08/02/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – My interest in Christianity began when I struggled to deal with so many problems, pressure and hardships in life. As a Muslim, I often said tahajjud prayers which is to take time to pray specifically at midnight, asking guidance from Allah so that I can be given a way out of the life problems I faced. Yet I did not find any answers. Day after day I felt increasingly depressed with the unsolved challenges, to the point that the thought of ending my life crossed my mind. But I recalled this strange experience – whenever I saw Christian coworkers at my place of work, when they prayed, I felt a calm and peace in my mind. I wondered why even though they were the ones praying, I was able to feel restful.
I worked in the logistics department at a contracting company in the housing service sector in the city of Medan. At work, I often mocked my Christian friends, calling their Lord as the “long-haired man.” “What kind of God has long hair, and with a tattoo, is almost identical as the Metallica vocalist?” I often teased them. When my Christian friends ate in the cafeteria, they always prayed before their meal. I used to say to them, “Why do you pray to the long-haired person? I’ll take your food while your eyes are closed!” They would answer, “There is no need for you to mock our Lord. We each should pray according to our beliefs.”
What they did not know is that I actually was jealous of my Christian friends. They always seemed to be very close to their Lord. In fact, whenever I saw them praying, I felt a peace in my heart. “I want to be like them,” I said to myself.
I decided to find out more about who this long-haired man is. Without informing my Christian friends, one Sunday I entered one of the churches in the city of Medan. I was very surprised at the way of how worship is conducted in this church, since I could not tell if this was a church or a music concert venue, with these people singing while jumping. I sat quietly in the back row while praying “O Allah, show the straight path for these people.”
However, when the sermon was delivered, I felt something odd, for every word from the preacher seemed to be talking about my life. I thought this was just a coincidence, or the intelligence of the preacher. I was determined to come again next week and test whether the same thing will happen.
The second week and the third week remained the same, with me feeling that my life so far had been stripped away, based on the words coming from the preacher’s mouth. The only way out, is in Jesus, the man with the long hair who I had mocked all this time. What amazed me even more was that despite the preachers were not the same every week, they could equally point to what my need is.
On the third week, my heart was still hardened. I said to myself, “This is the last week for me. If the preaching is still touching me the same way, then I will believe in the long-haired man.” And the exact same thing happened. I knew that this Man is right, I want to believe in Him.
At work, I met with my Christian friends and told them how I had felt, as well as my month-long experience of going to church. They did not believe what I said, because they knew about my education background, as I graduated from an Islamic boarding school (pesantren) and I was a devout Muslim. I tried to convince them that I truly believe in Jesus whom I had insulted all this time. I asked for their help to connect with a pastor who can answer a number of questions that still lingered in my mind, someone who not only understands about Bible but also understands the Qur’an. They pointed to me a person who has similar background as me but has become a pastor. That was the beginning of my encounter with my Spiritual father.
During the first meeting with him, I asked many questions from the Qur’an and he responded with verses of the Quran too, because he knows the Islamic Text well. Finally, the conversation led to what the Bible says about who Jesus is. I told the pastor that I confessed that Jesus is indeed the Son of God and He is the Lord. I said I want to embrace Christianity today. But the pastor said, “Not now, go home. I’ll give you one more week to think again.” And he gave me a Bible to read. During that week, I read the Bible and my heart became more turbulent as I sought to know more about that truth.
I could not wait to meet the pastor again and ask him to baptize me to become a Christian. A week felt like a long time to me. Upon seeing me, he asked me, “Are you ready to leave your previous religion?” I said yes, I have decided. “I will not baptize you now, I will guide you first so you can understand what Christianity is like,” he responded, before adding “Don’t you ever think that if you convert to Christianity, your problems will be solved! Instead, you will have many troubles.” In the end, I was baptized after going through the discipleship process.
It is true that after I was baptized, the problems started to emerge. My family from Jakarta— my parents, uncles, and other brothers came to Medan looking for me. I was taken to one of the hotels in Medan and interrogated like a criminal. I was scolded with questions about my new found faith, beaten and forced to leave my Christian faith and return to Islam. I was taken to a kyai (respected elder) to have a Ruqyah performed on me because I was considered by them to have been possessed by the devil.
Ruqyah is the ritual in Islamic custom to cast out the demon from the possessed. But I still insisted on becoming a Christian. Finally, my parents and siblings said, “From now on, you will no longer be a part of our family.” I was banished from my family. The manager of my company, after knowing that I had converted to Christianity, the Muslim man eventually dismissed me from my job. I know this is the price I have to pay to be a follower and worshiper of Jesus Christ whom I once insulted.
I praise the Lord that I can face all these hardships with a peaceful and joyful heart; because I believe my Lord Jesus Christ is with me. Please pray for me that I can continue to grow in my faith, and my aspiration to open a business selling basic necessities to support me and my wife.