Pastor Umar Mulinde and his wife Evelyn in their church in Kampala, Uganda
“Pastor, can you help me?”
Those were the last words that Pastor Umar Mulinde, a thirty-eight-year-old former Muslim turned pastor and evangelist, heard before he felt the excruciating sting of flesh-eating acid meant to kill him, striking his face. Then, another bucket on his back. He screamed and ran back towards his church for help as his assailants cried out, “Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!”
I was able to sit down with Pastor Mulinde in a Tel Aviv hospital recently. He is here in Israel recovering from this attack that occurred in the parking lot of his church in Kampala, Uganda. It wasn’t the first time Muslims had tried to kill him. Since he converted from Islam he has been shot at, escaped from attempted stoning, and attacked by a man with a sword.
“I take the gospel to the Muslim community because I was born a Muslim. Most of the ministers in our congregation are ex-Muslims. Our issue is not hating Islam, but speaking the truth.”
Pastor Mulinde’s parents were staunch Muslims; his father built two mosques and served as a local Imam. He had numerous wives, marrying up to four at a time, then divorcing the older ones and remarrying. Umar is one of 52 children. He himself was a sheik (Islamic teacher) before he found the truth that salvation is found in Jesus alone. When he came to faith, his family drove him away with clubs and machetes.
“Just think!” Umar exclaimed. “Only 12.5% of Ugandans are Muslims and 80% regard themselves as Christians. And 30% of the people are real born-again believers. But Uganda is considered an Islamic state and is regarded as a member of the UN Organization of Islamic States.
“The Muslims hold great power. Why? Because Muslims are united to do evil. But the Church is not united to do good.” (Of course, believers face the enormous challenge that persuades many of Uganda’s political leaders to bend over backwards towards Islam the massive amounts of money given by oil-rich Muslim nations with the goal of Islamizing the people.)
Umar now has a congregation of 1000 people with about 35% of his membership former Muslims.
Mulinde is known for debates locally and internationally in which he often challenges Muslims regarding their religion. His extensive knowledge and ability to quote the Koran in his preaching has won him friends and enemies. Often contesting the principles of Islam, he has relied on police protection during revival campaigns throughout Uganda.
“Mulinde poses a big threat to Muslim extremists who cannot convincingly challenge the truth as he engages them in debate,” said Dr. Joseph Serwadda, an area church leader.
HANGING OVER THE LAKE OF FIRE
Twenty years ago Umar heard a man preaching out of the Koran and the Bible! This man did not have a Muslim background, but he said an angel came to him in the night and would teach him the Koran in Arabic so he could defend the Gospel to Muslims while countering the fundamentals of the Koran.
The preacher told the people that Jesus is more glorious than Mohammed. Umar was convicted by the message but he was afraid to leave the teachings of Mohammed because of extreme pressure in Muslim homes never to leave Islam.
He explained: “There is a lot of persecution for Muslims who attempt to convert to Christianity. The fear of being killed is intended to scare other Muslims who might be willing to do the same.”
“Islam is more than a religion or faith,” Umar emphasized. “It is a family bond. Therefore, conversion from Islam to Christianity makes you a family outcast who deserves death.” So for many years Umar believed that Christianity and the Bible was the truth, but fear kept him bound.
One night Umar had a dream where his hands and legs were tied with chains and he was hanging over the Lake of Fire together with many others. In fact in this dream he recognized many people from his own mosque. The pain of fire covered him from every direction.
“And then, a man stood at my right hand outside the fire. I knew He was shining even though I could not see his face. He said, ‘Islam is leading you to this torture. Be born again and you shall survive.’”
This same dream came to Umar a number of times. He had been taught in Islam when you have a bad dream, you are to pray a specific prayer against it. “I was running to Allah to help me avoid this bad dream.” However the dream returned; Allah could not help him.
Throughout the week, Umar continued to dream this dream. “Then I remembered how I heard the preacher once say I could pray in the name of Jesus and something would happen. This time I did not pray the Muslim prayer against bad dreams. This time I knelt down and I said, ‘God if you are there and you are the one who wants me to be born again, I pray that this dream does not come back tonight.’ That night I slept like a baby. The dream did not come back!”
