Another thoughtful message from my friend and pastor, Reverend Mark Adams, Senior Pastor of Redland Baptist Church in Rockville, Maryland:
Recently the New York Times profiled a 32-year-old man in Afghanistan named Josef. He briefly escaped civil war in his home country by fleeing to Germany, where many of his siblings live. At that point, he had already rejected the Muslim faith of his family. Out of curiosity, he got to know Protestant missionaries and attended church services held in Farsi, his native language. He told the reporter:
“When I threw away my Islamic beliefs, I was living in a space of spiritual emptiness. During that time, I was studying different religions … Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity. I was studying Islam as well … I think I was impressed by the personality of Jesus himself. The fact that he came to take all of our sins … that moved me. I admired his character and personality long before I was baptized.
After being released from a refugee camp, Josef became a follower of Christ, and was soon deported. Today, back in Afghanistan, he’s hiding from family members who have vowed to kill him for renouncing Islam. A brother-in-law named Ibrahim even offered the New York Times reporter $20,000 to tell him where Josef is hiding. “If I find him, once we are done with him, I will kill his [three-year-old] son as well, because his son is a bastard,” Ibrahim said.
Josef’s wife and child are also in hiding in Pakistan, but as for Josef, his faith remains unshaken. The article concludes:
“For Josef, who has recently changed hiding places, the time passes slowly now, with little company other than his Bible. He can hear the muezzin calling Muslims to prayer, a reminder of danger’s proximity and the paradox he lives now. ‘When I threw away my convictions…It was like an imaginary prison. [But] now it is the other way around. My body is in prison, but my soul is free.’”
As I read Josef’s story I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’ promise in Matthew 19:29: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for My sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”
This young man’s story is not unique. More people are being persecuted today because of their faith in Jesus than in any other period of history. The Christians on that mountain in Iraq come to mind. Will you join me in praying for believers like Josef—people who believe that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all?” (2 Corinthians 4:17) Pray that God will protect them and use them to share the hope of the gospel with others.
© 2014 Mark Adams