In his book Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing The Gospel, Russell Moore reminds us that disciples of Jesus can be found in the unlikeliest of places.
The next Billy Graham might be drunk right now. The next Jonathan Edwards might be the man driving in front of you with the Darwin Fish bumper decal. The next Charles Wesley might currently be a misogynistic, profanity-spewing hip-hop artist. The next Charles Spurgeon might be managing an abortion clinic today. The next Mother Teresa might be a heroin-addicted porn star this week. The next Augustine of Hippo might be a sexually promiscuous cult member right now, just like, come to think of it, the first Augustine of Hippo was.
And sometimes, the next Paul is persecuting Christians.
Al-Rashid was the top leader in a radical Islamic group dedicated to persecuting Muslims who had become Christians in the Middle East. He learned of a pastor who was distributing Bibles, holding underground church services, and converting men and women to Jesus.
So he and his group decided to target Pastor Paul, through different means of terror. The group attacked Pastor Paul and his family several times, but each time, the family escaped or remained untouched.
The final time Al-Rashid and his group tried to attack the pastor and his family was through a poisoned box of chocolates. Pastor Paul’s sons ate them and weren’t impacted. However, Paul’s daughter became violently ill and needed to be transported to the hospital. The plan was to hijack the ambulance and kidnap the family.
However, as Al-Rashid waited for an opportunity to move, something happened.
“I saw a ball of light come down from the sky and stand over the room where his daughter was lying unconscious,” he said. And out of that ball of light, came a hand with a hole, dripping with blood. “I trembled with fear,” Rashid said. “I felt giddy and fell down. My friends moved me from there at once.”
Rashid couldn’t get the vision out of his mind. Some time later, Rashid had a vision. He describes a shadowy human face with the hand appeared before him. And out of that vision, a voice asked Rashid why he was “nailing Him.” Rashid knew it was Jesus.
In that moment, he told Assist News Service, he knew Christians weren’t his enemies. He went back to Pastor Paul, confessed all he had committed against the pastor and his family and told him what he saw.
In turn, Pastor Paul shared a part of his story, how God had saved him from his sins and how because of Jesus, he could love Rashid and forgive him. Rashid dropped to his knees and surrendered to Jesus in that moment.
He now travels around the Middle East, preaching the Word of God and evangelizing.
Stories like this are powerful testimonies—not only to the power of Jesus to save but how He is using His church in the midst of intensely persecuted areas to bring people to Himself.
Rashid’s story brings to mind the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 1:12-16, and as we read them, we should glorify Jesus for the salvation of Rashid and pray that more and more men and women would come to know Him.
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.