The next morning just happened to be Easter Sunday. He went to the church led by this man who preached to Muslims, even though he knew if he were discovered, this would cause outrage within his family. “That day I gave my life to Yeshua and was born-again.”
As he went forward people were shocked because they knew he was a Muslim sheik (teacher). “As I left the church, I saw three friends. When they saw me, they went and told the Imam and then they came to my house to beat me.” They confronted Umar next to a bar but as they were about to beat him, a bunch of drunks came out of the bar and defended him saying, “It is his choice (to leave Islam)!”
After this he was excommunicated from his family and was forced into hiding. They declared him dead. In fact, had he entered his home they could have legally killed him under Islamic law, because in their eyes he was already dead. Fortunately the church took care of him and taught him the Word of God.
Umar was hungry to grow in his new faith. He went to Bible school and was ordained for ministry. He began to serve as an evangelist and over the years has won thousands to Messiah. He and his team would hold mass campaigns and tens of thousands of people would come to stadiums to hear him preach the Gospel. After much success in evangelistic work, he birthed a church in Kampala, the largest city in Uganda.
In his words, “After I converted, I got threats. Once I went into ministry, the threats increased. When I became a pastor, the threats increased [even more]!”
From the moment that Pastor Umar became a follower of Jesus, he faced heavy condemnation. Islam does not allow for conversion and in some countries leaving Islam for Christianity is punishable by death. Just like the pastor in Iran who is facing the death sentence for leaving Islam, Umar was a marked man.
When he ministers publicly he always needs police protection. However on this occasion, he was in a place where he felt safe his own church.
On December 23, 2011, he saw 300 people receive salvation. Pastor Umar felt it was appropriate to celebrate with a huge party on Christmas Day for these 300 because, as he explained it to me, “The Bible says when one receives salvation there is a celebration in heaven.”
On Christmas Eve he was at his church, Gospel Life International, helping with the final preparations for the party. “At about 10:00 p.m. I went to my car to drive home. As I was about to open the car door, somebody approached me saying, ‘Pastor, can you help me?’”
Pastor Umar had a check in his spirit that something wasn’t right. “My mind wanted to help the man, but my heart refused.”
He quickly opened his car door. At that point the man threw a bucket of acid on him, burning half his face. Had he turned toward the man to help him, the terrorist would have been able to throw the acid directly on his face and the damage would have been far worse, almost certainly blinding or even killing him. However, another attacker threw a second bucket of acid on his back as they both yelled praise to Allah.
Instinctively, Pastor Umar had opened the large door to his four-wheel drive vehicle and his body was protected from some of the acid. “It could have finished me,” pastor Umar explained. “I could have been worse than what I am.”
Church members and a nearby neighbor rushed him to the hospital. He lay in a hospital bed in unbearable pain, fighting for his life.
After two days it became clear he would need medical attention beyond the capabilities in Uganda. In his heart of hearts, he wanted to come to Israel where he knew the medical care would be much better. However, because there is no Israeli embassy in Uganda, the only other option was that his wife would travel to Nairobi, Kenya, where there is an embassy—but that would take four days. He did not believe he could live that long.
Within a day he received a visa to India, which seemed to be the best available option to save his life. By the time he arrived in India, his condition was so bad he could not talk or walk and his right eye was blind.
In New Delhi, through a series of miracles outlined in the next article by Umar himself, he was able to quickly get a visa to Israel.
Once in Israel the doctors cleaned his wounds, administered pain medication, and then began the lengthy process of plastic surgery. They determined his right eye had been too badly damaged and had to remove it.
Umar believes there are four reasons the Muslims targeted him:
- Because he left Islam and became a believer in Jesus.
- Because he preaches the good news of Jesus to Muslims—with great success.
- Because he was instrumental in the Ugandan government refusing to establish Sharia law in parts of Uganda.
- Because he boldly challenges the people of Uganda to support Israel.
“I teach my congregation to support Israel. There is a lot of biased information against Israel. For instance, if there is a rocket from Gaza to Israel, that is not news. An Israeli school is bombed—that is not news. But when Israel seeks to defend herself—that is very big news,” opines Pastor Mulinde.
“It’s as if people do not concern themselves with the death of Jews, but if Jews want to do anything to defend themselves, everyone is against it. We are Christians and must tell the people the truth about Israel.”
