I tend to think of myself as a man of faith, but I have to admit I didn’t know what faith was until I heard Mohammad’s story for the first time last week. It’s a story of Biblical proportions, like the travels of Peter or Paul, and while I can’t begin to tell it all, I thought I might share a little of it here.
Mohammed, an Egyptian by birth, was raised in a strict Muslim family. He was taught to accept the teachings of the prophet Muhammad, and while still a young man, memorized the entire Koran. He trained hard and as an adult was favored to become part of Egyptian President Mubarak’s special guard.
One day, on his way to the mosque for prayer, he was stopped by a man who asked him a question. The man said, “Mohammed, you look like you’re doing everything right, you go to the mosque to pray five time a day, you live a clean life, so tell me, if you died today, would you go to heaven?” Mohammed thought it was a ridiculous question. No one could know for certain they were going to heaven. The best anyone could do was hope Allah favored them enough to let them in. The man challenged him to read the Bible, but Mohammed responded that he’d already read the Bible and was convinced it was not the word of God. Over a period of time he encountered the man again and again, each time asking questions the man couldn’t answer. The man finally told him he should read the Bible with a view toward seeking truth. Mohammed took him up on the challenge and this time, while reading the book of John, something connected. He realized that God wanted him to be his child, not a slave like he was to Allah. Mohammed read and studied on and soon discovered salvation was a gift, not something he had to earn. He finally felt compelled to commit his life to Christ.
But changing your religion from Islam to Christianity is illegal in Egypt. He told his new friend about his conversion, and while the man was overjoyed, he cautioned Mohammed to keep his faith to himself. Telling others would only bring pain. First he would lose his family and friends, they would not tolerate his being a Christian, then he would lose his job or any ability to earn an income, and finally he would lose his freedom, and possibly his life. But Mohammed could not keep quiet. It wasn’t long before everything he was warned would happen, came to pass.
His family tried their best to persuade him to recant but, when he refused, they determined to kill him. One night as he was crossing the street a car zoomed out nowhere and ran him down. He was rushed to the hospital where he was told his spine was severely damaged. They said they had to operate and, while they would do their best, it was likely he would never walk again. Fortunately, he had a Bible with him. He read in James where it said if the elders of the church pray and anoint with oil, the sick will be made well. He called his friend asking that the church elders come and pray with him, but they refused. To pray a Christian prayer with a person born a Muslim would lead to their arrest. Alone and feeling abandoned, Mohammed continued to seek the Lord. He found another part of the Bible where Jesus said to a blind man: “Thy faith has made thee well.” So he decided to trust God for his healing. Three days later he walked out of that hospital without having an operation of any kind.
Mohammed was also engaged to a devout Muslim girl who, while he was going through his transformation, was on a pilgrimage to Mecca. His new Christian friends told him he would have to break up with her because it was wrong to marry an unbeliever. He prayed about that too and asked God to change her heart knowing she would have to endure the same loss of family and friends. She also came to Christ. They were married and subsequently had a daughter they named Laura.
Two more times his family tried, but failed, to kill him. Once they stole his child and kept her hostage for three months threatening to raise her as a Muslim, but God miraculously enabled him to find little Laura and get her back.
Aided by an evangelical mission, they decided to move to Tunisia and become missionaries to other Muslims. God revealed to Mohammad that they were there to open ten new churches. They aligned themselves with several other missionaries and by working together, achieved the goal. They were just embarking on plans to open the eleventh when he was arrested for proselytizing. It’s illegal to convert Muslims in Tunisia, just as it is everywhere in the Muslim world. Separating him from his wife and child, they put Mohammed on a plane to be sent back to Egypt to face an Egyptian court where the minimum sentence was ten years in jail. Sally stood on the tarmac in a foreign country holding little Laura as the plane door closed. The engines were humming, warming up. Meanwhile, Mohammed was inside praying. Suddenly, the door opened again and a man came and took Mohammed off the plane. Reunited with is family, but confused, he was told he was free to go anywhere, but that they had to leave immediately. Apparently the order for his release had come from someone high up in the government. Unfortunately, when you carry an Egyptian passport there aren’t too many places you can go without first obtaining a visa. The only place open to them was Malta so they boarded the next flight out.
The plane to Malta had to touch down in Libya and when they arrived there, they were told they were being rerouted back to Egypt. Mohammed later found his release had been a sham. It turned out Tunisia was trying to maintain good relations with the West and didn’t want human rights violations on their record. They sent Mohammed to Libya knowing he would be detained and from there be sent back to Egypt to face arrest. The Libyans, still under the thumb of Momar Kadafi, didn’t care what anyone in the West thought. Mohammed, his wife Sally, and their child Laura, were removed from the plane and taken inside the airport to wait. By coincidence (or was it?) a friend of Mohammed's, a man he trained to be a security officer while still working for President Mubarak in Egypt, saw Mohamed in the airport and rushed over to greet him. As an expression of hospitality, the man hustled them out of the airport ushering them right through security without their passports receiving a Libyan stamp. Mohmmhad's friend didn't know anything about their situtation. He put them up in a five star hotel, and a few days later made sure they were comfortably back on a plane headed for Malta.
They arrived in Malta safely but once there encountered yet another obstacle. Without a visa, they could only stay seven days, and seven days wasn’t enough time to get a visa. Once again it looked like they were headed back to Egypt. They approached a man connected with a missionary organization for assistance, but he refused to help. Mohammed withstood him and told him God would supply the visas but the man said it was impossible. A week later they miraculously had their extended visas.
After much prayer, they felt called to move to Cypress. They arrived without knowing what God had in store but, upon touring an Iraqi refugee camp, knew God was calling them to start a church in the camp. “It’s impossible,” they were told. It had been tried before and failed, but God established and blessed that church. So much so, that once again they were asked to leave. They were given seven days to get out of the country and once again they found themselves without visas or anywhere to go. They decided to apply for a visa to England and again were told it would be impossible. Once again, a week later they had those impossible visas.
And I could go on, and on, and on, but space doesn’t permit, which is okay because Mohammed asked if I thought the story would make an interesting book, and I do, so stay tuned.
Today Mohammed and Sally Mohammed live in Orangeville, Ontario where God has called them to start “The School of Muslim Ministry.” The school receives applications from people around the world, bringing them to Canada to be trained in how to minister to Muslins in their own countries. In cooperation with Rod Hembree of "Quick Study" Television and thestreamtv.com, Mohammed and Sally also produce a half hour television program in Arabic called “Good Friends” which is streamed over the internet. Any Arab speaking person with a computer can now hear the gospel in his or her own language from anywhere in the world. Mohammed speaks in churches when invited, but accept a note of caution: he will not accept an honorarium or allow anyone to take up a collection. People are welcome to sponsor students who want to come to Canada and be trained, but as for Mohammed himself, he says, “I cannot take money from man for preaching the Word of God. God has always supplied my need, and He always will.”
And I thought I knew what it was to live by faith.