1. LACK OF ASSURANCE
My name is Gunjoa, I am African, 43 years old, married, and father of three children. I live in a country where more than 90% of the population is Muslim. Islam is the religion into which I was born. My father is a fervent student of the Qur’an, much of which he memorized at a young age. I myself was sent to the Qur’anic school when I was three years old. Later I alternated studies between the French academic school and Qur’anic school. The days I didn’t go to French school, I went to study the Qur’an. As I grew up, my boyhood friends and I did many foolish things. But when I reached the age of 19 or 20, I began to take matters of religion more seriously. I would spend a lot of time thinking about paradise and hell, because I had been taught at a young age that these two places exist, and that after death, each person will end up in one place or the other—depending on whether they did good or bad during their earthly existence. This is what I had been taught.
Consequently, I would ask myself the question: "Where will I go after I die?" This question followed me wherever I went. It troubled me continually. As a result, I became more faithful in my religious obligations: I prayed five times a day, attended the mosque on Friday, fasted during Ramadan, gave alms, etc… Each time I finished my ritual prayers, I would ask God to put me on the right path, because I continued to be troubled by the thought of facing hell after death. I questioned people who knew Islam better than I. But I never received a satisfying answer. All they could tell me each time I asked was that I simply needed to fulfill my religious duties, do more good than bad, and then leave the rest in the hands of God who determines my eternal destiny. They all told me the same thing, "No one can know in this life where they will go after they die. Only God knows!" But such a response did not in any way satisfy my heart. Inside of me there was nothing but turmoil. I had no peace as the same question continued to pop up in my mind: "Where will I go after I die?"
For three years while I lived in the Capital city to pursue further studies, I lived among a particular sect of Muslims who believed that their marabout (religious leader) was Isa (Jesus) who had come back at the end of the world. They attributed to their marabout a certain number of miracles. I was impressed with their stories and I thought to myself: If their Jesus could do such miracles, the original Jesus must have been truly great! I desperately wanted to know what kind of miracles the first Jesus did. I thought, "Surely there can’t be any harm in this!" This is what motivated me to know more about "the true Jesus". I should tell you that up to this point in my life I had never met any true disciples of Jesus Christ, nor had I ever read their book: the Bible.
After I successfully completed my studies and received my diploma, I returned to my native town with a clear objective: I would do some serious research and find a book that records the life, words and works of Jesus Christ. Thus, one morning I got up and went to pay a visit to some Catholics—since in my country, back in those days, when one spoke of Jesus, the Bible or Christians, we automatically thought "Catholic." (Today this tendency is changing.) So, as I was saying, I went to visit them, but it wasn’t there that I found what I was looking for. But as I was walking back home, God opened my eyes to notice a little library where I was privileged to meet some evangelical Christians for the first time in my life. I was 25 years old when I began to read the Scriptures of the Bible for myself.
2. FROM THE PROPHETS TO JESUS
Now my research began to take on a whole new dimension. As a Muslim, I continued to pray to God to place me on the right path. This was because I still had not discovered a solution to the dilemma which would not leave my mind: "Where will I go after I die?" I had not yet found a solid, satisfying answer. People around me continued to say, "Only God knows. No one can know their eternal destiny." But I wanted to know in this life where I would go after I died! After nearly two years of research, of studying the Bible, of reading the testimonies of Christians who came out of Islam, and of discussions with Christians, God’s answer to my question became clear to me. I surrendered to the evidence. Yes, I had discovered some wonderful things!
First of all, in the Old Testament Scriptures of the Bible, I discovered that all the prophets had announced the coming of a Messiah. They were preparing mankind to receive this Savior of the world who would come at the time appointed by God. The prophets prophesied about the Messiah’s miraculous birth, the place of His birth, the circumstances preceding and following His birth. They also foretold how He would be mistreated by the religious leaders of His own nation who would misunderstand Him and hate Him. The prophets also announced the Messiah’s sufferings and how His enemies would plot to have Him put to death. They even described in detail the manner by which He would die. Most importantly, they told why the Messiah would allow Himself to be killed, refusing to save Himself even though He had the power to do so. Certain prophets also wrote of the Messiah’s resurrection which would take place three days later.
