God came to Basim with the very words he longed to hear the most
Basim still wonders at the circumstances that found him walking the streets downtown one morning, heading for his favorite restaurant in the largest city of his home country in the Middle East. After a conflict at his construction job nearby, he had walked off the site in frustration.
As he made his way through the crowd to his favorite restaurant, a young girl stopped him abruptly, “Excuse me, we are a touring group from Europe and we’d like to eat some good local food. Can you help us?” He was glad to invite them to the restaurant with him. Their meal lasted hours. They even agreed to visit together the next day too. Frederick, one of the group, seemed curious about Basim’s faith, the majority religion.
“By the time our visit was over, Frederick had converted!” Basim recalls, “But I knew I’d felt odd telling him how the Bible had been corrupted, when I didn’t know anything about the Bible. I’d for sure never read it. So I asked the group to give me some Bible verses I could use when talking to other Christians, just to sound informed.” As they parted, Frederick handed Basim a card. Basim slipped it into his pocket without looking at it.
The next morning before doing anything else Basim read the words that would change his life: “Our Father, who art in heaven.”
“I kept reading the rest of the prayer,” he recalls. “But my mind couldn’t forget the words, ‘Our Father.’ I wondered what that could possibly mean. I figured if it was really true, that would be great–like the best news I’d ever heard in my entire life.”
Basim’s father had died when he was six. “Even at that age I felt a big hole in my heart. I began dreaming I would see him again. The older I grew, the bigger the dream. I wanted to ask him why he left, to tell him how much I miss him, how much I need him.” In his late-30’s by then, he’d been dreaming of a father for a long time.
He read the prayer every day, shared it with his friends, and wondered what it was like for Christians to have a God who lets His creatures call Him father.
“I knew the prayer was changing my thinking about God. But in my family, the very idea of God as a father was heresy. I realized I was being drawn away from my upbringing. In a rush of fear, I threw the card away,” Basim tells.
But he had read the prayer so many times, he knew it by memory. His desire for a father was greater than his fear. “Every night I would raise my eyes to this heavenly father and talk to Him like I’d always wanted to talk to my father. I thought about Him a lot. I felt drawn to Him.”
One night, having missed his ritual prayers, he crawled into bed feeling the dread and fear of God’s wrath. Without thinking, though, he fell into his usual conversation with the Father in the Christian prayer. To his awe, he felt God’s presence very real, very close. For weeks he was haunted by the experience, wondering, “Is this God who comes close to me the same God I anger when I forget my ritual prayers?”
That’s what he was thinking about the day he walked by the open doors of a neighborhood bookstore. He felt drawn inside. He immediately noticed an Arabic Bible sitting on a table. “I didn’t hesitate to pick it up. The first verse I read was Luke 3:16, which seemed to confirm my upbringing. ‘One more powerful than I will come.’ I turned to the owner of the store who was standing nearby. ‘See,’ I said confidently, ‘Jesus is acknowledging a greater prophet than himself.’ Politely the man, who I later learned was a Christian, suggested I read about John the Baptist in the verses before it.”
Basim left the bookstore that day with the Gospel of Luke hidden in his jacket. When everyone in his family had fallen asleep, he pulled it out. He didn’t understand much. He couldn’t sleep that night, though, or the next, or the next. “I was moved. I was also gripped by the fear of becoming a Christian. I knew it would cause shame for my family.” After three days without sleep, he was exhausted.
“On December 2, 1999, I finally decided to be with Jesus, who promised to be with me in every challenge I might face. I visited a Christian I had known for years, told him what I’d experienced, and accepted Jesus as my Savior. I went home a new person. That night I slept deeply. In the morning I felt like a new person in a new world filled with peace and love.”
It was the beginning of a new perspective on life. One day he overheard a customer’s conversation at the grocery store where he was working at the time. Basim was blunt, “Are you a Christian?” She responded evasively, “Oh, to be a Christian or not, what difference does it make?”
“Oh yes,” Basim responded emphatically. “Oh yes, it makes a big difference.” The lady invited him to lunch with her family, then to Wednesday night prayer meeting, then to studies on Daniel and Revelation. “It was a sweet experience!” Basim remembers. “To think that I could actually understand what had once sounded so strange to me!”
On August 16, 2008 Basim was baptized as a Seventh-day Adventist Christian in a country that does not recognize his new faith. That same day a young lady, who would later become his wife, was baptized as well. Today they serve together in full-time ministry to their people. Not only is Basim now a father of two precious children, he has met his heavenly Father, and can testify that God Himself has filled the father-sized-hole in his heart.
- Basim is not his real name.