Sunday, 26 January 2014

Refugee for Christ- The story of Joshua

The following is a part of the story of Joshua who has been a refugee for the last 20 years primarily for converting to Christianity. Josh has discerned a call from God to seek out formal theological education. If you would like to support him please contact St. Timothy's. 

St. Timothy's Anglican Church 

8420 - 145 Street NW 
Edmonton, AB 
Canada T5R 0T2 
Ph: 780-483-5506 

It's an honour to be standing here and thanks again for sponsoring me. I am very grateful and thankful.

My family is a Muslim family. My father used to be an Imam, which is a Muslim leader. My destiny as a Muslim was to live as my father did and his grandfathers did. Islam to us is not only a religion it is a way of life. It's everything. It's a life and a law and a pride as the children of Abraham and of the prophet Muhammad, who was the founder of Islam.

This is how I became a Christian. It all started when I was five and a half years old, when my mom heard of a lady who could tell the future. In Islam people believe that anyone who has the power to tell the future has been given this power by God. (How she received this power is an amazing story.) My mom went to see that lady, and because I was five years old at that time she didn't want to leave me at home alone so my mom took me with her.

My mom asked her about my brothers’ and sisters’ futures and what they will become and what they will face, and when mom asked her about my future the blind lady said, “I can't see his future because he is going to another kingdom”.

When mom heard that she was shocked. Mom and I went home and I still remember my mom crying. My mom told my dad and they both were very sad. They both thought that I was leaving the kingdom of the living and was going to the kingdom of the dead. They thought I was going to die.

My dad suggested that I should study in the Islamic school so that if I died while I was studying there then I would go to paradise, but if I didn't die and God chose me to stay alive then that meant God chose me to be the next imam and take over from my dad leading the mosque .

My mom took me to a city where the shrine of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson is. She talked to an imam there. Later, she gave my little hand to him. I cried and screamed. I asked her to not leave me there. I promised her I would be a good boy. My mom cried and she left me. That man took me to a school, which was basically a big house where I saw a lot of kids my age and bit older studying the Koran. They memorize the Koran, study Islamic law, and Islamic history.

After a few weeks of crying I accepted that this was my new life. I started to memorize the Koran and study with the rest of kids in the school. Teachers used to hit our hands with a bamboo stick when any of the kids made a mistake.

My life was very hard at that school. I never saw my family. I even forgot what they looked like. We had very little food to eat, and we had a lot of beatings. My only dream at that time was to see beyond the school walls. I lived there for about seven years.

Seven years later the president of the school called me to his room and I saw another man there with him. The president of the school pointed at that man and said to me, “this is your father and he is here to take you home”. I went and kissed my father’s hand and left the room to take my books and the Koran with me. My father and I went home on the bus. We didn't talk much. He looked like a stranger to me. I forgot what he looked like after seven years in that school, but I was very happy that to be out of that school.

When I arrived home my dad opened the door, and I saw my family- my mother, sisters and brothers. I didn’t remember their faces, but it was a nice feeling to know that I was finally not alone and had a family that cared about me. It was beautiful day. That day we had a big meal and had lots of family and friends over to celebrate.

The following day my father took me with him to the mosque that he was leading, and he told me that from now on I would help him lead the mosque. He also told me that his father led this mosque and his father before him and that one day I would be leading this mosque. He asked me to teach a class of young children who wanted to memorize the Koran. I started teaching the kids who came daily to learn how to memorize the Koran. I made sure none of them were beaten like I was. I remember my father’s face full of pride and happiness when he saw me teaching in the class.

As I was teaching the Koran, I started to understand it more than when I used to memorize it. As I prepared for the next day’s class I would study the subject I was teaching. That's when I started to see all these verses in the Koran that spoke highly about Jesus. Many of these verses said that he is a good prophet and he is not the son of God, and other verses said he is the son of God.

When I found that I started to get confused and I started to ask myself how it’s possible for the Quran to have a mistake in it. Because it's a holy book that is written by God himself and the prophet Muhammad. When they asked Muhammad to prove that he is a prophet and show a sign from God just like Moses did he answered that his only sign from God is that the Quran has no mistake in it, and that if anyone found a mistake in it, then he is free to leave this religion.

I spent about four years teaching in the mosque helping my father, but at the same time during these four years I use to go back home at night and when I went to bed I used to speak with Jesus and ask him to come to me and help me understand God more and help me to know if Islam is the right way to God or if Christianity was the right way. Some verses in the Quran seemed to hint that Jesus was more than Islam wanted to admit and some verses seemed to contradict. The Quran was supposed to have no mistakes. If I have found a mistake in the Quran that means Mohammed has nothing stand on as prophet. That made me scared. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know if I should tell my family what I was thinking. I wondered if I told them if I would get beaten up, or if my family would stop loving me. To Muslims Mohammed is a holy subject and the teaching of Islam is unquestionable.

What the Quran said about Jesus made me wonder who this holy man was, and why he needed to die and rise again. I started to think that he must be more than just a prophet because no other prophet rose again, not even Muhammad himself. Then when I started to read more in the Quran I started to find many more words that spoke of Jesus. I truly started to love this man and that started me thinking, “If I change my religion and follow this man I will get killed”. The teaching of Islam says that if anyone left Islam then he must be killed by cutting his head off and if I managed to run away and not get killed then I would lose my family and my friends and my country and I would have to find another life. That’s if I was still alive. But, if I don’t follow Jesus I will lose eternity. Every night I would close my eyes and pray to Jesus and ask him to show me who he is and what he wants me to do and if he is the way to follow. I did that almost every night for about a year.

