News Articles

Muslim finds ‘living water’ in world’s largest desert

N’DJAMENA, Chad (BP)–There’s a burnished quality to Ahmed’s dark skin like it has maybe been polished by sharp Sahara sand.
And his eyes seem permanently focused on distance, appropriate for a man who once wandered a thousand miles a year to find water and pasture for his camels, cows and goats.
A slim and wiry man, Ahmed (not his real name) has roamed on foot across vast areas of Chad, Ethiopia and Sudan, even though borders are but a vague concept for his people, the Chadian Arabs.
Ahmed’s family members have been traders and nomadic herders as long as they can remember. Grandparents told him his people came from around Saudi Arabia. When Islam sent its armies to convert northern Africa, his family followed, eventually moving south for Chad’s milder climate.
He says his family was Muslim, but not very good Muslims. Oh, they prayed five times a day and fasted during Ramadan as Mohammed commanded. But, he says, with discomfort, there was no love or affection to bind them into anything more.
That bothered him. “Why is this true?” he asked himself.
In Sudan he saw something for the first time — a group of people who seemed to care for each other despite being from different tribes. In fact, when they met each other they hugged like brothers.
Then, later he saw another group of Christians in Chad. Again, he noticed their love for each other.
His heart burned! “I must know their story!” he told himself.
He asked the leader for a copy of their holy book. The leader gave him an Arabic language New Testament. Ahmed quickly hid it in a pocket so people wouldn’t see him reading the forbidden volume.
He read the little book’s big words faithfully until he completed the book. Later he went back for the Old Testament and read that, taking four months to read and think.
“After four months, I already knew in my heart it was the truth,” he says.
But he was in a hard place: He knew the truth but didn’t know what to do with it.
Ahmed moved to be near a Dutch woman who taught him more Bible truths. At the same time Ahmed taught his wife. After months of his teaching and sharing, she, too, realized that Christians were telling the truth about Jesus. They made their decisions public.
The day he was baptized, the people of his family and tribe came to stop him. They would have attacked him then and there but for the soldiers about the city. Instead, they brought a formal charge before the sultan, the tribal chief who serves as judge. More than 100 people gathered for the trial.
The sultan asked what was he hearing about Ahmed abandoning Islam. “If you don’t leave this new way, this new religion, something bad is going to happen to you!” he warned.
“No,” Ahmed answered. “This is the way of Jacob and Abraham, Ishmael, all the people before Mohammed. It’s not wrong.”
“When I spoke like that even the big leaders could speak no more,” Ahmed recalls.
The sultan told Ahmed he had brought shame on his people. He accused Ahmed of receiving gold for choosing Christianity.
“I did not find gold, but I found something worth more than gold — salvation. It’s something you don’t have. You should follow Jesus Christ!” he said.
After the trial ended, they let Ahmed go. The sultan warned people to leave Ahmed alone, but many murmured that this infidel must die.
In the town, people began pointing at Ahmed when he passed. They snubbed his wife. Children threw stones at his kids on the street.
But Ahmed persisted in his new faith.
He took part in an evangelistic crusade by preaching in the town square. The Jesus spoken of both in the Bible and the Koran will come back one day, he warned. “If you want to prepare yourselves for his coming, you should open your hearts,” he pleaded.
Later some men came to threaten him. They would have attacked him, but “I felt the protection of the Lord like a wall around me. It was Jesus who protected me,” he said later.
Christian workers crowded him into a car with a dozen other people to get him out of town safely that night.
Since then Ahmed has continued his studies of the Bible. He still has a burning desire to go preach and tell his people about the God he has come to know through Jesus.
But it’s an awesome burden.
Among thousands of his tribe, he’s one of only a few Christians.
At the edge of the world’s largest desert, how can he tell his people about the “living water” he’s found?