05 April 2016
Hawa* is a believer from a Muslim background in the Horn of Africa, a region of the world where leaving Islam to follow Jesus can cost you your family, your job, or even your life. She is only 20, but she has already discovered both the cost and the joy of following Jesus. This is her story.
Hawa says: "I grew up in a wealthy family. My father is a Muslim leader who travels to different Arab countries to teach Islam. My parents loved me and wanted the best for me. After much deliberation they decided they would send me to an Arab country for spiritual instruction as soon as I finished school. I was also engaged to a man who lives in America, and I was sure to join him there in the near future."
However, these plans were put on hold when Hawa contracted a serious lung disease. The doctors feared for her life.
"One night in hospital I had a dream. I saw a man who was smiling and crying at the same time. I somehow knew he was weeping for me. I bowed down before him and asked, 'Please help me. Show me the way. How can I be free from this disease?'"
When Hawa woke up she told her family about the dream, but no one understood it.
After she had recovered enough to be allowed to go home, Hawa told the mosque leader about her vision. To her astonishment he told her, "What you saw was Jesus, the Messiah."
Hawa had no idea what that meant and wanted to know more. He told her, "I can't talk now. It is not safe. Come back another time."
Hawa says: "I was very frustrated. I had no one to talk to about my dream, but I thought about it every day. I simply had to know who the one weeping for me could be."
Weeks went by before she had another opportunity to speak to the mosque leader. He told her, "The one who is weeping for sinners is the one and only Jesus." To her surprise, he gave her a Bible.
Hawa says: "For the next three months I read the Bible continually and little by little learned about the love of Jesus for all men. I love that book and everything in it! It changed me from the inside.
"I hid the Bible under my pillow in the room I shared with my sister, Zulfa*. She had many questions about it. She wanted to know what it was and where I got it. I tried to answer her questions honestly while at the same time avoiding trouble.
"I decided to follow Christ, but no one knew because I continued to go to the mosque and do the required rituals. But my heart was filled with the love of Christ.
'YOU ARE DEAD TO US!'
However, it wasn't long before Hawa's family discovered her faith. "My family cleaned my room to repaint it and discovered the Bible under my pillow. My father was furious. He threw the book into my face. Then he took a whip and lashed me till I had scars. He also locked me in a room. My mother sent me food secretly whenever she could, but after three days my father chased me away. 'You are dead to us!' he told me.
"I felt greatly challenged as a human being. I was very sad and worried and I wept a lot. When they called my fiancé to tell him about my conversion, he broke off the engagement. This was double sorrow and sadness for me.
"At one point I tried to move back home, but it did not work because my family hated me intensely. I knew if I stayed, they would force me to go to an Arab country to try and get me back to Islam. I was too scared that I would be disconnected from the vision. And the love of the crying man in my vision had penetrated my heart so much that I chose Him. The love of Christ was of more value to me than the love of my family."
To Hawa's surprise, Zulfa decided to come with her. She had heard enough about the love of Jesus to join Hawa on her journey. As happy as Hawa was about this, it also posed a big challenge.
"It was hard enough to survive on my own, so how was I going to care for Zulfa too?"
At great risk to himself, the mosque leader took Hawa and Zulfa in for a few days. He used this time to teach them more about Jesus and then put them in touch with other Christians. He also found Hawa a job, which provided a very small income, barely enough to help them survive.
The owner of the house they rented was a Muslim and he constantly threatened to throw them out. Their parents and extended family remained very angry and kept threatening them.
"One day when I was walking along the road, my uncle walked toward me. I was so frightened of him that I tried to cross the road to get out of his way. There was a big construction hole by the road. When I tried to jump over it, I fell into the hole and broke one of the discs in my spine."
This was a terrible blow. Going to hospital was out of the question because they had no money. She was advised to stay in bed and make sure she ate enough. The advice almost made her laugh. As things were, Hawa and Zulfa had hardly enough to eat, and now Hawa could make no contribution.
"Zulfa suffered so much because of me. In order to generate a small income she started baking flatbread. It is hard work and to show a profit she had to sell large numbers. She was constantly bent over smoldering fires and her eyes were constantly exposed to smoke and fumes that damaged her eyes so much that she lost some of her sight. We feared the damage would be permanent."
A NEW BEGINNING
"Had it not been for the help we received from Christians near and far we would not have survived. My pastor and the believers around me helped me as much as they could. People from far away [Open Doors] also came to me and encouraged me. They continue to help us today."
Open Doors helped Hawa and her sister start a small cafeteria that serves coffee and small meals. "The business is doing well. Apart from covering our necessities, we make a good profit every a day."
Open Doors has also provided Zulfa with medical care for her eyes. "She is now recovering, and even started going to school. I am so happy that Zulfa didn't end up blind."
For Hawa this help has brought welcome light to the darkness of their suffering. "The light is increasing day by day. I thank you for your help. God bless you."
Hawa has peace about her parents' reaction to her faith. "I still love them and have not stopped praying for them. One day they will come to Christ and we will worship Him together and then all I have lost will come back to me."
*names changed for security reason
Source: Open Doors