I asked him point blank if he plans to change or tone down his support for Israel or efforts to reach Muslims. “I cannot quit because of this. I will continue doing the work of the Lord. This was not the first attack — the other attacks simply had not been successful.” He then quoted John 16:2, “The time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.”
His attack has become a national issue in Uganda because it was clearly a terrorist attack. There is no doubt that God will prevail and use this assault to advance His Kingdom. Even as I wrote this article, the BBC interviewed him with a medical mask covering his head. He told how the attack came because he converted from Islam to Christianity.
The report of the attack is simply a news item, but the fact that the subject of his conversion to faith in Jesus Christ is an integral part of his story, speaks volumes to other Muslims who are afraid to leave Islam. He reminds me of Paul who said that his chains “actually served to advance the gospel.”
I am looking forward to visiting Pastor Mulinde’s church in Kampala in the future and bringing the word of the Lord from Jerusalem to these ex-Muslim believers who love us so much. Without doubt, this brother and his family are in need of much prayer.
How would you feel knowing your physical appearance has been irreversibly marred for life? Your face is discolored, your eye is destroyed and your lips have been ripped open. Mulinde sees these scars as a sign that he has given his life for the gospel. Shortly after the attack he told a reporter, “I bear the marks of Jesus.”
Just a few weeks ago we invited Pastor Umar to come and share with our congregation in Tel Aviv. In the middle of his message he pulled off his hood revealing a terribly disfigured face and blinded eye.
It was hard to watch. He said, “I was a beautiful African man and now my face is disfigured. My right eye has been blinded. Not because I am a thief—not because I am a criminal—but because of my love for Jesus and because when I became a Christian I began to promote the support of Israel in my country.”
His wife Evelyn, an accomplished gospel singer in Uganda who has stayed by his side most of the last three months in Israel, recently returned to Uganda to care for their six children and to continue in ministry.
When I was a Muslim, I hated Israel. I didn’t know where Israel was on the map but I had been taught since a child, “Never make a Jew your friend!”
You have to understand that because I was born into a Muslim family, a significant part of my education was to hate all Jews.
But in 1993, all that changed. I became a Christian at the age of 20 and my life was turned upside down. I loved God. I loved the Bible. And I saw that the God of the Bible highly regards Israel! In fact, He calls Himself the God of Israel. I began to study about God’s people the Jews and that there was a plan for Israel in the Bible. I realized that Islam had lied to me.
In 2008 I purposed to travel to Israel and see for myself this people whom God had given such great promises.
I had read in the news that Israel was a racist nation. I can say, unequivocally, it is not true! When I arrived here, our first bus driver was an Arab and our guide was a Jew. I saw that the workers in the hotel were Arabs. I saw that Arabs were free in Tel Aviv and free in Jerusalem. This was different from what I had been taught.
My Islamic teachers had taught me that Israeli Arabs were battered and abused—like prisoners within the Jewish nation. I had no idea Israel had Arabs serving in the Knesset (parliament) and working as politicians, police officers and judges all over the country. In fact, an Arab even serves on the Supreme Court.
I came to the realization that true believers who love the Bible must love Israel and I felt God gave me an assignment to learn more about His chosen people.
While in Israel I read a copy of the Israel Today magazine. In it was an advertisement offering an on-line history course about Israel. I took my credit card out and signed up for the course.
However, for some reason I couldn’t understand, my Ugandan credit card wouldn’t go through. Perhaps it was because I was in a foreign country from where my card was issued. At any rate, I wanted the course so much that I called on the telephone to the U.S. phone number in the ad.
A lady named Andrea of Jerusalem Online University answered and I told her I wanted to sign up for the history course, but for some reason my credit card wouldn’t go through. She asked me why I wanted to take the course, and I told her I was an ex-Muslim and was now a Christian pastor, and I was teaching my people in Uganda to love the God of Israel and the people of Israel.
Andrea was very moved, and told me that not only would she sign me up for the course but she would give me a scholarship which she did.
In the course were many videos about Israel which I asked Andrea for permission to show to my church. And then I started showing the videos in campaigns I was holding telling the people how as a Muslim I hated Israel but now I love Israel because I know the truth.
I obtained short films that showed all the good that Israel was doing in the world and began to show them at large campaigns to tens of thousands of Ugandans.
