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‘Free gift’ of salvation comes at high price in Central Asiacomment (0)

April 19, 2012


‘Free gift’ of salvation comes at high price in Central Asia

His heart pounds as he presses his two young daughters tightly to his chest and darts into the freezing rain. His wife follows close behind, quietly making her way through the darkness to the taxi idling outside the family’s home. Faruq and Jamilah aren’t safe here anymore; police have finally tracked them down. Faruq knows they will soon come to arrest him.

This isn’t the first time Faruq has been forced to disappear, but it is for the same reason — his decision to follow Christ. 

At 18, he abandoned the Muslim tradition of his parents in search of what he calls the “real God.” But for many Christians in Central Asia whose belief in Jesus is born out of the ashes of a past Islamic faith, Christ’s “free gift” of salvation comes at a high price.

Faruq’s own nightmare began not long ago. As he prayed alone late one night while his wife and daughters slept, more than a dozen policemen slipped silently over the walls surrounding the family’s compound. Within moments they were inside the house. Faruq and Jamilah watched in horror as police ransacked their living room, confiscating Bibles, Christian books, literature and videos as well as other gospel materials. 

Rounds of interrogation began as soon as Faruq arrived at police headquarters. Why did he become a Christian? Was someone paying him to convert Muslims? The police didn’t like his answers. 

“I told them my testimony,” Faruq recounted. “I said, ‘There’s no money.’”

Early the next morning Faruq was thrown into a small holding cell, exhausted, afraid and totally alone. Seeds of doubt planted by the police about his own decision to follow Jesus were taking root. Perhaps he’d made a mistake?

“I was thinking maybe they are right,” Faruq said, but he suddenly was reminded how and why he came to love Christ.

It started with a burning curiosity to know his Creator. “I was trying to reach to God. I was praying and I was fasting. At midnight I was going to the mosque to pray alone,” Faruq said.

But that fervor eventually faded to disappointment at the emptiness and insecurity he found while studying the Quran at a local madrassa (Islamic school). By 18, he was tempted to give up on religion altogether.

A seemingly random encounter with a foreign believer placed a Bible in Faruq’s hands. He began to read it and was immediately struck by Jesus’ words in John 10:10 — “I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance.”

Faruq believed. Five days later police changed tactics, dumping Faruq into an open, overcrowded central jail packed with more than 200 inmates. 

Faruq spent the next 10 days in the central jail, sleeping on concrete with a water-filled plastic Coca-Cola bottle for a pillow. 

Faruq had been so consumed with survival that he’d pushed aside a deep-seated fear gnawing at him since the night of the raid: what happened to his wife and children? 

“God, I don’t know [what to do]. If You gave me this family, then I want to trust You that nobody can take them away. God, give them back to me,” he pleaded. 

A week later Faruq was released from jail. 

Much has changed since Faruq’s arrest. Shortly after reuniting with his family, he and Jamilah left the country with their daughters. But God soon called them back; there was work to be done. 

Today Faruq’s ministry is thriving. Discipled and mentored by Southern Baptist workers and other like-minded Great Commission Christians, he is busy training a new generation of leaders with the goal of spreading house churches across the nation. 

But behind every sharing of the gospel the specter of persecution remains.

“I am a criminal right now; the government is looking for me,” Faruq said. 

He isn’t alone. The 15-year-old daughter of another Christian couple Faruq is discipling was raped because of their faith. With two young daughters of his own, it’s a possibility that terrifies Faruq. But he’s determined not to allow that fear to keep him from answering God’s call.

As for the future, Faruq said he’s taking things one day at a time, seeking God’s will and depending on His provision and protection.

“I expect thousands of [new believers] very soon,” he said. “They will work miracles and wonders. God told me to go and raise leaders and be ready for His glory.” 

(BP)

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