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FIRST-PERSON: The gift of a son

EDITORS’ NOTE: Yvette Wray*, a single woman and Southern Baptist worker in India, tells how she became a mother to a teenage Kashmiri Muslim boy. After reading her story, read the testimony of her son, who now has not only a Christian mother but also a Savior, Jesus Christ. About 5.5 million Kashmiri-speaking Muslims live in India. Even by the highest estimates, less than 1/1000th of 1 percent have become followers of Jesus.

NEW DELHI (BP)–I lifted the Bible from the boy’s hands, turned to the passage and returned it to him. As I did, a thought fluttered through my mind, “Oh, Lord, how wonderful it would be to have a son to teach Your Word to.”

It was not a prayer really, just a longing of my heart. I always wanted children but have never had any of my own.

Kashmiri Muslims seeking to know truth often go to a local church to learn about Jesus. One November, two Kashmiri Muslim boys entered a Sunday worship service. After church, I remember seeing them standing off to one side as people drank “chai” (tea). A short-term volunteer from America began talking to them.

During the next month, I saw the boys at church and heard from the volunteer that he was sharing the Gospel with them. However, the American returned to the United States that December.

The Sunday before Christmas, one of the two boys took a seat beside me on the floor. As we were preparing to hear from God’s Word, Zechariah* was searching for the passage in the Bible the volunteer had given him.

That’s when I lifted the Bible from his hands -– and when God heard my heart.

Three weeks later, Zechariah came to my home. We talked about all sorts of things, including the fact that I am single and have no children.

The following day, he phoned to say he had “the biggest request in the whole world” to ask me, but he said it was too important to ask over the phone. He would let me know what it was on Thursday when he came to pick me up to go to his family’s home to celebrate Eid al-Adha, the Muslim feast of sacrifice that commemorates God saving the son whom Abraham was willing to sacrifice.

When Zechariah arrived on Thursday, I invited him to sit down, but he refused. “I will not sit until you give me an answer to my request,” he said excitedly. “I want to be your son!”

I had spent the past two days wondering what his request would be. Many things had gone through my mind. This, however, was not one of them!

I calmly inquired, “It is easy to say you may call me your mom, and I will call you my son, but what does that mean to you?”

He responded, “You have no husband and no children. I want to be your son, so you have someone to care for you.”

In Kashmiri culture, a woman facing the future without a husband or child to care for her is difficult for people to understand. I told Zechariah that God is always here to care for me, but I would pray about his request and give him an answer on Monday.

We then left to celebrate his festival. When we arrived at his home, his mother asked, “Is she the one?” When Zechariah responded yes, she greeted me warmly with a big hug and kissed me on the cheek.

The following Monday, Zechariah invited me to a local coffeehouse to celebrate his birthday. Over coffee, we discussed what it meant to be mother and son. I told him he could call me “Mom” and I would call him “Son,” but that would only be words until we became more acquainted.

So, my son Zechariah was born to me that day.

Later that same month, Zechariah told me he believed in Jesus. As he put it, “I have already been baptized in my heart, but I cannot do baptism” while in his own community. “It will cause problems for my family,” he said. Although he told me this repeatedly, I could tell by his remaining questions that he had not yet come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.

During the next few months, we spent many hours discussing the Word of God. Zechariah had many questions about things he read and about what he had been taught that Christians believe. It was never enough for him to hear me respond; he wanted to see the answers in the Word of God itself.

Despite harassment from security guards he had to pass through to come to church and death threats from extended family and community members, Zechariah was faithful to come to church each Sunday as well as a house fellowship on Fridays. We usually met two hours before the Sunday service started to give us more time to talk.

On Good Friday, we showed “The Passion of The Christ” to the boys who came to the house fellowship. This deeply touched Zechariah’s heart. He told me Easter Sunday that he had gone home that night and cried, knowing what Jesus had suffered to pay for his sins. From that point, he said, he knew he believed in Jesus for the forgiveness of his sins. What more precious words could a mother possibly hear?

“When I was younger, I always wanted to wear a cross for fashion, but it is very difficult in our culture,” he said. “Now I wear the cross of Jesus in my heart.”

We have in common a love of music. It was actually music, Zechariah said, that initially drew him to church. Although he had no interest in the Word of God at that time, he continued to return just to hear the music. Zechariah spends his free time listening to praise and worship CDs. He says he receives strength and encouragement through the music.

