Mohammed prepares to be baptized in water after giving his life to Jesus, the Son of God. A new Kurdish believer, he found the way,
the truth and the life as a Syrian refugee in Turkey. A great number of Kurds are coming to faith in Europe.
Hussein grew up in Afrin, Syria, a city of 900,000 Kurds, with another 360 Kurdish villages surrounding Afrin. The region is located near the ancient city of Aleppo. You’ve probably seen pictures of the hellish destruction of Aleppo, which actually lays claim to being the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the world.
Hussein was raised in a very devout Muslim family that obeyed the strict rules of Sharia which his father had taught him along with his four brothers. For many years, he thought that the God of Islam is the one true God.
Their lives were simple. Hussein married, had children, and he and his brother Mohammed made their livelihood by leading a band of musicians and themselves playing the traditional drums for Kurdish weddings.
They also had a shoe-shine kiosk. Hussein’s oldest son went to school, and the small girls looked forward to when they, too, would start their education. To the Kurdish people, education is essential. But most importantly, they always had enough to eat, thanking Allah with all their hearts.
But, as the war in Syria crept towards this Kurdish region, a number of villages were overtaken by ISIS, which hates the Kurds. Turmoil and disorder interrupted their lives. No jobs, no money, no security.
As the country broke up into different fighting factions and the Syrian air force bombed whenever and wherever, they saw their country disintegrating with hundreds of thousands dying and injured. One day Hussein and his wife and children boarded a bus and fled toward the Turkish border. That was four years ago—when the border was still open. He and his family eventually made their way to Istanbul.
After arriving in this huge city of 14,000,000 people, he found himself and his family in a desperate situation. In Turkey he learned there wasn’t even any possibility of sending his children to school! (For four years now, his children are without school.) He found a job as a night watchman, and with that they eat.
In his misery he began to think the unthinkable. Why were Muslims always fighting each other? Could it possibly be that something is wrong with his religion? Could it mean that Islam is not the true religion?
He began watching the well-known Egyptian Christian, Father Zakaria Botros, who for years has had a regular television program from America where he skillfully and with great anointing, exposes Islam for what it is.
But as Hussein began to question his faith, he simply could not come to the conclusion that the religion he had followed all his life, the faith of his father and grandfathers and ancestors, could be wrong.
Then one day he watched on TV as ISIS executed the 21 Egyptian Christian Copts in Libya. Hussein became furious.
He began to shout at Allah saying, “Why did you allow these innocent people to be murdered? If you allowed this to happen, does this mean that you are a God of Murder? Are you the true God?”
At 43 years of age, Hussein was deeply confused and bewildered as he mulled over this terrible act of terror perpetrated by Muslims on those Egyptian Christians.
Three days later, in March 2015, while he was asleep, Jesus appeared to him in a dream and said, “Hussein! I am the True God that you have been searching for!” Hussein got out of bed and said to Jesus, “I believe in you as my Lord and my God.”
Hussein told his family of his encounter with Jesus. He encouraged his four children to follow Jesus and leave the religion of Islam. It took only one month, and all four of his children gave their lives to the God of the Bible.
In June 2015, Yusef (pen name) an Israeli Arab evangelist (with whom Maoz partners) travelled from Israel with a team to Istanbul for meetings to evangelize Muslims and mentor new Muslim Background Believers (MBBs). He baptized one of Hussein’s children, Assad (meaning lion). What an emotional event that was when Hussein boldly declared to him, “Son, just as I led you to become a follower of Jesus, my wish and will for you, is that in the future when you marry, you will do the same with your family.”
Amina, Hussein’s wife, has not yet received Jesus as Lord. Let’s pray for Amina to have a revelation of the true God and His only begotten Son, her true Savior Jesus!
REACHING OUT TO MOHAMMED
Shortly after his encounter with Jesus, Hussein began to share his faith with his older brother Mohammed, who was also a devout Muslim and had practiced Islam since childhood. Even Mohammed’s dream of making a pilgrimage (Haj) to Mecca while he still lived in Syria had finally been realized when he was able to take his two wives and children with him.
Now, as a helpless refugee in Istanbul, Mohammed, 55, also became skeptical of Islam as he watched the horrific bombings of ISIS in Istanbul. He began to listen and learn about the Christian faith from Hussein, and, as he compared it to Islam, he knew that Jesus was the True Way. Sadly, his Arab wife, Samira, from a very fanatical Islamic family, could not accept what was happening to her husband, and abandoned him and their children and went back to Syria to her parents.