One night I went to bed after I talked to Jesus for a while then I fell asleep and I felt like I left my body. I believed I had died and was going to God to be judged. I was scared that I would go to hell because I didn’t believe I was holy. I started to cry and beg and pray to be returned home, but none of my prayer was heard. (There is much more to this dream, but I will keep it short). When I called on the name of Jesus and asked him to save me a light appeared, and then the light became a man in front of me. I saw both his hands bleeding and I asked him to save me. I said he was my last hope, and then he said “this man belongs to me”. Then I woke up in my bed terrified. I couldn’t move or speak. The following day I went to tell my mom. She told me not to tell anyone, and that it’s probably just a nightmare. But, in my heart I couldn’t forget that dream.

A few months later I become seventeen years old and the 1990 Gulf War started, the Iraq government asked very male between 17 to 55 to join the war, and anyone refusing to go would be shot to death. So I didn’t have much choice but to join the army. I went to the army center and my first day they gave me an oversized army uniform and an AK47 gun, and later that day they taught us how to use it. Then they put us in trucks and drove us into the desert.

When the war started we were bombed day and night and many of us died. I was injured and I saw a lot of people die. I was very lucky to be alive. All this made me wonder what would happen to me if I died. I thought I would die in this war. I knew that I had to take a step and tell my family that I am Christian, or I didn’t know where I would end up if I died.

When I got back home for a holiday, my father, like always, asked me to go to the mosque and pray with him and help him with his work, but in my heart I couldn’t do it. I knew in my heart that’s not what I was supposed to do. I belonged to Jesus and after almost a year and a half serving in the army I told my father that I am no longer Muslim and that I am a Christian now who believes that only through Jesus Christ heaven’s door will be open for us. I also asked him about his thoughts when he read the verses that spoke about Jesus in the Quran. My father became mad and he shouted at me and fought with me. He told me if I leave Islam it's leaving the family and am no longer part of this family and am no longer his son. I left home and went back to the army early.

About six months later my commanding officer asked me into his office. He asked me to have a seat and told me that he just got a call and that my father had passed away. I couldn’t believe it because I knew my father was very healthy. He had never been to the hospital as long as I remember. He never even complained about any sickness. My commanding officer gave me 3 days holiday to attend the funeral. I went, but I was not welcome at my father’s funeral. Many blamed me for my father’s heart attack. Food was brought to the tent, but I was not allowed to eat with them because in Islamic law nonbelievers can't eat with Muslims because the nonbelievers are unclean and if they eat with believer then food will be unclean too and Muslims will not eat it. Three days passed and no one spoke to me.

As I was leaving I went to say goodbye to my mom. She told me to not come back for a few months because my brothers had sworn to kill me. My father had been removed from his job as an imam (Muslim leader) after they discovered I left Islam. It was after this that he had his heart attack. When I heard that my father died because of me, the news was worse than when I first found out he had passed away.

When I finished my time with the army I wasn’t sure where I was going to go. I could not go back to my family. They hated me and wanted to kill me because I became a Christian. I had never even been in a church and I had never read the Bible, but I left Islam and I proclaimed my faith as follower of Jesus Christ. When I had finished my last day in the army the military police came and arrested me. I was shocked because I hadn’t not done anything wrong. They told me that I have been put under arrest because my family cancelled my citizenship and that I left Islam and became Christian.

I was in jail for about two months not knowing whether I would be killed, or if I would just stay there forever. Eventually they put me in a car and drove me seven hours to the border with Jordan. I was told that I was not allowed to stay in Iraq because I was no longer an Iraqi citizen. The Jordanian side refused to let me go in to Jordan because I didn’t have a passport. I was between the Iraq and Jordan borders for three days.

After three days sleeping at the border between Iraq and Jordan, the United Nations office in Jordan sent a representative to talk to me. They gave me an entry visa to enter Jordan. When I entered Jordan I had no money and I didn't know anyone. I hadn’t shaved my beard for three months and I looked like a homeless person. I was a homeless person. At night I used to look in the garbage bins to find food and I would find a garden to sleep in. It was a difficult time. I felt sorry for myself. I felt angry at my life. I asked myself if I was a bad person and if God hated me? After a few weeks I found a big box which became the room I slept in.

I was very unhappy and a very angry person and I had every reason to feel that way. One day I was very sad and angry and I started to talk to Jesus. I asked him if he was happy seeing me sleeping here being useless and if that's what he wanted me to do. I told him I gave everything to follow him. I gave my country and my family and even my citizenship to him and now I am homeless in a country where I know no one. Then I had the feeling that someone was talking to me telling me that he will give me a better country to call home, and a better family to call my family.

The rest of Joshua's story includes his journey from Jordan to Yemen, then to Malaysia, and finally to Macau (China) before he came to Canada

1 comment:

  1. We really have no idea the horors some people endure. I am blessed to be a Canadian and free to worship as God directs me.


Follow @RevChrisRoth