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Bathtub Baptisms

New believers cleansed inside and out

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As a child, I would have never dreamed of growing up to be a pastor and baptizing new believers in my very own bathtub. After all, I was born in the Middle East in a small, 100-percent Muslim village.

At age 12, I was forced to attend an Islamic training school for two years at the urging of my uncles, who were Muslim leaders. They wanted me to become an imam in a mosque.

Soon after finishing my Islamic training, my mother passed away and my family broke apart. I asked Allah why this was happening to me. My faith in Islam weakened, so I began to explore other paths.

Against my father’s wishes, I chose a technical school and became an electrician. Then I went into the military to do my mandatory 18 months of service. Upon completion, I returned to the capital city and tried to reconnect with my old friends. But I couldn’t rekindle those relationships that had once sustained me. I started working again but found myself becoming depressed.

I moved to a new apartment. As I went to work every day, I had to walk past a Protestant church. As I went by the church, the emptiness in my life always antagon-  ized me.

One morning I heard a voice in my heart say, “Come here!” I looked at the church’s door and kept walking. All day that voice persisted: “Come here! Come here!” I was puzzled about what I was hearing.

 Irresistible Grace

Finally, one day I decided to obey the voice and went inside the church. The pastor kindly greeted me, served me some coffee, and handed me a New Testament. But as soon as I left the church, I threw the Book away.

The following day, as I walked to work, I heard the voice again. I thought to myself, I don’t need religion. I just want to live my life as it is. 

A week passed. I decided to obey the voice and went back to the church. The same man greeted me and asked, “Did you read the Bible I gave to you?” I told him the truth, and he gave me another New Testament. After I left, I threw that one away as well, and my depressive life continued.

The voice didn’t stop, so I changed my path to work. But the sound of the voice stuck with me. I kept  hearing, “Come here! Come here!” I was annoyed, so I visited the church a third time.

That day, December 24, 2002, I heard the gospel for the first time, but it didn’t make any sense to me. The pastor invited me to a Christmas Eve party, and I went as though Someone was leading me.

When I arrived, I felt like I was seeing a different kind of people. They had happy faces and were full of joy. Everyone’s appearance was so clean, and a sweet aroma filled the room. I felt unclean and thought I didn’t belong there, but God had other plans.

 A Growing Passion

Toward the end of the party, the pastor spoke about the Father’s love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son . . . ” (John 3:16). I was touched by the message. How is it possible the Almighty God would love a wretch like me? I thought.

When I heard the invitation to enter God’s Kingdom, His Spirit led me to the front of the room. I stood there and prayed, “Jesus, if You’re real, come and change my life.” As other pastors and believers surrounded me and prayed for me, I began to cry, repenting and committing my life to Jesus.

The next morning I woke up with joy and hope. I was a new man—transformed. I began to attend church regularly and became a student of the pastor. I was so spiritually hungry that I couldn’t get enough of Jesus. I wanted to know more about Him. The following years God called me to be His full-time servant through a vision I saw while praying.

I eventually married, and as my wife and I served at a church in the capital city, God brought many seekers to us. We shared the gospel with all who entered the church. Many came to faith, but many also left this body of believers. Surprisingly, those who stayed were Kurds, a minority in this city.

We began meeting with them in our home once a week, teaching them basic Christianity. Months later, they all received baptism and were still walking in faith.

 Higher Education

After we had served together for five years in the church, God spoke to us through a friend, an Alliance pastor, about getting theological training in the United States. The Lord also instilled in our hearts visions about our future ministry among the Kurds.

After a few weeks of praying, we knew this vision was from God and responded “yes” to His calling. We went to the United States for training at Alliance Theological Seminary (ATS) in 2011.

While there, we held onto our calling and continually thought about our home and the Kurdish people. Toward the end of our studies at ATS, God led me to write a thesis on Kurdish people. For my research, He provided opportunities for me to visit various parts of a majority Kurdish area. As I interviewed young Kurds, He gave me a love and passion for them.

By the grace of God, my wife and I both graduated from ATS and completed the process to be appointed as C&MA international workers. Just a few months before we were supposed to leave the States, I met a Kurdish young man at a Starbucks in Sunnyside, Queens. After a few hours of sharing the good news, he accepted Jesus as his Savior and Lord, and God confirmed my calling.

 Bearing Fruit

In August 2015 we flew back to the Middle East. A brief time after we arrived, God opened doors for us to meet people in various parts of the city, including the mayor and his staff. We quickly began sharing the good news because my wife and I already knew the local language.

God crossed our path with many seekers in February 2016. He prompted us to start a home church in our living room, and a woman from Syria came to faith. Just before she was to return to Syria, we baptized her in the bathroom of a refugee camp.

Soon our living-room church burst with Kurds from many different cities and nations. This gave us a vision of what our future international church would be like.

As the number of attendees at our house church increased, we received threats for continuing to worship at our home. So we formed a partnership with an international church in the capital city to open an international church in our city.

We prepared the necessary documents the government requires, and our church officially opened in July. We rented a two-room office space and began remodeling.

On September 4, 2016, we had our first worship service at the new venue. God continually brought new people to us. Upon hearing the good news, four people accepted Jesus, and we baptized them privately in our bathtub on Christmas Day. In April 2017 we baptized a couple in our bathtub.

The gospel is continuously working mightily and with strength. What a privilege it is to serve our God! The harvest is here.

The author of this article received a master’s in intercultural studies at Alliance Theological Seminary (Nyack, N.Y.), and his wife earned an MDiv in missions and theology. Together they serve among the Kurdish people as Alliance workers in the Middle East.

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