His Kurdish wife, Jehan, is now taking care of the children, but, of course, they are very heavy-hearted to have lost their mother. Nevertheless, Jehan not only remained with Mohammed but she and the three children said they were ready to follow the true God and His Son Jesus.
Arriving from Israel, Yusef prepared to baptize all five of them. But first he shared the basics of the Gospel again just to make sure they understood completely what they were about to do. He pointedly asked Mohammed and his family, “Now, are you sure you want to leave Islam and follow Jesus regardless of the consequences?” Mohammed said, “Yes, and all my family wants to follow Jesus, too.”
As they prayed together that day with their eyes closed, Mohammed cried out that he saw a great light and angels surrounding him, and when he opened his eyes, he was crying.
Through his tears he said, “I feel sorry for all the years of my life I wasted being a Muslim. I have Jesus now and I have great joy! I regret all the years I have lived my life with that name Mohammed! I have decided to change my name!” Then he looked at his family and said, “From now on, my name will be Saeed (for security reasons, this is not the real name he chose) because my hope is in Jesus.”
On July 10, 2016 Saeed, his wife and three children gave their testimony before the church of former Muslims, and then all five were baptized in water.
It is no accident that when 21 Christians were martyred, and their last words heard on the ISIS video were “Oh Lord Jesus!” the heavens were opened for Yeshua to appear to Muslims who are genuinely seeking the truth. Through the blood of Martyrs His growing church of MBBs (Muslim Background Believers) is expanding in the camps and hovels of displaced persons throughout Europe.
Evangelist Yusef visited a family the night before. The son (in center back row) whose name is Foramen—meaning “Decision”—after hearing the Gospel, immediately made a decision to accept Jesus as his Savior, as did his twin brother and his father.
The movement to leave Islam and follow Jesus is accelerating to a degree not seen since Islam was birthed in the 7th century. The turning point came as the refugees and migrants from many different Arabic-speaking countries who, in the last three years, have fled to Turkey and Europe.
It is well known that among these recent four million displaced persons, there are many terrorists moving into place across Europe. But there is a parallel counter-movement. Arabs and Muslims who having lost everything, are breaking away from their Islamic religious chains which have bound their hearts and minds. In their distress, many are now becoming free to seek Truth.
In this generation we have already seen massive conversions to Christianity in Muslim countries such as Indonesia. Egypt, too, is seeing great numbers turning to the God of the Bible. But only since this movement of fleeing asylum seekers took off after the “Arab Spring,” have we seen the numbers turning to Jesus really explode.
Now, tens of thousands, says evangelist Yusef, are being saved—especially among the Kurdish people, whose hearts seem particularly open. Dreams and visions are chronicled regularly among their community.
In fact, numerous MBB churches are growing in Turkey and Europe. The emerging church is growing faster than the indigenous churches in the Middle East. More converts are joining the MBB churches in Turkey and Europe than those converts in the Middle East churches which evangelize among the traditional nominal Christians.
For 25 years, Yusef has evangelized in Jordan, Yemen, Iraq and across North Africa, and has seen many Muslims come to faith. But the upheaval taking place now throughout the Middle East has caused a new and intense skepticism of Islam, leaving a huge hole in the lives of many Muslims. Therefore, they search for the true God.
When a Muslim from the Middle East receives Jesus, wherever he is—among Palestinians or in Europe—he is consumed with his new faith. Everything is new—religion, culture, friends, purpose in life and relating to his or her relatives.
Often when these MBBs (Muslim Background Believer) make the leap, sometimes even before baptism, they read the Bible as if it is their only lifeline and they find themselves deeply in love with their new loving God. They are also studying His Word to keep from drowning in the sea of opposition they face.
And to these MBBs, water baptism means literally risking your life, if you are living in the Middle East. But as God would have it, these poor refugees in Turkey and Europe are so completely over-whelming their host nations, that even the Turkish government doesn’t occupy itself with what refugees believe or don’t believe. And so they have been “freed” to seek the true God.
Interestingly, these new MBBs really have no problem with Israel or Jews. They have never been taught Christian Replacement Theology. And when they leave Islam, they leave it all behind. As these new Christians begin to mature and continue studying the Bible—New and Old Testaments—they naturally empathize with the Israeli nation.
