At Alpha Gamma Omega, our first purpose is to win others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Below is a story from one of our brothers, Jake DiLaura on how he fulfilled that purpose and brought a man to Christ while on a mission trip. Jake was granted a financial donation from AGOm that helped allow him to go on the trip! Below is his account of his trip and the impact he had while there.
Dear Friends and Family,
For the security of the in-country staff, I will leave out names and locations from the trip.
The team and I spent 6 weeks in a country of 80 million people. Over 99% of the country identifies as Muslim and recent studies estimate that only 3,000-5,000 Christians reside there. Although the country is considered closed, it is not illegal to share the gospel there (unless it is to someone under 18). However, Christians have been thrown into jail and deported for “terrorism” in their attempts to spread the gospel.
We spent most of our time in one of the area’s largest cities. There was a mixture of western and eastern influences, so it was common to see Muslim women wearing burqas (full body covering) or hijabs (head covering), but it was also common to see people in t-shirts and shorts drinking at local bars or relaxing in one of the cities HUNDREDS of coffee shops.
There are full-time Cru staff living in the city that have been there for over 35 years, and so our purpose in going was to support the ministries that had already been founded and to be a “cog” in the on-going mission of bringing the gospel to the Middle East. We originally thought that most of our time would be spent with students on campuses, but quickly learned that most campuses were closed to us and security would not let us through. So, for the entirety of the mission our outreach was done in coffee shops and restaurants, where we would strike up conversations with people around us who spoke English in hope of starting a friendship.
We would talk about life, family, culture, schooling, and hobbies. Sometimes it would lead to a spiritual conversation but a lot of times it didn’t. Going up to strangers in a different culture where there was often a language barrier was taxing, but the Lord used it to bring fruit to our mission. I spent a lot of my outreach time on the basketball court playing pickup games with the locals and building bonds through athletics. It was always a rotation of the same group of guys at night, so I could count on the friends I made there to translate for me.
The most impactful part of the mission for me was a relationship I made with a man in the first couple weeks in country. For security sake I will not give his real name, but I refer to him as Muhammed.
Our team held our Sabbath on Mondays, and this particular Sabbath I was feeling overwhelmed by the weight of our mission and the distance from my friends and family, and to cope I decided to head to a local river and journal by the water. I sat down on a bench and as I began writing a letter to God a man sat on a different bench next to me. He held his phone to his ear, and I could tell he was listening to something intently. I didn’t think much of it until I heard English and upon a little bit more eavesdropping, I heard the man in English talking about God. I could not believe it! I chuckled to myself and told God “I thought this was supposed to be my day off!”
I leaned over to the man and introduced myself and told him I liked what he was listening to. Muhammed was kind and open to talking about his beliefs. We talked for over two hours that first day about life, family, God, and I told him my testimony. We became friends very quickly and I was even able to bring out my Bible and show him scripture. He was so excited!
Right before I left that first day, he revealed to me that the reason he desired to research Christianity is because he met a man three days before involved with the JW Group (Jehovah’s Witnesses). I had no prior experience with JW’s and so I did not say much, and we set another day to meet up for lunch.
Before I saw Muhammed again, I did thorough research into the JW belief system and theology alongside my Cru team leaders. They gave me their resources and helped me find scripture to ground myself in truth before approaching the topic with Muhammed. There are many differences between what we believe and what JW’s believe, but the most core among those difference is that JW’s do not believe that Jesus Christ is God, and neither did Muhammed.
When we next met, Muhammed and I talked for 5+ hours together walking through scripture concerning the deity of Jesus Christ. When he came to a clear understanding of Jesus being God I called one of the team leaders to help Muhammed understand that Jesus is not only God, but his personal savior. The leader came with a bible and years of experience in helping college students understand why Jesus died for them. Muhammed and the leader became close friends and although he was not ready to accept it yet, Muhammed understood that we believe Jesus came to bring dead sinners to life in Him.
Muhammed, the Cru leader, and I met a couple more times after that. We introduced him to local staff and allowed him to see that should he decide to follow Christ, he would not be alone after we left. I could feel Holy Spirit moving as we met. The Lord made it so clear that He wanted that man’s heart and continually gave me the energy and words to pursue Muhammed.
In the course of these meetings, we had a conversation that changed the three of our lives. Muhammed, the leader, and I met once again for coffee only this time he brought a black book with red pages instead of the bible we gave him. Then he told us the story.
