith. I changed. I learned to be serious about God’s money and God’s resources. Through almost 18 courses, I learned how to understand the Bible as I read it. My family life changed through a course on Christian marriage. I learned how to share the gospel.
I was a new believer when I became involved with Entrust in 2005, and I didn’t have much of a ministry of my own, besides sharing the gospel with family and friends. I started to work part-time with Entrust in 2008, while I also had a part-time paying job. In 2011, I trusted God and went full-time with Entrust. This in itself was a great learning experience of leaning on God, as I had very few supporters. I have learned how to live my life in service to him.
Rebuilding and restoring
God has given me many different types of ministry here.
I organize training classes for local churches. I run a church empowerment program by gathering grant applications, serving on the program’s board and maintaining close relationships with local pastors.
With fellow Christians and in partnership with other aid agencies, we built and operate House of Hope, where refugees learn English and marketable skills, where we hold kids’ clubs and medical clinics and distribute food and other necessities.
We re-built five of my tribe’s villages which were destroyed by fighting. We restored electrical power, dug wells for fresh water, re-built houses, repaired and supplied schools, re-built and supplied hospitals and clinics, fixed damaged roads. I continue to help in the schools and serve in other ways in those villages. I share Christ there and am discipling two believers from that area.
Ministry of reconciliation
I’ve never seen myself as a pastor, but as someone who could serve pastors and other believing groups to work together and become a real family. One Entrust staff member tells me this is called a “ministry of reconciliation.” I know in my heart that is what God has called me to do.
My part of the world is divided in many ways; tribal, ethnic, linguistic, religious divisions. Even among Christians, there are huge barriers between people with the word “Christian” stamped in their passport (ethnic Christian backgrounds) but who have now come to personal faith in Christ, and those who have different stamps in their passports (another background), who have converted to Christianity. There are also divisions between various Christian denominations. But I know that these divisions are not eternal.
An early dream of mine, and something we’ve carried out for several years now, are two annual events. First, we launched a family camp to bring together entire families of varied ethnic and religious backgrounds, to allow fellowship, conversations, understanding, healing and, we pray, unity. Later, we launched a pastors’ retreat, providing pastors and full-time workers an opportunity to step away from their difficult lives to rest, worship, learn and enjoy fellowship.
I have a huge dream for the future. I’m currently developing a large plot of land into what I envision will be a place of reconciliation for the region. It will have fruit and nut trees to produce sustainable income, large indoor and outdoor meeting spaces for concerts and seminars and sports events, housing for visiting teams and teachers, lots of room for children and teens to run and play and have fun together. I’d like to see people of various tribal and ethnic backgrounds coming to this place to enjoy the shade of the trees, to listen to and make music, to learn English or practice sports and mostly, to develop trust and lasting relationships with each other and with God.
I want people in my region to know that change is possible. That God changes hearts. That anyone can be made clean by Jesus. That the Bible is for everyone. My desire is for hurting hearts like mine to find the joy of knowing Jesus, to grow strong in him and to become trustworthy Christian leaders in the community and the church.