Moreover, Yusef, an Arab from Israel who brings teams of Israeli Christian Arabs and sometimes Israeli Messianic Jews with him—along with team members from the U.S. and other countries is a great testimony to the plan of God to use Israel to be a light to the nations.
Of course, who can be better evangelists and servants to these refugees than Arab-speaking Christians—from Israel! Again, little Israel is beginning to be a bright light to the nations.
Records show that less than one percent of world missions are focused on the Muslim World. But right now, the Arab people in the Middle East are suffering their worst time in all its history.
And right now, God has provided a tremendous window of opportunity to reach Muslims, especially Kurds who have fled their homes.
Even though their poverty is beyond imagination, yet, amazingly, most refugees have managed to obtain a smart phone! They are listening to the Gospel in Arabic on their smart phones!
Yusef believes that soon there will be more former-Muslim Christians in the Western World and the Middle East than there are Christians who were never Muslims.
Islam, says Yusef, is the last frontier for the Christian church. This is a chance of a lifetime—to help bring Eternal Life to Muslims who are intensely looking for truth.
How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?
And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?
And how shall they hear without a preacher?
And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”
Your people would give food to refugees, toys to their children, and visit homes of refugees who are either seeking to know Jesus or who are new believers. You would be with team members who will translate for you into Arabic.
The volunteers in blue are Christians, some from the Israeli Arab community, and some from America. Their shirts say in Arabic, “WE LOVE YOU.” They are part of a team Yusef brought with him to Turkey and Athens. Here they have been serving food at the port in Athens.
There are presently 57,000 illegal refugees locked up in the port until they are processed—something that could take weeks or even months.
Though the Greek army does bring some food to the refugees, the Greek government says it does not have the money to adequately feed the asylum seekers, and leaves it to volunteer groups to feed them.
The cost per person would be in the range of $5,000 per person (depending on the season) for a 10-day mission trip, including airfare and hotels. Contact Kati at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
INTERNETTHE MOST EFFICIENT WAY TO REACH THE LARGEST NUMBER OF MUSLIMS SPREAD ACROSS EUROPE AND THE MIDDLE EAST.
Former Kurdish and Arab Muslim believers use the building of expats in Istanbul for their meetings.
Daniel, leader of the MBBs Church said that if he had the funds to pay the metro ticket for more new Christian believers, he could have a church of 500 people.
Evangelist Yusef wants to produce a top-quality documentary of five of the most articulate former Muslims to explain why they left Islam and why they have become Christians.
This would be put on YouTube and also handed out as DVDs and every other way possible to get it into the hands of a massive number of Muslims.
It would clearly explain the way to receive a new heart and forgiveness of sin through the blood of the Messiah Jesus and to receive Eternal Life by making Him their Lord and Savior.
A first-class film will cost in the area of $100,000. Help us send the message of the Gospel to the Muslim refugees NOW, while there is a window of tremendous opportunity!
Yusef will be in the U.S. in September. Would you like him to speak at your church or group? Contact Kati at email@example.com. We will put you in contact with Yusef.
Did you know Ruth, the most famous woman in the Old Testament, was an Arab of Moabite extract—from today’s Jordan? Ruth held a Jordanian passport!
Moses’ wife was a Midianite—a woman he’d met and married when he was forced out of Egypt. Midian, in antiquity, which is now northwestern Saudi Arabia. Yes, Moses’ wife was an Arab. Does that sound incredible to you?
Moses’ wife had a Saudi passport; Ruth had a Jordanian passport. Can it really be there were Arabs in such critical places? Yes. And there are plenty more examples.
Faith-based Bible readers enter a world often frequented by Arabs.
The rabbi from Tarsus, Paul, left an indelible mark on Christian Faith and understanding. Though Jewish to the core—both before AND after accepting Yeshua/Jesus—unlike the other apostles, he didn’t have an Israeli passport. Paul, by contrast, was from Tarsus—a city in modern Turkey today. Paul held a Turkish passport.
Luke tells us Paul was headed to Damascus, Syria when his life was upended by an encounter with Israel’s Messiah. Paul tells us in Galatians that, rather than return to Israel, he spent three years in Arabia after which he took a two-week trip to Jerusalem before falling off the radar during a subsequent ten-year stint in Tarsus. His biographer, Luke, informs us that Barnabas later invited him to Antioch, Syria to minister and the rest is history—biblical history.
