Miraculous Movements
16 January 2015
I recently finished reading the book Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims Are Falling in Love with Jesus by Jerry Trousdale, director of International Ministries for CityTeam International.

Before I had cracked it open, I somehow had the idea that it was a book full of stories about how Muslims are becoming followers of Yeshua (Jesus). While it is true that about half the book shares such stories, they are used as examples of the principles and techniques for effectively reaching Muslims with the Gospel, which comprise the rest of the book. So I was a little bit disappointed by that, but it was due only to my wrong expectations.

I was also a bit disappointed, especially at the beginning of the book, that the author seemed to be overly-promoting the organization he is a leader in. I suppose that that is understandable, but it started to feel like the book was more about them than it was about Yeshua and Muslims finding Yeshua. But as I persevered, the book got more interesting and that feeling of self-promotion lessened.

This book is definitely worth reading! Even if you have no interest in Muslims or reaching them with the Gospel, you should read it! Hopefully God will use it to change your heart and give you the same love and concern that He has for Muslims.

As the daily headlines in the news so loudly proclaim, the Muslim world is the center of attention. Rather than reacting with fear, mistrust and hate, Yeshua calls His followers to lay down our lives, figuratively and even literally, so that Muslims might be saved from the demonic impostor-god Allah, and have a loving relationship with Father God.

There is so much great content in this book that you really need to get your own copy and read the whole thing. But for now I’ll share a couple of stories to whet your appetite:
Wasim had been prepared for many years to accept the role of a paramount chief in his country. It was his right of heritage. He was the senior son of his father. His Muslim training was excellent; he even spoke and read some Arabic. His path was secured for a lifetime appointment to lead his people. But before that could happen, Wasim’s life had taken a turn that he had never expected: he had become a Christian. In 2006, he received training in Disciple Making Movements and he decided to take the gospel back to his homeland.

Sometimes Wasim wondered if his resolve would hold when the time came to reveal his new faith to his family and turn down the inherited position of chief. But when the day came after his father’s death, he shocked his family and the whole community when he said, “I cannot accept this position.” That decision created many problems for him, as his Christian faith was fully exposed and his people felt that he had turned his back on them for a foreign religion.

Wasim eventually became a church pastor in another area of his country where he was not known. In this new place, he could get away from the troubles at home and be just an ordinary person again. His challenge in this new area, however, was no less severe than the one he had faced at home, because his new region was 97 percent Muslim. Wasim decided that God was calling him to utilize what he had learned from his Bible studies regarding making disciples in the communities around his town, so he began to survey the areas. And he knew that he would never get into any of the Muslim villages as a pastor. He had to set aside his “credentials” once again and approach these people as a friend.

So his research began. He spent each day walking, as far as fifty kilometers from his town, exploring places to plant the gospel. He didn’t own a car or motorcycle or even a bicycle; he called his mode of transportation “leg-mobile.” Wasim eventually discovered a community thirty kilometers from his town that seemed like the right place, and he began spending most of his time there. He enjoyed the people there but, as he spent more time with them, he discovered that, because their town was so remote, they lacked access to simple resources needed to make life a bit easier. They even resorted to making do without the most basic, inexpensive resources, simply because they were too far away from the town where they could purchase these items, and they were suffering as a result.

So Wasim made mental notes of the kinds of things that they needed and, with the little money he had, he walked all the way to town and bought those supplies, walked back to the village — thirty kilometers each way — and sold those items to the people for very little profit. And every time people purchased something, Wasim smiled his infectious grin and said something like, “Do you know that God really loves you?” It required a great sacrifice on his part to make the long walks back and forth to the town, and he was barely surviving on the money he earned from the sales, but he was making many friends. And after two or three weeks of this, his encouraging words became the main reason that people bought small things from him, rather than the price or availability.

But he had learned a secret in his disciple-making training: if you want to touch a Muslim’s heart for the gospel, you have to be a genuine friend. You need to ask God to give you honest concern for them, not see Muslims as trophy conversions, but as people whom God loves and whom you can love as well. And Wasim was good at that. One thing was sure: the people of the village were very happy, and others were coming from the nearby villages to meet the kind man who had befriended them.

After some time, the chief of the village approached Wasim with a surprise. “We have seen you in this community; you have been with us. We don’t know you or where you are coming from, but the way we are seeing you is like you are someone sent from God to help us overcome our problems. What can we do for you?”