Every Monday I would meet with people at my church after work for three hours to pray for Israel and teach what the Bible says about her.
I told Andrea what was happening and she was very happy. She introduced me by Skype to other Jewish people and I made a number of friends although I had never met them in person.
Last year I sponsored a conference with 5,000 pastors in the Kampala stadium, speaking about Israel. I also organized a petition in Uganda garnering 360,000 signatures, which successfully stopped the establishment of Islamic courts (Sharia law) in Uganda. The Muslims issued a Fatwa (death sentence) against me.
All this infuriated the Muslims and clearly the acid attack was connected to my Christian faith and my love of Israel.
And then the fateful day, December 24, 2011. A man walked behind me to my car, shouted “Allahu Akbar!” and threw acid on my face and body. I felt like I was on fire. Members of my church took me straight to the Mengo hospital about 45 minutes away. Since it was Christmas Eve there was no doctor there, but I heard people all around yelling, “Pastor Mulinde is here! Pastor Mulinde is here!”
I was in excruciating pain. I could not see and I felt I was going to die. A nurse had the presence of mind to start throwing water on me, but by this time even my suit and tie were in shreds, having been eaten up by the acid.
I said to them, “The pain is too great!” They gave me an injection and put me to sleep. All night long, my wife Evelyn talked with other pastors and members who were coming to the hospital. They were discussing what should be done with me and all agreed I needed to get to a better hospital. So in the morning they took me to the International Hospital, the best hospital in Kampala.
Even though it was Christmas Day, the proprietor, a Christian man, immediately called all the necessary doctors and surgeons to the hospital who began to work on me.
Meanwhile, news of the attack with the assailant screaming “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is greater) was in virtually every newspaper in Uganda. They all reported that I, a former Muslim, was now a Christian and I was teaching the people to love Israel.
I felt like I was continually on fire, but I was still able to think. With all that was going on, I was told that a Muslim doctor tried to get access to my hospital room but was stopped by vigilant members of my church. We couldn’t take any chances as he could easily give me an injection of poison to kill me.
When I heard my friends saying, “We must get the very best hospital for the pastor,” I thought in my heart: “I know Israel has the best medicine.” But how could I get there? And I knew that Israel was very expensive.
Of course, America also has the finest medical care. But because of the Christmas holidays, the American Embassy was closed, so there was no chance of applying for a visa there. I felt like I was dying, and everyone was searching desperately for a way to get me out of Uganda.
I knew for sure I wanted a place where no Muslim doctor could kill me so we decided India would be the best choice available. I was given a visa in one day.
The members and Christians brought gifts of money and my wife and I were able to purchase tickets, and we left for Mumbai on December 31 and arrived the next day.
We went by faith, having only $1,000 for the hospital. People said they would send funds for my hospital costs. But when I got there, to my dismay, I found that the head doctor who was supposed to do an operation on me was a Muslim. Again, I felt my life was in danger and I had to get out of there.
The Indian doctors had begun to tend to the deep burns and bandaged my head for the first time. As soon as I began to function, I began thinking of my connections I had made when I went on my first trip to Israel in 2008.
While I was still in the Kampala hospital I had sent a short email to Andrea telling her what had happened, and that I would so much love to come to a hospital in Israel, but I am from a third-world country and I don’t have money to pay for expensive medical treatment.
She wrote me back immediately and told me how sorry she was to hear of the attack, and that she would try to help. She began contacting people in Israel about a visa.
On the third day that we were in India, I opened up my email and found a letter from Andrea. A friend of hers had contacted the Israeli embassy in New Delhi and they agreed to give me a visa. Furthermore, the Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv, Israel’s most comprehensive hospital, would provide me with world-class skin and eye treatment free of charge.
But we were in Mumbai and New Delhi was far away. What could we do? We didn’t have money for tickets on hand.
My wife called the Israeli embassy. They said, “We have your visa ready for you.” But Evelyn explained, “The plane does not arrive until 2:00 p.m. and the embassy closes at 12:00 noon.” The representative told her, “I will wait for you.”
Then to our amazement there on our computer were email tickets to New Delhi sent to us by people who had never heard of us, even before we paid for them.
Still, we thought, when we arrive in New Delhi, we have no idea where we are to go. But as we got off the plane, there was someone waiting to pick us up and who took us to the embassy. We had our visas in less than 30 minutes.
