Kalaam grew up in a conservative Muslim family in Central Asia.
“My father was a harsh man,” said Kalaam (not his real name). “Everyone in our community saw him as a leader and a devout Muslim, but at home he yelled at me a lot.”
Kalaam remembers approaching his father and asking him, “Do you understand what you read in the Qur’an?”
His father raised his hand to hit him. “Don’t ask those questions!” he said. “Your brothers never asked those questions.”
Kalaam’s view of God was similar. “I knew about a God of holiness, but he was harsh and judgmental. I knew nothing about God’s love.”
As a boy, he had a dream in which he saw God smiling down on him from a crescent moon. The image was so clear; it surprised the young man.
As he grew, questions continued to flood Kalaam’s mind, and he began to secretly search for answers. As a teen, he discovered a radio program that discussed questions of faith openly. But the radio reception was poor, and he could only listen when his family wasn’t watching him.
Eventually, he contacted the radio station and sent away for some of the resources they offered. “I began to read about Jesus and a God of love.”
As a young adult, Kalaam got married and started a family. He succeeded as a businessman in the construction industry and often travelled to Saudi Arabia for work. “While I was away from home, I had more freedom to explore my questions and beliefs. As I read the Bible, I began to trust in the God of the Bible.”
On one occasion when he returned home to his family, his wife noticed he was different. Encouraged by the evidence of change in his life, he confessed to her that he had become a follower of Jesus.
She was disturbed by the news and immediately told her parents and brothers. “Kalaam is an apostate,” they said. “You must divorce him!”
“I was crushed,” Kalaam remembers, “and yet somehow this rejection only strengthened my faith in Jesus.” Because of the divorce, he was unable to return to his work in Saudi Arabia and had to remain at home to provide for his children.
His ex-wife and her family spread the news of his conversion throughout the community, which marred his reputation and destroyed any chance for him to work with local construction clients.
Kalaam’s situation went from bad to worse when he was framed for murder and sent to prison. He suffered alone in jail for three-and-a-half years before he was exonerated. Throughout his imprisonment, God gave him grace and his faith remained strong.
New freedom and joy
After his release, Kalaam was reunited with his children and, a short time later, was remarried. His new wife was aware of his faith in Jesus, but she was not yet a believer. They began to read the Bible together, and Kalaam prayed for her salvation. After two years, she embraced her husband’s faith and was baptized.
Today, Kalaam is enjoying new freedom and joy in serving God. Together with his wife and their eight children, he hosts a church of about 20 people in their home.
“In Islam, we are taught that the path of life is like a knife’s edge,” Kalaam recalls. “We live in fear of doing the wrong thing. But as a follower of Jesus, I only live to please my heavenly Father, and I see him smiling down on me.”
—Mark JH Klassen is a writer and creative director for MB Mission.
The central ministry focus of MB Mission is “multiplying healthy disciples and missional leaders.” We believe that the church in North America has a lot to learn from leaders like Kalaam. This belief has inspired “missional DNA exchanges” around the world where leaders from various nations meet together to share their stories of faith and learn from one another.