I gave my best to follow the moral instructions of Islam, predominantly because I believed that to make Jannah (heaven) my good works had to outweigh my bad. I went to the point of never shaking hands with any lady or even looking them in the eyes. That’s how far I went to stay pure.
My family seemed relatively peaceful until my mother encountered Jesus. Then my dad became an entirely different person. He fought her and eventually took a second wife – probably to spite her. But she followed Jesus still: a clear proof that she had found something of great worth.
My Mother’s Salvation Sowed a Seed
As much as I attended Arabic school, I also took Christian Religious Studies in both primary and secondary school. So I wondered what made my mother believe in the same Jesus that made no sense to me? How and why did she follow Someone she just met despite the persecution she received from my father?
I also felt it was unjust of my father to get a second wife – although this is acceptable in Islam.
How could a man love His two wives the same? I often questioned. Even I couldn’t love my friends the same.
I constantly mulled over these things till I left for the University, where I wasted no time in making friends with other devout Muslims like myself.
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Soon, I was touted to be the next Amin (head) of my departmental Muslim association. About the same time, I met Uncle Alan (pseudonym) and his wife, two Christian missionaries, from Navigators Nigeria, who changed my life. In them, I caught a clear glimpse of the life of the person I now know as Jesus. By their lives, they provided answers to my questions on how a man ought to love and respect his wife.
Uncle Alan challenged me in many ways; he challenged my beliefs about Jesus Christ but these still didn’t prove enough to make me accept Him.
A Sign from God
I fell very ill later that year and left school for home as a result. During my time at home, I consistently visited the clinic. And when I did, my mother never stopped confessing Jesus’ healing power over me – she did until I recovered. And as soon as I did, she invited me to a revival meeting in her church. This did not sit well with me but I went, most probably out of respect for her.
I made a heartfelt request on my way to the venue. I asked for a sign from God, to prove to me that Jesus was real.
And God wasted no time in responding.
I met an ongoing prayer session at the venue and hadn’t even taken my seat when the preacher – a woman I had never met – declared: “there’s a man here and God wants to give life to your dry bones”!
“Surely that can’t be me!” I thought, “I just got here!”
In no time, she had come off the stage, moved straight to where I was standing, somewhere at the back of the hall and led me to the front where I was then prayed for. This was God’s response to my request for a sign and it proved to me that He was reaching out.
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What Does Jesus Offer?
I returned to school eager to share my newly found faith with Uncle Alan. He listened attentively, then asked me a rather unsettling question. He wanted to know what I found in Jesus which made me believe in Him; what I would tell my dad when I met him with this truth. I suddenly felt foolish. Why exactly did I choose to believe in Jesus? What does He offer? I thought. So I got a sign that Jesus was real and accepted Him? Without really knowing who He was and what I was getting into?
Uncle Alan noticed my dilemma and helped me out. He showed me a place in the Bible – 1 John 5 verses 11 and 12 – which we read together.
And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
He taught me salvation from this passage in the Bible. Soon, I began quoting this verse whenever my friends asked why I decided to follow Jesus.And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.Click To Tweet
Changes began to occur shortly after my experience with Uncle Alan.
Remember I was to become the Leader of my department’s Muslim Association. Well, that didn’t materialize. I performed poorly in my first year in the university and was required to switch faculties – from Engineering to Sciences. This was a blessing in disguise, although it didn’t seem so at first. Moving to another faculty distanced me from some of the pressures I’d have faced as a potential Amin who switched faiths. It hurt to be known as a poor performer; I became withdrawn, felt bad about myself sometimes. Notwithstanding, the new set of friends which I made in the bible study group formed by Uncle Alan and his team gave me a renewed sense of belonging, and built me up in the truth of salvation.
That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation.
I came across Romans 10 verses 9, 10 and on February 6th, 2006, I, on my own, confessed Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. No one coerced me into doing this, and it gave me a new-found confidence in my walk with Jesus.
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Rescued from Flaws, Trained by Grace
As I journeyed with Jesus, I found the demands of the Christlike Life were way higher than what Islam required. Good news is, in Christ, we do not get to walk this walk alone, but by His help.
You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
I remember the conviction I felt when I came across the above verse. By the words in these verses, I realized I’d been sexually immoral all along, although I claimed to be chaste. The realization of who I was as described in this bible verse shook me to the core. That Jesus sought after my inward purity as much as He did my outward conduct overwhelmed me. He had offered Himself to have me find complete victory over sin.
Titus 2 verses 11, 12 also made me realize the need to lead a life of utmost purity as I expect Christ’s return.
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.
Lust wasn’t the only flaw I needed saving from – I also regularly got involved in exam malpractice. Jesus never condemned me for this, but He made sure I knew He felt ill about it. This proved enough to make me stop.
I could hardly write an exam without cheating until I heard Him speak.
I had sought assistance from a colleague during an exam, and immediately after I did, I heard: “Lana, can you preach Jesus to this lady after this exam?”
That was the turning point for me. I decided that very moment to quit the practice. I also decided to be amongst the first three students to get into every examination hall. This was to ensure I sat in front and had little opportunity to cheat, even if I felt pressured to. And God honoured this decision.
I had carryovers during my first, second and third year in the university. But in my final year, the year I ensured I was always amongst the first three to get into examination halls, and relied only on what I had read and the help of the Holy Spirit, I had no carryover; I was among the only 16 out of 203 students in my set who didn’t have to plead with the department to be allowed to graduate. This was a miracle, because of which a lot of my Muslim friends said to me, “if I had known, I would have followed this Jesus that you followed.”
Openly Proclaiming my Faith
For a long time after I had switched faiths, I never mentioned it to my dad. But after completing my National Youth Service Corps, I felt the leading to finally let him know. He had seen me read the Bible several times but didn’t exactly seem bothered. He was fine as long as I kept going with him to the mosque. What he wasn’t aware of was that I spent my time at the mosque worshipping Jesus, and praying for the salvation of Muslims around me.
When it was time to finally come out of hiding, I did. After I’d sufficiently prayed about it, I woke my dad one midnight in July 2011 and told him. These were my words: “I don’t want to give my life for Islam anymore. I’ve discovered that God loves us so much and sent His Son Jesus – the same you know as Isah. He did this in hope that we would come to Him in faith, follow Him, and be saved. That is the faith I am giving myself to.”
He was livid! He asked me to wake my brothers from sleep and he asked each of them if they also believed in Jesus. They gave a uniformly negative response, although it wasn’t entirely true. One of my brothers had also received Jesus’ salvation but wouldn’t make his faith known for fear of persecution.
My father denied me of several privileges I enjoyed in the past; he threatened to disown me. But I am grateful to God for the circle of friends and family I found in Him. They offered me much strength and encouragement. And in God’s Word, I found reasons to be at peace in these times.
My father doesn’t hate me, he never ceased to invite me to fellowship at the mosque. He paid me visits at work on Fridays and would often ask that I follow him to the mosque. I often went with him, but when I did, I spent my time there praying to Jesus. He still tried to control me but I knew my newfound identity wouldn’t allow that.
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As I proceed on this journey, I realize God wants me to reach out to many Muslims. There are several of them around me still, and I’m very intentional about making my life count towards this.
I also help many teenagers follow Jesus because I have found that being rightly discipled helps anyone follow God aright.
I see God working in the Muslim communities: there are many who secretly believe in Jesus as God’s Son. And I trust that with proper discipleship, they all would learn to work with God without fear or shame.
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