Aconversation I had on the last day I lived in a Muslim country has become a life-defining moment for me.
I had spent the morning doing the final preparations to leave the place and the people whom I had learned to love, so that I could come back to finish my schooling in the United States. It was a sad day.
Around noon, a close friend, Ahmed, came over with his brother to visit me. Ahmed had been, for about 2 years, one of my closest friends. He had befriended me at a time in my life when I felt like I had no other friends. We talked, travelled, studied, and fished together.
I had tried a number of times to bring up Jesus to him, but Ahmed, though always polite, seemed eager to leave the subject alone. He was as committed a Muslim as I had ever met. He was kind of like an Islamic “youth pastor,” volunteering his afternoons to serve and love underprivileged Islamic youth. When I would talk about Jesus, he would smile and say, “You are a good man of faith. You were born in a Christian country and you honor the faith of your parents. I was born in Muslim country and I honor the faith of mine. You were born a Christian and will die a Christian. I was born a Muslim and I will die a Muslim.”
Before I left, I knew that I had to have one final conversation with him. How could I call him my friend and not make clear to him what I believed about Jesus Christ?
I told him that, according to the Bible, only those who have believed on Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins can enter God’s Kingdom. For about 15 minutes he sat politely and listened as I poured my heart out to him. When I was finished, he thanked me for my friendship, and left.
I did not see him again until the day I was preparing to return home. When he showed up that day at noon, I could tell something was on his mind, so I asked him about it.
“Our conversation,” he said. “After we talked the other day, I thought about how much I appreciated you for telling me so directly what you believed. But then I didn’t think much of it… ‘You are a Christian, I am a Muslim,’ I thought, ‘that is how each of us was born, and that is how it always will be.’
“But seven days after our conversation I had a dream.” He interrupted himself to say, “After first I thought it was one of those dreams that comes from eating strange fish. But I’ve had those kinds of dreams. This was different… In my ‘dream,’ I was standing on earth and suddenly, open before my feet was the ‘straight and narrow way’ leading to heaven (he used a technical Islamic term for the ‘the straight path’ which applies only to the road to heaven).
“And as I looked up along this pathway to heaven,” he said, “you were on it! You arrived at heaven’s gates, but the way inside was blocked by huge, brass doors. I thought to myself, ‘That is where his journey ends. Who has the power to open those doors?’ But then, as I watched, someone from inside knew you, and they called your name. The doors then swung open wide for you, and you went in… and then my heart broke because I really wanted to go with you. But then, the doors opened again and you came back out, walked back down the path a little ways, and stretched your hand out to me down here on earth. And you pulled me up to heaven with you.”
He then looked at me and said, “What do you think my dream means?”
Now, understand that I was raised in a traditional, Baptist home. Dreams were not a part of our standard religious repertoire. But, not knowing what else to do, I said, “Brother… You are so in luck. Dream interpretation is my spiritual gift!”
For the next hour I walked him through Romans and Acts, showing Him how Jesus had come to earth, lived the life we were supposed to live, died the death we were condemned to die, rose again, and offered salvation to all who would believe.
I would love to tell you that he became a believer. Sadly, he did not, and, to my knowledge, he has not. I think it was still just too much for him.
But what he said next is something I can never, ever forget. He said, “I know why Allah gave me that dream. He was telling me that you were sent here by God to show me the path that leads to heaven. You were to teach me God’s ways and explain to me His Injil (Gospel). But today, my friend, you are going home, and we will probably never see each other again. You are the only Christian that I know. Now who will teach me the ways of God?”
I am writing this book in response to that question.
The fact that you are reading even this prologue is an answer to prayer. You may have picked this book up because you have become friends with a Muslim and you want to talk to them about Jesus but you don’t quite know where to start. Maybe you are preparing to live in a Muslim community and you want to understand how you can best live out Jesus in front of them. Maybe you have picked it up because you feel a strange tugging in your heart whenever you hear about the Muslim world. Maybe you just want to understand.
Whoever you are, I am grateful you are holding this in your hand. You are an answer to prayer. Most of the 1.9 billion “Ahmeds” in the world will never meet a genuine Christian. Most Muslim college students studying abroad in the United States will never, almost without exception, step foot inside of a Christian home while they are in America. Though over 1/3 of all the unbelievers in the world are Muslims, only .05% of all the Christian workers in the world have Muslims as their focus. Most Muslims, like my friend Ahmed, will die without ever having had someone explain the Gospel to them.
For the Muslim you know, you are probably the only Christian they will ever know. I hope this book will help you present Jesus to them well.
Ahmed and I have corresponded several times since I left, but I lost contact with him after many of his family died in the Southeast Asian tsunami of 2004 and he was displaced to a refugee camp. I know that he is still alive, but have not yet been able to locate him. I trust, by God’s grace, one day that I will. Ahmed, my friend, this book is for you. I hope we find you.
We have to. We are your only hope.