Wasim had wondered if God would provide a breakthrough for him in this village. He had prayed for that breakthrough for weeks, and now a door was opening. He replied, “The only thing I want you to do that would make me very happy is for you, sir, and your people to let me tell you about the God I serve, to tell you true stories about God, beginning with the creation of the world.”

And the chief said, “This is nice, and tomorrow I will give you a chance to talk to my people. If people are willing to listen, I will give them my permission.”

So the following morning, the chief called the people of the village to the community’s courthouse and invited Wasim to speak. Wasim began to share the story of creation, allowing the people time to reflect on the things he shared. It was clear to the listeners that this was not going to be just storytelling; Wasim was asking them to think, to reflect on what his words would mean for their lives if they were true. Eventually, he asked them this question: “God said to Adam, ‘You have access to eat from every tree, everything in this garden; but the one in the middle of the garden, you are not to eat it, because if you eat it, you will die.’ But Adam sinned, yet he did not die. So why do you think God would say that and then not kill Adam and Eve immediately?”

The village discussed this among themselves for some time and then settled on an answer: “Because God loves us.” And Wasim said, “It is that love that has also prompted me to come to this village, to stay with you, regardless of who I am.” As he continued to share stories from the Bible, Wasim led the people in this same discovery process that moved them to a deeper understanding of the nature of the God of the Bible. And at every point of discovery, there was a call to begin obeying everything they were learning about God.

Eventually, Wasim came to the stories in the Bible concerning Jesus, and the people were ready by then to comprehend that, because of God’s love for mankind, He sent His Son Jesus to come and die for us. Wasim helped the people to understand that if they were willing to give their lives to Jesus, He would set them free.

At this point, the Muslim chief got up and said, “I and my community are willing to give our lives to Jesus.” The people of the community said the same thing, and that day sixty-eight men and women were baptized. The discipling of those people continued as they learned about prayer and fasting, and obeying God in everything. Even those who did not read and write received special training in oral Bible stories and Scriptures, and they, too, became strong disciples. Today, this church is very strong, and it has planted seven other churches. Eight total churches exist simply because one man said no to being a chief, and a chief said yes to hosting a stranger.

Wasim grew in effectiveness in making disciples and training many other leaders, and he eventually transferred to a very difficult region of the Muslim world where it is forbidden to proclaim the gospel or to leave Islam — both under penalty of death. Yet Wasim and his colleagues have coached a few other Christian ministries who had previously tried to engage that region but had experienced very limited success.

Wasim once described their situation this way: “They had been trying without success in this area before our coaching. They were not successful. But we told them, ‘You are looking at Muslims as the enemy.’ We told them that you don’t have to look at Muslims as enemies. If you want them to follow Jesus, then you have to go to them, live with them, let them know you love them. When you show them love, you will find men and women of peace whose hearts are changing.

“And most of the churches and ministries we coach have started practicing that, showing love to Muslim communities. And because of that, they have been able to enter into some communities that you would never think possible. That has helped them to start Discovery Bible Studies in those communities. You will not be able to start a visible church there at first, but you can launch Discovery Bible Studies that become underground churches.”
Riyad was a Muslim imam, the man who called people to prayer at four local mosques. He was a respected man in his community, one whose counsel was regularly sought out in all sorts of community disputes. He was personally responsible for teaching the Qur'an to nearly fifteen hundred people, but this was not where his zeal lay. He had committed himself to one overall task in life: to rid his town of all Christians and to do his utmost to destroy the Christian church in his native land.

Riyad used his official capacity as an imam to further his private agenda. He would collect alms from his followers, but he would not turn the money over to his four mosques; instead, he used it to purchase supplies for making bombs. He would secretly lead raids on Christian churches and private homes, sometimes burning them to the ground, sometimes detonating bombs, sometimes simply vandalizing and intimidating. He was a very bold man, afraid of nothing, and he had a great capacity for hate, all of it directed toward the message and followers of Jesus Christ.

He did not openly commit these acts of violence, but such matters are not easily concealed, and the people of his region knew full well who was responsible for the ongoing reign of terror. Government officials, however, turned a blind eye on the matter because of Riyad’s powerful influence among Muslims in his area. And his Muslim followers didn’t see anything particularly reprehensible in his acts; extremism in the cause of Allah was hardly a vice in their eyes. The only people who openly responded to Riyad’s deeds were his victims, the Christians.

