CENTRAL ASIA (BP) – Seriously? They ought to know better…. Murat* sighed as he looked down at the door hanger attached to his apartment door. It read: “Don’t celebrate New Year’s with Christians. They are infidels and all who celebrate their holidays will be cursed!”
He had heard that such warnings were floating around his Central Asian country, but this was the first time Murat had seen the propaganda at his own door. His family went through the motions of Friday prayers and observed various Muslim holy days, but they were far from what anyone would consider “good Muslims.” Good enough Muslims was more like it. Faith never seemed important because Allah, the god of the Muslims, never listened to nor answered his prayers.
Murat considered the small brochure. What were the people who left it hoping to accomplish? What were they so afraid of and how bad could Christians be? He ripped up the paper and took the next logical step: he went to church.
When Murat found the church, he sheepishly walked in and waited – wondering whether someone would chase him away since he was Muslim. But almost immediately, a friendly face peered from around the corner and offered to help him. Murat explained that he was looking to learn about Christianity but that he was not interested in becoming a Christian. The people at the church respectfully listened and then prayed over Murat.
Murat noted that the Christians expected their God to listen to them. That was not something he had ever expected when he prayed. It seemed to Murat that Allah was more interested in people praying the right way, at the right time, in the right place.
Soon after, a member of the church introduced me to Murat. We met with two Central Asian Christians to read the Bible. We read how Jesus was God’s Son who died on the cross to pay for the sins of each person and how Jesus was also God Himself. This was too much for Murat, and the story did not make any more sense after two months than it had after two days.
He explained his frustration to me, so I told him that he needed to pray that God would show Murat whether He was real. Murat smiled politely but thought to himself, “I’m out!”
Despite having sworn off more meetings, Murat went to his room that night and prayed as I had suggested. He opened his deepest questions to God and asked God to show him that He was real.
God heard and God answered Murat’s prayer. That night Murat had a dream of demons that were tormenting children. Murat tried and failed to drive out the demons. He woke up in a cold sweat with a racing pulse, but he remembered all that had happened.
The next day he called me and complained that I had poisoned his mind and made him start seeing things. I asked, “Did you pray?”
“Yes, but that’s not what I expected!” he replied.
I answered, “Well, God’s obviously dealing with you, so you need to listen. Go back and pray again.”
Murat was frustrated that this could not be easier. He did not pray that night, nor for a couple of weeks. However, after some time had passed, he prayed again that God would show Himself.
God heard and God answered Murat’s prayer. Murat once again had a dream with demons. This time, he tried to drive them out in Jesus’ name, but the demons just ignored him. Later I explained that Murat could not exactly expect the demons to respond if he didn’t believe in Jesus. So, he prayed again for God to show him that He was real.
God heard and God answered Murat’s prayer. Murat had another dream, but this time there were no demons, and he didn’t even hear or think about God. What he did dream was that his grandparents’ former caretaker would soon be returning from her home country and that she was pregnant.
It seemed like an odd dream, and Murat thought nothing of it until later that morning when his mother called and told him that he would never believe that his grandparents’ former caretaker was coming back that week to work for them and that she was pregnant!
Murat took a deep breath as he put down the phone. Three times he had asked God to show him that He was real, and three times God had answered. All at once, the impossible ideas from the Bible studies and his conversations came back to his mind.
None of them made sense, but he wasn’t looking for sense. He was looking for a God who listened. Right then and there, Murat prayed that God would accept him into His family. God heard and God answered Murat’s prayer.
Today, Murat is a Christian brother and one of the leaders in our church – a church he helped to plant.
*Name changed for security
Paul Phillips* is an IMB worker among Central Asian peoples.