Don't Give In

“The enemy is trying to destroy you.  Don’t give in.  Jesus has more power.”  I squinted at my phone screen trying to absorb Salim’s message.  Enemy?  Jesus?  Power?  Even though I’d learned a lot from Salim in the few months we’d been studying the Bible together, Christianity was still unfamiliar to me.   Right then, all I knew was that I was alone, away from my family, without support.

My curiosity about Christianity had begun years earlier when I responded to a Christian message online and began corresponding with a Christian pastor.  I told him I was disillusioned with my family’s faith and wanted to transition to Christianity.  I was surprised when Salim, a perfect stranger to me, introduced himself as a friend of the pastor and offered to answer questions I might have about the Bible.  I decided to see what he could teach me.  

I studied the Bible lessons carefully that he sent.  When we’d connect to talk he would simply ask, “What have you learned?  What questions do you have?”  As he explained the Bible to me, my heart was stirred.  I decided to become a Christian and follow Jesus.  

Of course, my family noticed I changed; they were not pleased I didn’t join in the daily rituals or fasting with them.  They began questioning, then harassing, and finally persecuting me.  One day, feeling I couldn’t take it any longer, I grabbed a few clothes and moved in with a friend.  I was grateful for a place to go, but I felt alone, like I was the only one in the world.

“Jesus is with you. You are not alone,” Salim messaged me that night.  I held onto that thought. I would need it.  

Within a few weeks a relative who served in the government learned where I was staying and  had me arrested and jailed.   My mother pleaded for my release, which simply meant going back home, where I was put under severe surveillance until I “returned to my senses.”  They even tried to marry me to a cousin, but I refused.

I know some may think I should’ve been rejoicing that I was suffering for Jesus, but I was a new Christian.  I didn’t understand hardship; I felt shamed and weak.  I had grown up thinking our troubles are God’s punishments.  I contemplated suicide.

During this stressful time Salim messaged, “We need to continue studying; we need to keep on growing.”  He began sending me passages from the Bible with corresponding passages from books that, he explained, “can give you a better understanding of what the Bible is saying.”  I could feel God reviving my soul.  Only later did I learn that the passages he gave me were from writings by Ellen White inspired by the Holy Spirit.  

Around that time my mom fell sick and was admitted to the hospital.  Without even thinking much about it, I found myself supporting her and even covering her hospital bill.  I was puzzled why I was the only one in the family to step forward for her.  Salim explained that that’s what Christianity is all about–love and compassion.  I realized God was working in my life; I was showing the love He had given me.  I watched with amazement as my relationship with my family healed.

After giving my life to Jesus, I longed to meet others with the same faith.  I was delighted when Salim opened an online group with another Christian who was studying the Bible.  I felt tremendously blessed until the day we learned he was arrested for sharing his faith.  Then I was frightened.  Whenever someone is arrested in our country, the first thing the police want is their phone.  Within 24 hours everyone on their contact list is certain to be confronted by the police.  I deleted myself from the group, deleted numbers, deleted content.  I cried out for God’s protection.

 Anxious days passed.  I prayed constantly.  As time passed and nobody contacted me, I slowly realized that against all odds God had worked a miracle and protected me.  I was experiencing God’s personal care for me.   

My Bible studies have continued. My heart is  full. God has brought me great blessings.  He has even placed someone in my life who wants to know the truths I am learning.  As I share with him, I am growing myself.  The extra blessing is that I’m not alone in my faith!I only regret the hours and days and weeks that I sat and did nothing—didn’t study, didn’t pray, didn’t learn. God has saved me from such waste and has shown me Jesus and the power of His love.  I’m looking forward to next month when, in the presence of my new Christian family, I will proclaim my commitment to God publicly in baptism.