And here is what the Christians did: they prayed for him. They organized prayer campaigns throughout the region, holding all-night prayer meetings to ask God to either change Riyad’s heart or remove him from the area. They made no secret of this, but openly told others how they were praying.

“If something of yours gets stolen and you don’t know who took it,” Riyad told us recently, “you call your neighbors and family together and collectively curse the thief. You ask Allah to bring punishment on the thief’s head and send plagues and disease and death upon him. But while I was burning and destroying and killing against the Christians, the Christians were praying for me. ‘Oh Lord,’ they’d say, ‘please call this man to your kingdom,’ crying for me and praying. I would hear them as they walked on the road, praying aloud! ‘Ah, these people are crazy,’ I said. ‘I am going to destroy them again and again! Why are they praying for me? Instead of defending themselves or casting curses on me, they bless me!’”

Then one day, Riyad met some Christians who asked him to study the Qur'an with them. Riyad was always interested in studying the Qur'an, especially if he thought that he could persuade Christians to become Muslims. But these new friends began to gently ask Riyad to explain the many passages in the Qur'an that speak of people mentioned in the Bible, including Jesus. They talked for hours and hours about Abraham, Noah, Moses, and also about Jesus, but the one who was learning was the one who thought he was teaching. Gradually, over a period of time, Riyad began to change.

“I began to realize,” he now says, “that these men could never have understood about God unless He had revealed truth to them, and as a result, I started to change my ways. Then I began to discover verses from the Qur'an, showing how Jesus is the gift from God, He is the sign. I knew those verses already, but I had never understood them. But now I began to see: it says that God will ‘make of him [Jesus] a revelation for mankind and a mercy from Us [God].’” (Qur'an 19:21)

Eventually, his friends begin to help bridge Riyad from the Qur'an to the Bible, and everything became clear. He turned his life over to Jesus Christ, but he did not lose his zeal; the Lord merely redirected it. Soon after becoming a Christ follower, he went to one of his mosques as he had always done. Hundreds of people were gathered there, waiting for him to come and lead them in their prayers. He stood in front of them and said, “Listen, Jesus is the grace and the truth from God! Unless we follow Him, we cannot go to Jannah [heaven]. So you must come after Jesus if you want to inherit God’s kingdom.”

The people, needless to say, were shocked to hear such words from their imam. The moment he finished speaking, the people leaped up, surrounded him, and forced him to the ground. They tied his hands behind his back with scarves, then began to collectively beat him and kick him where he lay. Some ran into the street and screamed, “Our imam has become crazy! He has gone mad!” Those beating him shouted, “Who made you leave Islam? Why have you become a Christian? Did they bribe you? Drug you?”

The crowd held him prisoner until three in the morning, but they finally let him leave rather than killing him. Riyad fled the village, and the next day a crowd swarmed his house, stealing whatever they could carry and destroying the rest, including the house itself. But Riyad grew in his faith and understanding, and the Lord used him in powerful ways to lead many sheikhs to Christ. Again, like Paul, the man who violently persecuted the people of Christ became a committed follower of Christ, all because some Christ followers were willing to take the risk of reaching out to a difficult and dangerous person.

We asked Riyad how Christians ought to respond to Muslims, and here is how he answered:
  1. Never hate Muslims. My message to Christian brothers and sisters is first to choose to love Muslims. Even though they persecute us, hate us, and harm us, we should love.
  2. We must pray for them. Pray for Muslims with love, because they don’t understand what they do.
  3. Demonstrate genuine compassion. Serve them, even to the point of sharing what we have with Muslims, even though we may previously have seen them as our enemies.
  4. Share the gospel. Christians need to understand the issues of darkness and help Muslims discover for themselves the truth and the light.
  5. Always remember that Muslims are in darkness. Before I was a believer, I was in darkness, but now I’m in the light. Unless God opens people’s hearts to what they do, they can’t understand the light. They don’t even know what they are doing, because of their darkness. Only God can show them. We collect the harvest, but it is Jesus who brings Muslims to Himself.
For more stories like these, be sure to get your own copy of Miraculous Movements. I am really looking foward to reading the sequel, The Father Glorified: True Stories of God’s Power Through Ordinary People.