A Muslim background believer riding up to greet our team as we trekked in the Atlas Mountains. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
We were preparing to GO to Morocco for the third time earlier this year when I received an encouraging email from a Climbing For Christ member. It’s always nice to hear from our members, but this was a particularly uplifting message:
“I wanted to wish the C4C team in Morocco well. May the Lord be with them and protect them throughout this great journey. I am myself a Berber from Morocco. I have been in the USA for about 20 years. I have been following your wonderful work through this (e-)newsletter. Incredible! So much passion and love. Thank you for doing what you do. God bless, Joseph.”
I had no idea we had a Berber member on Climbing For Christ’s ever-growing roster, especially since the Berber people (estimated at 50 million worldwide) are predominantly Muslim. In Morocco alone, fewer than 3,000 of the 6.3 million Berber people profess to be Christian.
I was overjoyed. Joseph is a Muslim background believer (MBB).
For the past week in Project Prayer: Ramadan 2017, brother Jordan has addressed crossing bridges to lead followers of Islam to Jesus Christ. Joseph, our Berber member, endorses what we’ve been sharing: “The only way to invite Muslims to the way of Christ is to explain to them what the Qur’an says.”
In the days ahead, I’m going to talk about relationships and putting ourselves in position to do just that. Remember that everything we do must be bathed in prayer (hence this Project Prayer) and is the work of the Holy Spirit that we are blessed to witness.
Let’s continue to lift our brothers and sisters in Christ – the MBBs who have found freedom in Jesus and those who I am confident will one day find this freedom.
Today, I want to share the testimony of Joseph – in his words:
Part 1: Growing up Muslim
I grew up in Fes, 60 kilometers from the Atlas Mountains. My mom decided to put me in a private school run by Catholic nuns. They were not allowed to evangelize. We were not allowed to participate in the church’s activities, but we were welcome to watch. My family was Muslim, but non-practicing. Except my grandparents, who practiced privately.
My mom and her siblings all went to French schools growing up in colonial Morocco. My grandfather (my father figure after my parents’ divorce) was a busy man. He decided to send all his five kids to French boarding schools.
I grew up speaking Berber and French. Arabic was not a priority in my family. (I spoke it until I turned 7.)
After college I went to France for my Master’s (degree) and ended up in the USA for my internship. (In the U.S.,) I met my beautiful wife Laurel (who was born in South Korea and adopted by an American family when she was 9 months old). We now have a 7-year-old son.
I am so grateful to the Lord, to have guided my steps. I feel so blessed every day.
Part 2: The spiritual journey
I was brought up in a moderate, liberal Muslim family. According to my family, religion was something you do in private. We never discussed it or talked about it. (Later on, I figured out that they didn’t understand it!) It always bothered me; why I couldn't ask questions about God and God’s business. After elementary school I joined public school, and around my teenage (years) I started inquiring more about Islam’s precepts and principles. I even started practicing and going to the mosque at 4 a.m., especially during Ramadan.
In college, religion was not a priority at all. Most of my friends didn’t have a spiritual life. We studied and had a lot of fun!
When I got to the USA, I was in my mid-20s in a strange place and a different culture. I never intended to stay after my internship. The initial plan was to go back to France and start my classes in grad school. But things didn’t turn out as (I) planned. I ended up having more time on my visa after my training ended. I went to visit a friend, who got me a job in a restaurant where I met my wife.
I ended up staying and getting my American citizenship. Then 9/11 hit. And my spiritual world got shuttered.
I was so upset and depressed; I wished I was never born, never born Muslim. I couldn't believe that humans could do this in the name of God. I was lost and confused about me, my identity, my life.
My wife grew up going to the Catholic Church, but she stopped when in college. As a married couple we were Agnostics. I renounced Islam totally.
Part 3: Answering the Lord’s call
After my son’s birth, my wife and I felt that we needed a spiritual life to share with (him) and raise him in it. Islam was not an option for me! I wanted a religion of love and inclusiveness for my son and family.
That’s when I responded to the Lord’s calling. I felt such peace when that happened; the peaceful energy I used to feel when a 6-year-old kid, when I was observing the weekly church ritual at the (Catholic) elementary school. That same harmony and energy that fills your soul with overwhelming sensations, and makes you weep with happiness.
It was liberation. I found Jesus Christ, our Father Almighty. May He forgive my sins.
My son is starting Bible school next September. I owe this one to my Berber ancestors who were forced to convert to Islam!