The number of Christians that populated the Arab world as a result of early believers evangelizing was enormous—until Islam conquered most of these areas and began in the 7th century converting massive expanses of populations to Islam—mainly by the sword. The fact is, the ancestors of multitudes of Arab Muslims were Christians.
But here’s the most famous story of all! Did you know the first men to worship Jesus were Arabs—not Jews? Though we’re not told a great deal about them, Matthew
does say wise men from the “East” came bearing precious gifts. (As mentioned, the people who had moved and settled east of Israel were a conglomerate of Abraham’s descendants and relatives.) Today there is a tradition among Iranians that the wise men were Zoroasters. Bible scholars connect them to Isaiah 60:1-7 as we shall see.
ARAB WORSHIPERS OUTWIT HEROD THE GREAT
Here’s how the story unfolds: A non-Jewish Idumaean/Edomite (a descendant from Esau whose name was changed to Edom) had stealthily worked his way into the throne of Judah under the banner of the Herodian dynasty. “When Herod the king” heard about the birth of an alleged Messiah—someone he knew would be construed as a more legitimate “king of the Jews” than he—Matthew says he was “troubled” and was determined to find the child, ostensibly to “worship” Him.
That such was not his intention, however, is amply noted in the New Testament. Herod’s covert consternation was stimulated by “wise men from the East” who came to Jerusalem, guided by “His star in the East.” Herod inquired about the timing of the great light’s appearance. Matthew records their response: “The star, which they saw in the East, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.”
Matthew continues, noting that “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy,” after which they entered the house and “presented unto Him gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” That business attended to, they made haste to return to the East from where they came, albeit by another way for fear of Herod, who was obviously up to no good.
Despite its having worked its way into popular lore, the text never says there were “three” wise men or astrologers. Over and over again, though, it does note that these men were from the East and that they were guided to Israel by a star. Though the number of these eastern travelers has been the object of fanciful speculation, the question of exactly who the first Gentile worshippers of Jesus were can be ascertained with a much greater measure of certainty: The first non-Jews to worship Jesus were Arabs.
HOW CAN WE BE SURE?
First, it is clear that “sons of the East” is a biblical phrase referring to what lies immediately to the east of Israel and its natural borderline, the Jordan River, in what looks like a wide crescent-shaped cluster of territories—inhabited by an ethnic amalgam of Ishmaelites and distant relatives from various descendants of Abraham, Esau and Lot.
Second, worth noting is that from ancient times the regional spice trade was Arabian in origin. You may recall, for example, that when the Queen of Sheba (southern Arabia) visited Solomon, she brought with her “spices and very much gold, and precious stones.”These were the very types of gifts later presented to the divine infant Jesus—a descendant of Solomon. This, in fact, reflects a regional tradition of the type of honorary gifts presented to royalties and dignitaries in the ancient world.
Third, Justin Martyr, a church father who grew up within the territories of Israel, in his debate with a Jew named Trypho around AD 135, referred to the Magi as being from Arabia:
“For, at the time of His birth, the Magi came from Arabia and worshipped Him, after they had met Herod, then the king of your country, whom Scriptures calls king of Assyria because of his wicked ungodliness…at the time when the Magi from Arabia came to King Herod and said…. Now, these Magi from Arabia came to Bethlehem, worshipped the Child, and presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh…. There the Arabian Magi found Him…. Now when the Arabian Magi failed to return to Herod….”
Fourth, the Hebrew prophet Isaiah—who, by the way, is the most oft-employed Old Testament writer in the New Testament— saw the coming of Israel’s redeemer and voiced it in various ways. In Isaiah 60:1-5, he encouraged folks with, “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” Though deep darkness is said to have engulfed the people, there was a promise that “the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee.”
Seen by whom? Isaiah reveals, “The nations [Gentiles] shall come to thy light,” and then he noted, “The wealth of the nations shall come unto thee.” The Queen of Sheba’s visit bearing gifts to Solomon—which took place more than two centuries before Isaiah’s prophetic writings—was a foreshadowing of the future Arabian interaction with Jesus.
MIDIAN, EPHAH, SHEBA, DEDAN AND CUSHITES
And then, particularly striking, Isaiah reveals exactly who these “Gentiles” would be.