In my research, I discovered that, from the very beginning, it was God’s plan that the Messiah should pay the sin-penalty for the whole world—so that all those who believe in Him would not have to pay that penalty themselves. I learned that the penalty for sin is death and eternal separation from our perfect and righteous Creator who must punish all sin. But the Good News was that the sinless Messiah would come to fulfill the meaning of thousands of years of symbolical animal sacrifices. Prophets like Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon and Isaiah all offered up spotless lambs and rams to God—as blood sacrifices to cover their sins. This was God’s idea. It was also God’s idea to send the Messiah who would offer up Himself as the Final Sacrifice "as a Lamb led to the slaughter." (Isaiah 53) However, there was a distinction. The Messiah’s sacrifice would not merely cover sin before God, it would remove sin’s penalty—for all who believe God and His way of salvation. In reading the New Testament (Injil) record about Jesus of Nazareth, I discovered that He is the One who perfectly fulfilled all these prophecies, and not someone else.
Next, in my research, I discovered in the Bible that this "original Jesus" had provided a clear and uncompromising answer to my question: "Where will I go after I die?" Jesus’ death and resurrection was God’s answer to my question! Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. …[I] came to seek and to save what was lost. …I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. …I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." (John 14:6; Luke 19:10; John 10:11; John 5:24) Such words and many others like them in the Bible are declarations which no other person has ever dared to make. These and other verses in the Bible helped me to understand and accept Jesus for who He is: the One and only Savior promised by God, who died and rose again to provide a perfect salvation for all who believe. Thus, I placed my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in the fact that He died for me, for my sins, in my place.
3. CHANGES MADE BY CHRIST
Interestingly, after I placed my confidence in the Lord Jesus and in what He did for me on the cross—I felt a peace that I had never before experienced. What a change! I no longer have any worries about my eternal destiny, because I know that Jesus has paid the full penalty for all my sins which condemned me. I am saved! I am now completely confident about where I will go after I die. I know that I will go to Heaven—not because I am good, but because of God’s grace, which has been provided through Jesus Christ. My faith in Jesus has changed my perspective on life. Now I seek to please God in all things—not because I have to, but because I want to. God has changed my heart. I am no longer afraid of anything or of anyone. Of course, I am conscious of the power of the devil and demons, and of opposition from people, but I am absolutely convinced that the Lord Jesus is infinitely more powerful. He has proven Himself to me personally so many times. He controls and cares for me, my family and every aspect of my life.
Right after I believed God’s message, it all seemed so clear and logical that I didn’t anticipate the major trials and troubles that awaited me because of my newfound faith. But I quickly learned the reality of what Jesus told the people of Nazareth (the area where He grew up as a boy): "Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor." (Matt. 13:57) Not only did my father, my uncle, my brothers and my friends do their best to make light of Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins, but they also harassed me in a number of ways, finally excluding me from the family, putting me out of the house. It was painfully difficult for me to be rejected by my own family like this. It was not what I wanted. They are the ones who put me out—simply because of my faith in Christ. When folks speak of Islam as a religion of truth, peace and love, I ask myself how that can be—if it cannot even tolerate those who sincerely believe in the One about whom all the prophets wrote?
By the grace of my Lord, I have overcome all these hostilities about which Jesus warned us. He said, "All men will hate you because of me. …In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (Luke 21:17; John 16:33) In all these circumstances, God has taken care of me and has taught me many important lessons which have been a necessary part of my own spiritual growth. I have now been walking with the Lord for 17 years. What a privilege! Also, God has graciously been using me as He desires in His service for His glory alone.
5. SERVANT OF CHRIST
It was in 1991 that the Lord first called me to serve Him in some new, specific ways (Job 22:24-28). I accepted His call and by His grace I began to participate in various projects: translation of Gospel literature in local languages; production and broadcast of radio programs, and involvement in special outreaches to large groups of people.
Recently, the Lord has expanded my direction and vision. My wife and I are convinced that the Lord has called us to carry out an itinerate ministry in our country. The Spirit of God continually directs us in this way. Our vision is to follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ who "traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God." (Luke 8:1)
Prepared in French by "Gunjoa"
I believe that the first thing I ought to say about myself is that I was born into (that is under the covenant) the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in November of 1962. I was blessed as a baby on "Fast & Testimony Meeting" in December of 1962. When I was eight years old, I was baptized as a Mormon male member on December 5, 1970 and was confirmed on December 6, 1970. When I was 12, I graduated primary and was ordained a deacon. At 14, I was ordained a teacher and had my "patriarchal blessing." At age 16, I not only received my driver's license in the state of California, I was also ordained a priest. Driving gave me my liberty and I found it easy when, on the morning of a given Sunday, when I was informed that I had to give a two and a half minute talk, that my brother would enlist me to drive him to his girlfriend's house in Santa Ana. Needless to say, I missed sacrament meeting that day.
