A Sabbath-keeping soccer goalie witnesses in the Middle East

Asim* is the goalie of his city’s team in a closed country of MENA. “Most of the people around me live for money, but I decided to live for God!” he testifies. It has affected his income though. At the time he joined the team he was the only Adventist in the entire region and his request to have Sabbath’s off were considered unreasonable. The managers flatly turned down his request.

“At first I was penalized when they realized I wouldn’t play on Sabbath. They cut my pay.  I prayed to God to help me be a good player anyway. I saw Him blessing me; I don’t get many scores against me.” Asim’s demeanor is humble, but the team could not get along without him. Eventually they decided to respect his convictions. “I never play on Sabbath though!” he adds.

But playing soccer for God isn’t his only witness.  He also teaches English and French in a school center.  “I decided to use that as a mission field as well and told my class about the Al Massira Bible series. I explained that it covers stories from the Tawrat, or Old Testament, and would help them build their English language skills.” He confesses they mostly like the idea that they are listening to British English.   The Bible stories become the center of their discussions as they practice conversational English.

But sports and teaching don’t consume all Asim’s time. He heard that a local Christian congregation didn’t have a regular leader, only an occasional visiting priest. He stopped by the church, introduced himself as a Seventh-day Adventist, and began worshipping with them and leading a study group.

One week when they didn’t have a preacher for the coming Sunday, they asked him to fill in. They liked his preaching and soon invited him to preach every Sunday.

That’s when he began a series on the important biblical teachings which Adventists often refer to as “the fundamental beliefs.” His “adopted’ church members are not only learning the simple truths of the Bible but, as he visits them in their homes and relates to their needs, they are experiencing the presence of Jesus in their midst.

Seeing decisions for Jesus is his favorite part of his tentmaker’s life, though. For several years Asim has led two weekly Bible study groups made of both Christians and non-Christians. A year ago, as covid decreased in the region, friends helped him dig a hole in their backyard, which they lined with heavy black plastic and filled with water. Under the circumstances it was the best baptistry they could provide for three of his friends, all from non-Christian backgrounds, who were baptized as the first Adventist converts in the entire region. He is not alone in his fellowship any more.

But Asim knows there is much work to be done. “I see more and more people interested in knowing God.  I see a tremendous opening for God’s work. The four of us are now praying for workers to come to our city.”

Asim’s burden is clear. He has a desire to dedicate his life fully to God’s work. He  has gifts to be a leader in God’s work. But today, in a life completely given to working for God, God is using him to make an impact on every area of his life, and every person he meets.

*Not his real name