Isaac’s Journey

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Arabic text translated to English on a piece of paper.

One of the most amazing and enduring mysteries of Christianity is the radical transformation of a person through the power of the Holy Spirit by reading and applying God’s Word. According to Jared Wilson’s new book, The Gospel Driven Church, the Bible is so powerfully effective in transforming people that the number one factor determining our spiritual growth is attending a regular Bible study. As international workers (IWs) in North Africa our hope is to see families and communities transformed by the Bible, through the power of the Holy Spirit, into vibrant followers of Jesus Christ.  

In preparation for meeting friends during Ramadan, I was studying Jesus’ instructions on giving, prayer, and fasting with my Arabic language instructor, Isaac. Arabic is a very difficult language and reading the Arabic Bible is even more difficult than speaking it. Thankfully Isaac is an excellent and very patient Arabic teacher. As we studied Matthew 6, Isaac kept pausing the class to marvel, “These words are so beautiful, so beautiful. We need to share these words with others so that they too will know the Truth.” 

Isaac has a powerful testimony of transformation through the Word. Nearly twenty years ago, he had been an imam in a small Sudanese village. He had been taught and trained to memorize and recite the Quran in perfect Arabic, which equipped him to be an excellent Arabic instructor. He became disillusioned with Islam because of 9/11 and started to question everything he held to be true. In his search for truth, he started following Joseph Kony, the rebel leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Kony was infamous for exploiting child soldiers in fighting the government in Uganda. 

In the LRA Isaac met a Catholic man who gave him a copy of the Bible. Isaac read it voraciously, immediately recognized its power and truthfulness, abandoned Joseph Kony, and started to follow Jesus. He returned to his village and remained a secret Jesus follower for several years until his in-laws discovered his newfound faith. They took away his wife and children and forced him to flee the country. 

Despite all the hardships and suffering, Isaac is more in love with Jesus than ever before. He is well known as an excellent Bible teacher and meets weekly with 10-15 new believers to disciple and equip them to read, understand, and apply the Bible in their lives. 

In Romans, Paul asks, “How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?” (Romans 10:14). As IWs we prioritize finding opportunities to share the Word with our friends so that they may hear and believe. We use a variety of methods to share the Word. Storying is where we verbally retell parts of Scripture in a simple and understandable story form. Other times, we give the Bible to our friends and ask them to read sections in Arabic while we follow along in our English versions. We often ask simple questions such as, how did the story make you feel? We then encourage them to share the story with a friend. Although our work is slow and fraught with discouragement, we remain encouraged that there are countless people with stories like Isaac’s. God’s Kingdom continues to grow through the secret work of the Spirit and the Word of God, calling more and more people into His Kingdom for Jesus’ glory. 

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