Feature

Set Free

How God’s persistence outlasted mine

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Life was difficult in the city where I grew up in the Middle East. There was little food or water. After the war in 2008, the situation got worse when a radical political party took over. So I asked my parents if we could move to another part of the country. They refused.

In 2009 when I was 15, I decided to escape from my family and live by myself somewhere else. I found a job after school, and I rented a small room downtown. It was dark, dirty, and cramped. But I started my new life.

In my heart I was looking for joy and happiness. I didn’t have a meaningful life, so I began to drink a little alcohol each day. I built bad relationships with women. I tried drugs. But I didn’t find joy.

Does God Exist?

One day while walking down the street, I met a guy I knew from back home. He introduced me to his friend Gabriel* who was with him. As we walked together, I said bad things about God. They asked me, “Why are you saying that about God?”

“I don’t care about believing in God,” I answered. “I don’t love Him. I don’t like these kinds of things.”

But they continued telling me about God’s love and how He is good; it was funny to me. I said to them, “Even if there is a God and He loves people, it’s not for a sinner like me. I’m not religious. I don’t go to mosque or church or anywhere. I’m a sinner.”

Then they explained Jesus’ crucifixion and how He took all my sin. Jesus loved the sinner; He didn’t come just for those who are holy or religious.

“What do I have to do then?” I asked.

“You have to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.” They said that if I did, He’d give me joy as well.

“OK, let’s do it. How do I do it?”

“Pray with us.”

“In the street?”

“Yeah.”

I started praying the prayer of salvation, but in my heart, it wasn’t really a prayer. It was a challenge: If You are really God or if Jesus really is Your Son, change me. My life is messed up because of the things I’ve done. I’ve lost my money, my body, my health—my everything. Set me free if you are really God.

After I prayed this prayer with them, the next day nothing happened, so I thought, See! There is no God.

Confusing Love

Gabriel continued to call me each week: “Come to the Alliance church.”

“Please get away from me,” I told him. “I’m working a lot. I don’t have time for this stuff.”

But Gabriel kept calling. He came to the shop where I worked, and he gave me a Bible. Each week he asked me, “Do you read the Bible?” I said, “Yeah, sure.” But I wasn’t reading it. I kept the Book at the shop; I didn’t want to read it.

After maybe more than a month of him still asking me to come to church, I finally went. My plan was to make everything a fight so he would not call me back. I was getting tired of him.

When I went to the Friday-night youth meeting, the people were really nice. I attacked them, saying, “Church is all a business. There is no God.” I was really tough, and people responded in love. They smiled at me. They said they loved me. It was weird and confusing. I attacked these people, but they responded to me with kindness.

When I got home, I knew I wanted to go back to the Alliance church. At that point it wasn’t because of God but because I felt accepted by this community.

God’s Word Proclaimed

After I had attended for three weeks, a man from the church asked me, “Do you really read the Bible?”

“Let me be honest with you,” I said. “I don’t read the Bible. I don’t know anything in the Bible.”

“I want to challenge you to read a chapter each week,” he said. “Read from the Gospel of John, and I will ask you questions about it.”

I opened my Bible to start reading a chapter each week, but I found myself reading five chapters each day. From the beginning, my heart was broken. I felt convicted.

I prayed, God, I really want You. I can see now who You are in the Bible. I can see how loving You are. I can see how You dealt with the woman who committed adultery. I can see who I am in front of Your love. I cried, and I felt something change in my heart.

That week I left almost everything bad in my life. I broke almost every relationship and gave up the alcohol and drugs. Then I went to church, and I really broke. I stood in front of the people and confessed my sin to them. I said, “Now I know I’m a believer in Jesus.”

Within nearly two months, I read almost all of the New Testament more than once. Each week I went to the church’s youth ministry and a Bible study. I got to know lots of things about the Word of God, the plan of God, and the salvation plan. After maybe three months, the pastor baptized me. I was enjoying my life with Jesus. Then I felt Him call me to ministry.

Launched for Outreach

One year after becoming a believer, I went to the streets to hand out Christian brochures. Next, I set up a table with Bibles and brochures near a college to share the gospel with the students.

People walked by and saw our sign: “Free Books.” They would ask, “What is this book?” They had wrong ideas about Christianity, so I explained it to them. In the third week of this ministry, a man walked by, and I explained Christ to him. After two weeks, he accepted the Lord.

Another time I was praying and felt like God said to me that I should share the gospel in villages where no believer had entered before. I was reading Matthew 10 about the man of peace and how the disciples started the churches and shared the gospel.

I thought, I want to go, but I can’t go by myself to a village where there are no believers. I need someone else, and I need a car.

I shared this idea with one of the other church members and his wife, and he said he had been praying about the same thing. So my friend, his wife, another girl from our church, and I started going to this unreached city each week. We prayed, and God led us to a certain village. We knocked on doors, and I asked the people, “May we join you? I have friends from America and Korea who want to meet you.” I was shocked how they welcomed us.

We talked with them and drank tea, and I translated as my friend shared how the gospel changed history. We also gave Bibles to the people and prayed for the sick.

Currently, I am pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies at a nearby Bible college. I continue to serve in the Alliance church’s ministries, and I am actively involved in witnessing among those of the majority religion, both locally and via the Internet and social media. This summer I will travel to the United States to participate in an intensive training program that will help me serve more effectively.

Praise God! He accepted my challenge that night I prayed in the street. He has set me free.

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