One of the sobering realities of traveling interntionally several times a year is connecting with suffering believers around the world. These relationships strengthen and encourage my walk with God. Believers, who live outside of the sometimes surreal bubble of American culture and life, fight hot and intense battles of faith. Some are stalwart and heroic, even unto death.
While traveling in the Mid East on this trip, we heard the sad story of Rami Ayyad, a former-Muslim believer, who lived in Gaza strip and managed the Bible Society Book Store. He had been shot in the head and stabbed multiple times by Muslim extremists. You can read Rami’s story. Rami is survived by his pregnant wife, Pauline, and two children. Rami’s family was aware that he had been receiving death threats because of his faith in Jesus.
We met Rami’s dear friend, who is from another country, on this trip. He told us about Rami’s murder and the funeral. His face shone with the light of Jesus as he recounted the horrific details. I stood listening to him riveted by his account but much more compelled by his faith. I felt so weak and spoiled in the experiences of my life.
Ram’s friend related the grievous story to us, showed us pictures of the funeral, asked us to pray for his family. He expressed to us how in reality former-Muslim believers, who are embracing faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, are being martyred for their faith.
I witnessed such a deep joy on his countenance as he spoke. Honestly, his skin seemed luminous with the radiancy of the Lord. This story of the martyr of his friend put the strength of steel into his body, soul, and spirit. His love for Jesus ignited a fire of passion within him and those around him. And that passion to live or die for Christ deeply impacted me as I listened.
But the most poignant thing I heard Rami’s friend say to us was this, “We have taken revenge!”
I wondered what revenge they would take.
He said, “We just baptized several former Muslims, who came to faith in Jesus!” He said again, “We have taken revenge!” His eyes danced with eternal joy–not of this world–as he spoke. He said, “It is a privilege to die for our Lord.”
Muslims are coming to the knowledge of salvation. Their numbers are growing, and for this I rejoice. It is estimated there are 150,000 former-Muslim believers in Iran. Because of the tense situaion in Israel and the West Bank, there are between 2-3,000. But the numbers are increasing throughout the Mid East, even in Iraq.
Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden have also been used as tools in the hand of God to crack Islam. Some Muslims today are seeing a radical shaking in the foundations of their faith. This shaking is making them more open than ever to the Good News.
People like Rami and his friend are the heroes of our faith in these tumultuous days, and they are using weapons of life to wage their war.