Before medical school I went to Africa for six months. By chance I ended up in a Muslim country and made a friend named Ousman. I had never met a Muslim before. Ousman was tall, very thin, wore faded blue jeans, always the same much worn shirt and had a patchy beard.
He carried a tiny amount of tobacco in a little piece of cloth and would occasionally roll his own cigarette.
Ousman asked to borrow my Bible and read it secretly through the night, asking me dozens of questions the next day. Throughout Ousman’s spiritual journey the Bible and the Holy Spirit did almost all the work on his heart. I was only of benefit when Ousman needed clarification and encouragement.
One day I met Ousman, with his tall head bowed toward the sandy path that we were walking. “There is a great struggle going on within me,” he said.
“I am so sorry,” I replied.
“Do not be sorry,” he smiled his great smile. “I know that God will win.”
A few days later, Ousman resolutely came to faith in Jesus and was baptized on the beach in front of his friends. Because he left the Islamic faith of his community, it cost him his relationship with his family, the trip to the USA that they had planned for him, any chance for further education, any chance for a good job in that city, most of his chance for a marriage and many of his friends. When he was baptized, he became an outcast.
Four months later I was at medical school in America and received a letter from Ousman (I still have the letter and re-read it whenever I need encouragement). He had traveled to some remote villages of his country to take the gospel to places where it had never been. In the first village, he was mistreated and beaten but in the second village they treated him well and listened to his message.
Try to imagine that. Ousman had been in Christ for about four months when he began preaching the gospel in hostile Muslim villages. But that isn’t the most amazing part. The most amazing part is that, after being beaten in the first village, he went on, by himself, and preached again in a second village.
Why was he driven to do something like that?
Why was Ousman compelled to take the gospel out of the city back into remote villages? How did he find the strength to persevere after he was beaten? How did he know how to do something like that? I certainly never taught him. I couldn’t have.
Prior to knowing Ousman, I had encountered oceans of ineffectual, weak-sauce Christians who sermonized and waved and sang about Jesus but never had I seen one baptized in front of a hostile crowd, never had I seen one sacrifice his economic future, seriously damage his chances of ever getting a wife, take a beating, and risk his life for the sake of Christ and the gospel. That is exactly what I saw from Ousman. Without any special training, without any seminary, even without a church, he had become everything that I had wanted to be as a disciple.
- Main point: The power of the gospel drew Ousman in to Christ and the power of Christ sent Ousman out with the gospel to villages that had never heard. This is the normal path of a disciple.
- So what: Are you there, yet? Does this describe you? I’d love to hear your thoughts. And please feel free to write to me in private if you prefer.