The only thing I loved to do was to go skating. I met one of my best friends there and he taught me that real friends love and appreciate someone for who they are and not for what they are trying to be. When the church let me down, my friend and his friends were there to make me feel better. There, I attained acceptance. Mark Woodhouse was a guy that I idolized. He was also the stake president's son. I thought that if there was any one person who would do it all, it would be Mark. One day, I came into the kitchen and my mother told me that Mark just got married to Tammy and that they had to get married because Tammy was pregnant. I had a car, but I walked to Mark's house. Mark's father met me at the door. When I went inside, he asked why I was so upset (there was a rumor that, since I never had a girlfriend, it was speculated that I must be gay. President Woodhouse believed it). He asked me if the reason why I was upset was because I had a sexual relationship with a boy. I choked the words "nothing like that" out and asked where Mark was. He said that the church had allowed him to finish the "roadshow" and that he was at the church. I left and walked there.
Mormon church buildings always have a back door. That night, I was pretty happy to find that it was unlocked. I walked in and the first person I found was Tammy. I went right up to her mouthing the question, "Is it too late to kiss the bride?" I guess my words seared her and she appeared visibly shaken. She said ok after I kissed her cheek. I asked her where Mark was and she said he was in the "junior Sunday school chapel."
When I arrived there, Mark's friends were around and one of them was singing a song. I tried to get to Mark, but all I could do is flag him down and mouth my congratulations. I disappeared as soon as I said it. From that time on, the years just seemed to slip by. My attendance dropped to about once a year. While I still believed in the core of Mormonism, I had around me people who were always wondering why there were certain things believed in, but kind of ridiculous in their opinion. I came to the conclusion that these little observations didn't bother me as much anymore.
Marcia was a person that I always knew, but didn't think much about. That was not to say I didn't like her. One day, I stopped to see a friend of mine. I had a Mazda RX-7 and I found out that Marcia really liked the car. I took her for a ride. It was later that month that I decided I really like her and spent the next few months trying to convince her that I was the guy for her. She and her brother were always Christian. John used to argue with me about his faith and Mormonism. I found out later that his father bought Dr. Walter Martin's "Maze of Mormonism" and that John was reading it. He came out on the porch and "let me have it." I never knew where he got his information until later.
It was Christmas of 1989. Marcia and I were spending a bit of time together. I always stopped by and we talked, sometimes until late in the evening. On Christmas day, I stopped by. Her father died that morning. I spent the next couple of months trying to help the family out as best I could. One time after a date that went awry, she said that I would never accept her for what she was and would never accept her faith. I told her that I would prove it to her that I wasn't afraid of her religion and asked her to take me to Church. She said she wouldn't because I would never accept it. I told her that I would call her brother. He was just dying to get me into that Church. After that first visit to his Church (The Cornerstone, a FourSquare Pentecostal Church), I found that the Mormons were wrong about their devotions. One day after Church, we went out. Marcia and I were not seeing each other and we were talking about God's plans for us finding our mates. I said, "Well, I believe that if I don't find her here, she'll be waiting for me in heaven." He said that she would be there, but she wouldn't be my wife, because Jesus said there was no marriage in heaven. I demanded that he show me in the Bible where Jesus supposedly said that. He told me that it was in there and if I really wanted to know, I would find it. I didn't want to hear that.
The following week, I went on vacation. Before I left, I spoke to the Pastor of that Church. I asked him to give me some references for the church I left (he knew I was Mormon) and could he help me out. He told me about "The Changing World of Mormonism" by Jerald & Sandra Tanner and said that the book would answer all my questions. No, it didn't. But, it was a start. I went on vacation and, while I was spending the night at a Motel 6 in San Jose, CA, I looked up my concordance and found the passage my friend was telling me about (Matthew 22:30). It felt like all the blood was draining from me. I quickly looked at a little topical index that I brought with me and said out loud to God, "I wonder what else, I don't know!" When I returned from that trip, I contacted the Pastor immediately and told him I wanted Christian Baptism. In April of 1990, I was Baptized. While I didn't stay with that congregation, I did move to an Evangelical Free Church and was a member there for six months. While I was attending, a friend that I met at a Bible class (which was held in a Lutheran Church) started studying theology. Roughly a year to the day, we were confirmed as members of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. My friend Brandon, also the best man at my wedding, was ordained a Pastor on November 29, 1998.