Continuing in 60:6–7, Isaiah describes the gift-bearers, noting that, “The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and incense, and they shall show forth the praises of the Lord.”
What definitely needs to be emphasized here is that Matthew’s “Gentiles” coming to Jesus as his first worshippers were some of the Jewish people’s estranged Arab relatives. Located northeast, eastward, and southward in Arabia, Midian is mentioned first. Ephah follows immediately in the text. Who was Ephah? He was actually the son of Midian and likewise descended from Abraham by his wife Keturah.
“Sheba” follows in the same verse which says, “All those from Sheba shall come.” Sheba was similarly a son of Abraham, mentioned in conjunction with Dedan.
That their descendants were more firmly entrenched in Southern Arabia is evident by the places named after them in Southern Arabia. The people of Sheba—or Sabeans, as they are known—were noted in the Bible as traders of gold and spices, the very gifts the famous Queen brought to Solomon. Jeremiah noted frankincense that was coming “from Sheba.”
Ezekiel spoke of “merchants of Sheba,” Ezekiel spoke of “merchants of Sheba,” informing that they traded in the “best of all spices…and gold.”
In fact, Jacob’s sons sold their brother Joseph to a band of Ishmaelite/Midian traders traveling from Israel to Egypt.Incidentally, from this story, it would appear that Midians intermarried with Ishmaelites.
Just to interject a bit more biblical history: As with Isaac and his descendants, Midian was himself a legitimate son of Abraham, though in his case he came by Keturah— whom Abraham married after the death of Sarah.In Genesis 25:6, Moses recorded that “Abraham gave gifts” to the sons of his concubines (notice the plural) and “sent them away from Isaac, his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the East country,” as he had with Ishmael previously.
Far back in history, Arabian elite came bearing gifts to a king of Israel. The second time they crossed the border carrying their wealth and gave it to One who was greater than Solomon.
But isn’t it amazing to discover that Arabs were the first to acknowledge Jesus? Their doing so gets more interesting yet.
PROPHECIES YET TO BE FULFILLED
Yes, there’s much more to come! Indeed, it would appear that this 60th chapter of Isaiah reveals prophecies yet to be fulfilled at the great return of King Messiah Yeshua. The Lord will accept the return of the Arab people to the God of Israel, and they will minister to Isaiah’s people, the Jews.
“All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together to you, The rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you; They shall ascend with acceptance on My altar, And I will glorify the house of My glory.”
Nebaioth is actually Ishmael’s first born. Kedar is his younger brother. In another chapter of Isaiah,he envisions these sons of Ishmael worshiping and praising the one true God:
“Sing to the Lord a new song, And His praise from the ends of the earth,
You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it,
You coastlands and you inhabitants of them!
Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voice,
The villages that Kedar inhabits.
Let the inhabitants of Sela sing,
Let them shout from the top of the mountains.
Let them give glory to the Lord, And declare His praise in the coastlands.”
And more! We cannot forget the Arab people to the north of Israel – when they too will be granted a great spiritual awakening.
“Is it not yet a very little while Till Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field,
And the fruitful field be esteemed as a forest?
In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the book,
And the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness.
The humble also shall increase their joy in the Lord,
And the poor among men shall rejoice In the Holy One of Israel.”
And lastly, we mustn’t finish this article without recounting Isaiah’s famous “Grand Finale” vision of revival throughout the Middle East! He foresees the day when there will be a highway right across the entire Middle East—from Egypt through Israel across to the Arabian Peninsula. That will be possible because the entire Middle East will be worshipers of the One True God of Israel!
“In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord at its border. . . In that day Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria—a blessing in the midst of the land, whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, “Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.”
In sum, the Arab people—the whole of the Middle Eastern tribes—coming to acknowledge the One known as the “King of the Jews” is predicted by Isaiah. The forerunners—the Wise Men, Ruth and Moses’ wife were all Arabs faring from Arab lands who followed the God of Israel. Though of Hebrew extract himself, Paul frequented the Arabian world. Arabs often appear inside the biblical narrative, and in very interesting and influential places.
Reaching out with God’s love and grace should be our goal for the Arab nations. Let’s pray for them and consider how we might build bridges and, in the process, begin a dialogue of hope and joy that only God can give them. Some of these stories would be a thought-provoking way to start a conversation with Muslim friends and acquaintances.