Muhammed was walking through a huge local market when a vendor called out to him in his native language. He had just finished reading the English Bible we gave him and was frustrated at trying to translate it as he read. It was common for vendors to call out in any language they would think you could speak, but it was very rare for Muhammed to find people from his country where we were. So, as he walked over to the vendor, who spoke his native tongue, he slowly moved the Bible behind him, hoping that this new potential friend would not see what he was reading.
The vendor noticed, and asked what Muhammed was holding. Muhammed responded that it was Bible. Aggressively the man asked, “Why would you study something like that?!” and Muhammed responded that he was reading it to better understand who God is. Muhammed showed him the Bible and the man told him to wait for him and ran into his shop. Muhammed waited anxiously, knowing that the man with a single phone call could ruin Muhammed’s chances of ever going home or seeing his family again. By being honest about what he was reading Muhammed had taken a very real risk about a God he hadn’t even accepted to be his yet.
The man came back holding a black book with red pages. On the front cover it said “The Holy Bible” in Muhammed’s native language. The vendor smiled at Muhammed and said, “Here now you can really read it!” and the vendor gave Muhammed the Bible for free! I had searched everywhere trying to get him a Bible he could understand, and it turns out God already had plans for how Muhammed would come to read His Word. Turned out, the vendor he met could not go home because he found Christ. They became fast friends and began meeting up to talk about God. Sadly, I never got to meet Muhammed’s friend before we left but I thank the Lord for that divine intervention!
Getting a Bible in Muhammed’s native language was challenging enough for where we were. To have it hand delivered for free by a man living with the persecution of his faith was something only God could do.
Muhammed came to that next meeting overflowing with joy. When we saw the book and heard the story, I was in awe at how clearly the Lord was moving towards Muhammed. We even had him translate some of the verses because it was just too good to be true. The three of us talked for a while and it led to a discussion about what it means to live a life with Christ. We made it clear that Muhammed had a decision to make.
I drew a circle on a piece of paper and put a cross on the inside of it. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I remember telling Muhammed that he has to choose to be in the circle with Christ. Muhammed looked at me, and while clutching his new Bible tightly he said he was ready to accept Jesus into his heart. It was the most beautiful moment I have ever experienced. We prayed and wept for joy as we watched a new brother enter the kingdom. He prayed in mix of our language and his as there aren’t words in his language for what was transpiring.
We met up a few more times after he accepted Christ and I watched his life change as the Lord took over. He began reading his Bible even more and by the time we had left (only two weeks later) he had read all of the gospel of John and Genesis in both English and his language. He read each once in his language so he could understand it and then again in English so that we could talk about it.
Right before we left, Muhammed asked to meet up to say goodbye and I could tell something was wrong. He came dressed in traditional garb (as opposed to the more modern look college student typically adorn) and had a solemn look in his eyes. When I asked what was wrong, he began to cry.
Muhammed had called his family back home to excitedly tell them the good news that he had accepted Jesus into his life. We had talked before about them possibly not being understanding of his choice to accept Christ, but he felt confident that nothing would change. Muhammed’s father was furious with him, and they sent him a plane ticket to come home. Muhammed knew though, that he could not go home like this. He would be arrested while coming off of the plane because it is illegal in his country to switch religions. Those that are caught are jailed until they recant or are killed.
Muhammed pleaded with them to be more understanding, to try and see things from his perspective, but all they did was send him a second plane ticket after he skipped the first flight. When he didn’t get on the second plane, they cut ties with him. Only his little brother responded to his messages. Muhammed was heartbroken and so we sat, wept, and prayed together. I could not believe how much he had grown, but I heard it in his prayer. He asked the Lord to abide in him so that he may still love his family and not resent them for abandoning him. He asked the Lord to fulfill the role of a father figure as he felt he had lost his earthly father. I could not believe the strength of my friend. In the midst of being ostracized from his family, he still trusted the Lord.
That was the last meeting I had with Muhammed, but I know he met with his discipler later that same day and they talked about his family. It comforted me to know that he had community there.
I am still in contact with Muhammed four months later, and he is still pursuing the Lord. He has the same discpler and even has gotten involved in a local church. The last I checked he still has not been able to get a hold of his family, but I can’t be sure on the status now. I try not to ask him too much because I know it still hurts him.
Best of all, we’ve been friends now for half a year and he still calls me Jack. I never had the heart to tell him how my name is spelled but he says it correctly and I think that is good enough! He gave me permission to tell his story (provided I change his name), and he said he hopes that it can be an encouragement to any who hear it.
Blessings to all who read this,