From almost the beginning, Zechariah became involved in my ministry. One evening as we talked, he surprised me by quoting Matthew 28:18-20, the Great Commission. The next day, I went with Zechariah and his mom to visit his aunt who had been suffering from heavy bleeding for months. I began to tell Zechariah how Jesus had healed the woman with the issue of blood. As I did, he said, “Tell me the whole story, and then I will translate for them in Kashmiri.” After he finished the story, I was able to pray for his aunt and his mom in the name of Jesus.

A few weeks later, Zechariah said, “I know why you are here. You are here to make disciples.” He went on to say that if he could do anything to help me, please let him know. Another time, as we were discussing the ministry of a husband and wife we know, he asked, “Why does it have to be husband and wife? Can’t mother and son do ministry together?”

Knowing the impact The Passion of The Christ had on him, Zechariah wanted to show it to his friend Salmon*. Salmon was with Zechariah at church the day I first saw them. Zechariah had been telling Salmon the things he was learning, and he thought the video would help Salmon also come to a decision about following Jesus. His plan was to show the film at an Internet cafe. He was sure other boys would gather around to watch. None of the places had DVD players, however, so he came to my home to show the film.

While the film was in his possession, Zechariah’s mother saw it and asked about it. Zechariah told her about it briefly, and she said she was interested in seeing it. That weekend, we showed the film to his mother and sister. My heart swelled with joy as Zechariah not only translated the English subtitles into Kashmiri but also explained Jesus as the final sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. Jesus had willingly given His life so that we might live, Zechariah told his mother and sister. The film touched the women, but they have not shown any interest in the things of Christ since then.

Salmon, however, professed faith in Jesus two weeks later.

The same weekend that Zechariah and I showed the film to his family, he began to explain to me how I should go about reaching Kashmiri Muslim women.

“Then you can ask who wants you to pray for them in the name of Jesus, but you must be able to pray in Kashmiri. I will teach you,” Zechariah said. “You will be able to see who is really interested in the Gospel when you pray for them. Then you can go back to their village and meet with that woman.”

One Friday, Zechariah announced at the house fellowship that he wanted to be baptized two weeks later. This is not a small step for a believer from a Muslim background. I recognized the added significance for Zechariah to have made that decision, knowing his concern for the problems it could cause for his family.

Ultimately, Zechariah was shown in a dream that he should be baptized in a private home. In the presence of a dozen witnesses -– including Kashmiri seekers, believers and expatriates -– Zechariah was baptized in a bathtub set up in a kitchen. Two days later, Zechariah baptized his friend Salmon in similar fashion.

A month before my birthday, Zechariah said to me, “Ask whatever you want for your birthday, and I will not say no.” I told him, “All I want is a big hug.” He responded, “Don’t ask for silly things. I give you hugs all the time.”

That night, when I could not sleep, I thought about what I would request. I recalled Zechariah’s question, “Why can’t mother and son do ministry together?” I remembered our discussion about reaching women in the villages, and I immediately knew the gift I would ask from my son.

The next day I told Zechariah what I had decided. He was not surprised. He told me he had had a dream the night before in which I told him I wanted him to go to villages with me to share the Gospel. Within weeks, we went to our first village.

I have quickly learned that with the joys of motherhood come great sorrows as well. I have cried many tears because of my son Zechariah. I have cried knowing that he has spent his entire life surrounded by danger. I have cried for him as he has faced anger and threats from his family because of his faith.

And just as every mother has, I have experienced the difficulties of having a teenage son. A clash of our cultures sometimes intensifies these struggles.

While these times are very hard for me, I would not trade them for anything. I have joy, knowing that these experiences are common in motherhood.

I am amazed how quickly our hearts bonded. I do not know how or when, but I know that to have such love for someone in such little time can only be from God.

My thought that December was not even a prayer, but out of His great love for me, my heavenly Father gave me my heart’s desire anyway. He indeed has given me a son, a son as real as any I could have given birth to physically.

Psalm 113:9 says, “[The LORD] makes the barren woman abide in the house as a joyful mother of children. Praise the LORD!” (NASB). For me, this has become a reality.
*Names changed for security purposes. To find prayer requests for India’s Kashmiri Muslims, visit www.imb.org/CompassionNet/PeopleGroups.asp and then scroll down to “Kashmiri Muslims of India.”

    About the Author

  • Yvette Wray*