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Hardship, prison and exile: nothing can stop a dream from God

by Hamza*

I stood alone on the side of the mountain, on the border of my home country in the Middle East, wind whipping through my hair, dust stinging my eyes. I wasn’t sure what awaited me, but I was sure where God wanted me to go. After standing, thinking and praying in that wild place, I picked up my backpack and continued my long walk home.

This journey had begun several years earlier. Not on foot, but in my heart.

In July 2013, I first heard about Jesus and realized he was the God I wanted to worship. Throughout my life, I’d heard a few things about Jesus. I also knew the religion of my family and country, and I needed more.

After I encountered Jesus, I began meeting with three other new believers. None of us knew the word of God, but we began to study together. We found someone who knew more about the Bible than we did  and we formed a home group. Soon we grew to 13.

The gospel meant so much to us – we had to tell people! We shared the good news with anyone we could, including our families. By the grace of God, we multiplied in numbers. Though we were young in faith, God worked through us in our town.

Then, in the summer of 2014, all of us were arrested. After we were released, our leader moved to another country. We were afraid to re-gather. Our home group fell apart.

In March 2015, a relative of our home group leader visited me. He said our group leader was still in that other country, studying at a Bible Institute designed for people from my country. I began to dream of going to that school.

Within two weeks, I had a phone call with the school’s director, encouraging me to come and study.

There followed a series of adventures I can’t tell you about. I reluctantly closed the business I owned. I received much help in crossing the borders and finally, finally reached the city where the Bible Institute (operated by Entrust) was located.

Somehow, I passed the entrance exam and officially became an enrolled student. My dream had come true. I enjoyed every moment of reading. I was learning things I had never heard of in my country, where there is almost no access to biblically-sound Bible teaching.

I wished all the believers in my country could attend this school.

One day (it was a Tuesday, I’ll never forget) we studied 2 Corinthians where Paul talks about his suffering for Jesus. I approached our director to share my new dream. Since it was not feasible to bring many believers from my country to the Bible Institute, I believed God was calling me to return to my country and share what I was learning with the believers, even if that might involve suffering for me. The director and I prayed about it, and as time passed, this dream grew stronger.

I continued to study for two years. Ten days after completing the last course, I put my dream into action and returned to my country on foot. While alone on the mountain (the place where I started to tell you this story), one thing seemed clear: if Jesus wanted me to work in my country, he would open the way for me. And he did. I walked on, returned to my country, and he made the impossible possible.

By the grace of our Lord Jesus, I established ongoing Bible studies in seven cities. I managed to arrange for each group to travel together on short trips to gain further learning at the Bible Institute.

Everything they learned was delightfully new to them as it had been for me. These were not young believers; even those who had been believers for over a decade expressed the same sentiment. It was a great testimony to me that the work of the Bible Institute is truly from God.

We faced some challenges, but everything was going well for about 16 months; then I was arrested again. In Acts 5, 12 and 16, we read how God frees the apostles Peter and Paul from prison. I had read those chapters many times, but now they took on new meaning when, by God’s grace, the prison doors were opened for me.

I had to leave my country. My time there was shorter than I had hoped, but my dream is still alive. I am back in the country of the Bible Institute.

God is undoubtedly moving in my country and saving his children. But those believers are living in a spiritual desert.

Through the Bible Institute, we’re not only feeding believers but also providing biblical resources for future generations. We’re creating Bible study videos. My contribution is to receive raw video and audio files and edit them. In this process, I try to make them understandable for the audience in my country. I also write or translate daily devotionals that are uploaded to the school’s website.

In addition, we try to hold in-person programs for believers and to spread the word to believers and unbelievers here in this country where we live as expats.

However, just as God moves forward, so does evil. We face challenges in reaching the country online. Authorities are blocking access to the Internet. I believe the most effective solution is to establish a satellite network. I trust God will provide this for us one day.

God has carried me a long way from that day ten years ago when I gave my heart to Jesus. He has moved me back and forth between countries, often on foot. My friends and I have known imprisonment and hardship. We have loved learning about the gospel at the Bible Institute. And we look forward to the future with joyful anticipation, believing him for great growth in depth and width in the body of Christ in our country. To God be the glory!

*not his real name

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