One night Abdul* was at a party with a group of friends. Even though he had decided as a teenager to follow Jesus, and went to church on Sundays, the rest of the week he wasn’t living out his faith. It was about 3 a.m. when he started talking to a girl at the party. He didn’t know that she had a boyfriend who was a football player. Her boyfriend came in from another room and saw Abdul talking to his girlfriend and punched Abdul so hard he broke his jaw and fell to the ground.
As he was falling to the ground it felt like time slowed down. He heard the voice of God, “I’ve brought you out from a war-torn country and an abusive father and put amazing people in your life. You are not pursuing me like I have pursued you.”
His friends took him to the emergency room where he had an x-ray to see the extent of his injury. While Abdul was waiting to see the doctor, he and his friends were laughing in the waiting room. The doctor came to talk to Abdul with the x-ray in her hand and waved it in his face and said, “Do you know how lucky you are to be alive? If he had hit you two centimeters higher he would have pushed into your brain and you would be dead.”
After this radical experience, Abdul decided he wanted to know more about God. Abdul says, “I had been so stubborn, I wanted to have my Christian life and my party and gang life. But after I almost died, I wanted to learn more about God and to hear His voice. Also, even though my party friends took me to the hospital, during my long recovery from my broken jaw, they didn’t come around more. But my Christian mentors and friends did come to me and encourage me.”
Abdul had first met Christians when he was 9 years old, in 2009, when he and his mom and siblings came as refugees to the United States from a war-torn country in the Middle East. The other refugees they met in Syracuse, New York told them that there was a church that would give them furniture and blankets for their apartment. Since they didn’t have anything, they decided to go to the church for a few things.
Abdul described how it felt there, “Once we went into the church, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and calm. Coming from a war zone and growing up with abuse and neglect, I had never felt that kind of peace before. Everyone was so happy to see us and made us feel welcome. Originally, we just wanted to go to the church to get their help, but they were so kind, we kept going back. There was one older couple who would come visit us regularly and it felt like they became part of our family. They didn’t push their faith on us, but after several years I asked them why they were helping us and why they seemed peaceful and happy. They told me about Jesus. I had already decided that I wanted to have whatever they had in their life, and I realized that what I was missing was Jesus.”
Eventually Abdul and his mom and siblings moved to Detroit. There he met John Kirby (Navigators Nations Within) through a local soccer league. “Most of the other players practiced the religion I had known growing up, but I told John that I was a Christian. We became friends and I went to his church and started learning more about Jesus. But I still wasn’t wholehearted in my commitment, and I spent time with my partying friends, which got me into trouble. Yet John and other Christian mentors were there for me.
“As I was recovering from my broken jaw, I decided to follow God with my whole life, I attended a discipleship and evangelism training program another mentor had suggested. Now that I am back from that training, I am living in a house which is a home for refugees, some of whom practice other religions. Now I have a purpose in my life, to model Christ in the same way my mentors did for me when I was younger. I want to point people toward Jesus as the only hope for life.”
This article originally appeared on Via (June 21, 2023) by Ted Shimer Have you ever made a list of your discipleship essentials? What are those key qualities and convictions that you see as non-negotiables to build into the lives of those you disciple? What’s on your shortlist? After 32 years of college ministry, I’m more…
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