I went to Concordia University, formerly Christ College Irvine, to study for a degree which would help me go to seminary myself. From there, I changed majors (a Bachelor's Degree in Management and Communication) and moved to Fort Wayne, IN. In 1995 New Year's Eve, on CompuServe, I met Amy. She was in Texas while I was finishing up my studies there for the management degree. Through a chain of events, I wound up not going on to seminary there. We got together and decided that Indiana was not in our future plans, so we moved South to Tennessee. It was there that we decided to make our home for the time being. We got married on May 18, 1997, and made our home in Dickson, TN. In September, 1997, Amy made her profession of faith and was Baptized. She is now a Jewish Christian and believes that Y'Shua is her Messiah, just like I do and our baby practices. Just last year, we moved closer to Nashville. Both of us have different jobs. I work at SunTrust Service Corporation and Amy works for the a motel as a front desk clerk. Our baby was born on November 22, 1998. She was Baptized on December 6, 1998 and will be celebrating her life with us every Sunday at Church. We attend Faith Lutheran Church in Franklin, TN. I have an interest in apologetics, comparative religions, theology, martial arts, country music, writing, and other interests. Amy loves country music, cooking, dancing, and reading. She also likes being a new mother (for the second time--her first daughter was born in 1983). Our daughter Erica likes keeping us on our toes crawling everywhere, trying to put things in her mouth, and surprising us with little smiles and laughs.
|Bob and Susie Edwards||
I was born and raised in Burley, Idaho. I got married when I was 18 years old. The reason I got married was because I was pregnant. By the time I turned 23 years old, I was divorced with two little babies to raise…alone. My folks were really good to help me, but the kids' dad never came around even though he only lived twenty miles away. I was alone for eleven years until I got married again. That marriage lasted four and a half years. And then I was alone again, only this time really alone. My daughter was 18 by then and out on her own, doing her own thing. My son didn’t want much to do with me because of the divorce. He stayed there. He had been adopted by the man whom I was divorcing.
So, feeling abandoned, I went to drinking hard and heavy. I had just graduated from the local college and was out of work. I was in a position where I had to move in with my mom and dad. How degrading!! Forty years old and living with mom and dad!! So I drank a lot. I went on runners, three and four days at a time.
I finally got a job working in an office. I really liked it but I was still drinking. The lady who was my boss, knew that I was still drinking. She wasn’t very nice to me. After about a year and a half, I found another job in a casino which was about 75 miles away. I moved to a little town where I could ride the bus to and from work every day.
Shortly after I moved, I met Bob. We started living together within two weeks. He didn’t drink except on occasion. When we drank together we fought like cats and dogs. I quit drinking. Bob did like to smoke pot. I had smoked pot in the past, so I smoked with him. At first, I would only take a couple of hits at a time because I didn’t want to get too high. But as time wore on, I was keeping right up with him. Occasionally we snorted some crank, but that was just once in a while on a weekend.
After about a year, we moved to Twin Falls. That was probably the biggest mistake that we ever made. But at the time, I thought it was a good decision. My daughter and grandchild lived there and so did Bob’s kids. I thought that would be a prime place to be so that we could have more contact with our children.
We soon got involved with people who sold crank. We were selling pot and so we would trade the pot for crank. The only problem with that was that it wasn’t our pot to trade. We owed our dealer money for the pot that we had traded. One night he brought a guy over to our house with a gun to entice us to pay him. The next day we went and sold our television, VCR, and stereo to get the money to pay the guy.
We snorted the crank. Bob, years ago, would shoot it into his arm. Bob started doing that again occasionally. But as time wore on, he did it all the time. I could tell that he was getting a lot higher than I was, so I begged him to let me try it. It took a lot of begging, but he finally consented. BIG MISTAKE!! The reason that I had never wanted to put a needle in my arm before was because I was afraid that I would like it. I did. We sold everything that we owned and put it into our arms.
We lost ourselves in that crank and almost lost each other. I did not like myself anymore. No one else liked me much either. Gone was the sweet, loving person that I had been, to this person that even I didn’t know. I had no qualms about telling someone to F--- Off if I didn’t like what they said or did. Bob and I fought most of the time. When we fought, we really got with the program. We were using about a gram a day for about a year, sometimes more, if we had the money. My kids seldom came around. When they did, it was with a lot of concern all over their faces. That was just as bad as not seeing them. The crank that they had there had heroin in it. Therefore, it was very addicting. Every time we would even think about quitting, there would be someone knocking on the door who either had some that they wanted us to try, or sell for them. Our house was a total disaster. The electricity and the water had been shut off because we didn’t pay our bills. I got pretty good with a flashlight and a candle.
Finally we got to the point where we knew that we had to quit or we were going to die or go to jail. We didn’t want to quit, we just knew that we had to, to survive. It was awful. I was in a state of mind and body that I had never thought was possible. I knew that we had to get out of there.