The owner of the travel agency that had sent us the air tickets, then took us to her home where we met other Israelis and we spent the night in our host’s home. We had a little savings back home carried on my visa card and it was enough to cover the tickets to Israel.
Early in the morning, they took us to the airport and put us on the Royal Jordanian airline. We arrived in Amman, Jordan and connected to the Jordanian flight going to Tel Aviv. Again, someone was there to put us on a bus so I wouldn’t have to walk and placed us on the plane before the other passengers arrived.
On January 5, we arrived at Ben Gurion Airport; a representative from the hospital greeted us and put me in an ambulance to get us through customs. And then straight to the hospital.
Upon my arrival in Israel, I found that journalists had already heard I was coming and had published articles about the attack, and my coming to receive medical treatment here.
Dr. Yosef Haik, in charge of the Burn Unit at Sheba, became my physician. They first began to clean my wounds, took off all the burnt skin and grafted on new skin.
Then they removed my blinded eye.
I learned later that Andrea is an Orthodox Jew, and she and two rabbis were the ones who pushed through all the arrangements for me to come to Israel to receive medical care. One of the rabbis came by to visit me as soon as I arrived and prayed a blessing over me.
Please pray for my wife and six children from ages 14 to 3. We want our children to know that God will protect them because He is greater than Allah. And we want them to know that we will not hate Muslims, but believe God for their salvation.
And please pray with me for complete healing which only God can do. I believe that I now have an additional assignment from God to help wake up the Church as to the purposes of Islam.
The religion of Islam has a supreme goal to dominate the world. Whether Muslims are Shi’ites or Sunnis, politically or militarily active, the Koran teaches that Islam’s mission, its duty and its task is to conquer the world.
Islam will not settle for just being another religious faith, for the very essence of Islam demands world dominance.
An Islamic world empire remains the unwavering primary goal of this religious society.
I know. I was once a Muslim.
Passover is the most celebrated Jewish Holiday among Jews throughout the world. In Israel, most Israelis celebrate together with their families or close friends.
However, there are always some who prefer to share the Messianic version of the Passover Seder (meal) in their congregation. Also, Messianic Jews love to bring their non-believing family or friends to a Messianic Seder.
We had an intimate Seder with our youth leader, Motti Cohen leading the Seder, beautifully explaining the meaning of Passover—deliverance from physical slavery in the Old Testament, and spiritually slavery through the blood of the Lamb of God, Yeshua.
The Mayor of Kiryat Gat, Avarice Dahari (right), thanks Ari for the gifts for his people, and speaks of other ways Maoz can strengthen the youth from the poorer sections of the city.
This year, Maoz has returned to Kiryat Gat to bless 137 families with NIS 350 approximately $100. As we handed them the certificates for groceries, we felt immense honor to help these Jewish “pioneers” who left their birthplace most from the Former Soviet Union to come to an unknown land with an unknown (to them) language.
They came to help rebuild the state of Israel. And now they find their homes in range of thousands of rockets launched periodically from Gaza terrorists. And besides all that, as an immigrant area, their town is experiencing unusually high unemployment.
The good news is that their children are receiving an Israeli education and growing up with the Hebrew language. The new generation will have a much better chance of finding work and contributing to the nation. But for now, we have the privilege of helping these pioneers.
As we passed out the gifts, we thought about you who have given to the poor through istandwithisrael.com. What an honor you have bestowed upon us to give us the opportunity to take your gift and create such joy and thanksgiving for these families.
Thank you! Thank you Maoz partners! YOU made it possible!
What legacy would you like to create?
What values do you want your life to reflect and by which you’ll be remembered?
Do you feel passionate about any of the following?
- Reaching out with the Gospel and changing the hearts of the Jewish people
- Mentoring young Israeli leaders to prepare them for the coming harvest of souls in Israel
- Helping the orphan & widow among Messianic Jews in Israel
- Blessing the Israeli Messianic Community
The good news is you can do all of the above through adding MAOZ to your will. At the same time you can ensure that your family has what they need for the future.
“Good people leave an inheritance to their grandchildren…” Proverbs 13:22 (NLT)
In the U.S. and Canada call Christy Wilkerson at 800.856.7060
In Great Britain call Dan Delap at 208.692.2831