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RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–What do you think about when you look back on the past year of your life?
Family joys and heartaches, perhaps. Victories and defeats on the job or at school. Sickness and health. Events in the lives of close friends. Odds are, you aren’t remembering the physical beatings you took for Christ.
Rasheed* and Farooq* are.
I’ve written several times about Rasheed and Farooq, two Muslims in India who have become committed followers of Jesus Christ. They lead a growing movement of Muslim-background believers in Mumbai, India’s largest city. The urban giant’s 20 million people include some 2 million Muslims — a large but often marginalized minority that is showing increasing openness to the Gospel.
Last time we checked in with Rasheed, he was lying in a hospital bed with a head wound, broken rib and internal injuries suffered during a brutal attack at the hands of people angered by his stand for Jesus. He had led two Muslim men to faith in Christ. One of them went home and told family members. Enraged, they found Rasheed, pushed him down and beat him with a cricket bat until others rescued him. He was hospitalized for nearly a month.
“Rasheed is almost fully recovered now,” says a Christian worker who keeps in touch with him. “He is looking for work again while continuing to teach six leaders of jama’ats” — indigenous worship groups composed of Muslim-background followers of Jesus — and leading five jama’ats himself.
“While he was recovering, three more Muslims gave their lives to Christ through the faithful witness of believers in his groups.”
Farooq, meanwhile, has stayed busy with more than 70 Shi’ite Muslim “seeker groups” investigating the Gospel. Spiritual seekers in the groups now probably surpass 1,000.
“The Muslims they speak with are incredulous,” reports the worker. “They say, ‘This is the first time we have heard this truth.'”
The year 2009, the worker adds, was a “very good year — and a difficult year ” for both Farooq and Rasheed.”
A selected chronology of the year’s events in their lives and ministries:
— Rasheed begins a jama’at in his hometown and four more elsewhere.
— Farooq is framed, arrested and beaten for sharing his faith with Muslim seekers. He loses his possessions and sustains painful leg injuries. “I did nothing wrong,” he declares. “I know that God was with me in jail and through the whole ordeal. I can trust Him for anything!”
— Exonerated and released from jail, Farooq promptly restarts the seeker meeting that was the source of his persecution.
— Nawab* becomes a believer in Farooq’s native place. He begins two jama’ats and currently conducts a weekly seeker meeting.
— Many women’s seeker meetings begin. More than 50 women now attend three jama’ats.
— Thirty new leaders are trained to launch seeker meetings following extensive evangelistic outreach during an annual Muslim festival.
— During Ramadan outreach efforts, two leaders are beaten for sharing Jesus. One lies in a coma for several days. Both recover.
— At least 52 new jama’ats are begun during the year, bringing Farooq’s total to more than 100. It’s getting harder to count them, he reports.
“It wasn’t an easy year, but God has done amazing things in the hearts of Farooq and Rasheed, as well as in the hearts of the Muslim-background believers whose faith and fearlessness have grown in ways we never could have imagined,” reflects the Christian worker.
Next time somebody tells you the Gospel will never penetrate the Muslim world, or that Muslims aren’t interested in knowing about Jesus Christ, remember Rasheed, Farooq and many others like them.
They beg to differ — and they put their lives on the line daily to prove otherwise.
*Names changed. Erich Bridges is global correspondent for the International Mission Board (imb.org).