Bob’s son had escaped out of there by moving to Salem, Oregon. He had given us an open invitation to come too. I gathered up enough money by selling what things that we had left and went directly to the travel agency. I bought two one-way tickets to Salem. I had to get them three weeks in advance for the low price. In the following three weeks we got evicted from our house, slept on the front lawn, and finally moved to a friend's house that liked the drug as much as we did. Bob didn’t want to move, but I knew that we had to. We had to go some place where we didn’t know anyone. No connections.
The day finally came and we flew out of Boise to Portland and rode the bus to Salem, Oregon. We had no money. We stayed with Bob’s son for about a week and a half, until he told us we had to leave. We fought all the time because we weren’t on drugs anymore. When we were in Idaho we tolerated each other when we were high. If we were high, we got along just fine, but if we were out of drugs and Jonesing, Watch Out!!
We were now homeless. We started living on the river in Salem. One night when we were hitchhiking, this lady stopped and picked us up. When we got into the car she said, "Boy, the Lord must really love you. He told me to stop and pick you up and I don’t ever pick up hitchhikers." She told us where her church was and invited us to come. This happened within a week after we arrived in Salem.
In 1980, I had accepted the Lord as my personal savior. I had always wanted to serve Him fully but never knew how to get there. It was a lot easier to drink or do drugs and try to drown my sorrows.
When I met Bob, he had started going to Bible studies at a Christian church. He was a Mormon and didn’t believe in Jesus but wanted to get closer to God. This really interested me because I did believe. So I offered to go to Bible study with him. I kept telling him that Jesus is God in the flesh who died for us to save us from sin, because He loves us so much. He wouldn’t buy it, no matter how much I talked. One Sunday, we went to church and the preacher was reading the scripture that said the same things that I had been telling him. That Sunday, he bowed his head and asked Jesus to forgive him for his sins and asked Him to come into his heart. I knew that I was saved, because there is another verse that says that He will never leave us or forsake us.
We went to church on a regular basis until Bob’s ex-wife came into the picture. We tried and tried to get married but the pastors of the churches we attended told us that if Bob and I were to ever get married that the Lord would leave us. That was man’s version and we knew it because the Lord had already been blessing us. He knew that we wanted to get right with Him. At one point Bob left me and went back to his ex-wife to see if that was what the Lord really wanted.
Those pastors forgot to mention that there is grace, or in other words, forgiveness. The Bible says: For by grace are you saved, through faith not by works; it is a gift of God lest any man should boast. Bob came back to me. We were shunned from the churches because they forgot grace. God loves us and corrects us in love. Men sometimes try and help God by correcting us themselves. People then turn away from God. He wants us to come to Him because He knows that we can trust no man. He is the only one we can trust. His love is the only love that we can depend on.
After the lady picked us up, we tried to find that church that she had told us about but to no avail. One day when we were riding our bikes, we stopped to rest and looked up. We standing right in front of that church!! I went in to check it out and found out that they had been praying for us. God brought us there!!
We went to Bible study the next night. We received the baptism of Jesus. This is what I had been lacking since I had accepted the Lord. I had always been taught that I already had it. But what I found out from reading my Bible is that when I said the sinners prayer, the Holy Spirit came and indwelt my body. When I asked for the Baptism of Jesus, I received the POWER of Jesus.
Satan doesn’t want us to have this Power, because if we do, we can rebuke him in the name of Jesus and he has to flee. He has many demons everywhere that are tormenting people because they don’t know any better. The Bible also says, "My people die for lack of knowledge." Here are just a few of their names: fear, alcohol, drug abuse, witchcraft, division, jealousy, failure, anger to name just a few. Satan wants to get in there and make us miserable so that we blame God. When it isn’t God at all, it’s Satan. Satan is here to kill, to steal and to destroy.
Jesus came to touch, to heal and to save. God loves (you and me) so much that He came to earth as a man, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins. When He did that He defeated Satan. Satan is under our feet. When we rebuke him in Jesus’ name, he has to flee. Jesus is the name above all names. All knees have to bow at the name of Jesus. The demons tremble at the name of Jesus.
We don’t have to change anything to come to Jesus. We can’t on our own anyway. We need His help. He changes our hearts. But He gave us a free will. We have to do the asking. Here is the prayer that you need to repeat. You can say it right there where you are. You don’t have to be in church to talk to God. It helps to go to church and be around those kind of people instead of the world. It gives us encouragement to know there are others who have been there too. Jesus is the best friend that you will ever have. He will love you no matter what and He won’t ever leave you. He wants to bless you.
Jesus, I know that I can’t do it on my own. Please forgive me for all my sins. Please come in to my heart and be my personal savior. Please baptize me with Your Holy Spirit. I receive You now. Thank you Jesus.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Bob and Susie Edwards