Awel* is a tall, thin man. His lanky body clad in a bright red sarong, a well-worn shirt and a jacket fraying at the seams. But he is full of joy and greeted visitors on a recent trip loudly, with the only English word he knew.
Pointing a bony finger to the sky he burst out, “Jesus!”
Born and raised a Muslim in a remote area of the Horn of Africa, Awel was the lead imam at a mosque for almost 17 years.
Life became difficult when he contracted an illness affecting his organs. He was in and out of hospital, a seven hour journey by foot. He says, “I tried to take cultural medicines in hospital … [I was sure] there was no way to be healed.”
In a recent stay in hospital, he met a group of Christians who told him about Jesus, explaining that He is the great Healer. They asked if they could pray for him.
“They prayed for my salvation and for my healing… As soon as they prayed, I felt the pain go away…” he says, “After they prayed for me, something in my heart was stirred. That night I had a vision. A man great like a lion, but more beautiful than any human being, came from the heavens to me and said, ‘I am Jesus and I am peace.’”
After meeting with a local pastor, Awel returned to his village and shared the gospel with his wife. Along with their children, they moved back to the town where the hospital was, and received discipleship training from the local pastor.
Awel’s brothers and the community had no idea what had happened to the family and reported them missing. His brothers were furious when they found he had converted, capturing him and tying his hands behind his back.
“… they put 20kg of corn on my shoulders and marched me back home. My hands were tied all the time behind my back and they beat me again and again for the seven hours it took to reach the village. By the time I got to the village, my left wrist was broken.”
In the village, constant oppression from their community became too much for Awel’s wife. She converted back to Islam and left with all but one of their children.
“When I am persecuted I think, this is from God, and when God intervenes also I think, this is from God. God is good in all things. So when there is persecution I sing. And also when God intervenes I sing. I have a song on both sides.”
“It is a miracle for me.” He continues. “I lost many things, my wife, my children, my property and many persecutions are around me even today, but I am happy, rejoicing because of Christ. All the things I lost are of this world, but my rejoicing is in heaven, in the everlasting.”
The support Awel has received from the Christian community has been a great help to him. “I received support from different areas. The first one is from my surroundings, the churches around my village and my district contributed money for me for the hospital bills and for my needs.”
“And brothers from far areas [Open Doors] came to visit me and helped me with animals to start farming to recover my life again.”
We sent someone from Open Doors Australia on the trip to meet Awel and other believers. She gave him a koala keyring as a small reminder that there are people elsewhere praying for him. He was thankful but looked puzzled, never having seen a koala.
To him, the creature on the keyring looked like a bear, but one that had been poorly made. When he was shown pictures of real koalas, he was jubilant – knowing that these creatures were real and someone had come from so far away to visit him.
“… Jesus healed me physically and he healed my soul as well. The most wonderful healing is not the physical healing… The most wonderful healing is the healing of the soul. Salvation has brought us together: you from abroad, from far areas in my country, and from areas near me. The healing of my soul, my salvation, brought me to the Body of Christ to have fellowship with Christians. That is wonderful!”
*Name changed for security purposes.
The Horn of Africa region includes, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia.
Find out more about these and other countries where Christians are persecuted.
- Thank God for bringing Awel to faith in Jesus and for giving him joy in Christ through persecution and suffering.
- Pray that God would restore the relationship between Awel and his wife, and that she might return to Awel and turn to Christ.
- Pray for believers living in the Horn of Africa, pray that God would give them faith and strength in the midst of persecution.
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