Veiled Country


en-year-old Babur* watched curiously as the couple got off the train and were led down the street by a government official. The official rented a room in the home of Babur’s uncle, and the couple moved in with their suitcases. For days, the little village buzzed with talk—everyone wanted to know who these people were and why they had come.

Slowly, pieces of their story emerged. The man was a famous violin maker with awards from around the world. He was also something called an Adventist. He had gotten in trouble for selling Christian books in the capital city, and the authorities had banished him to this small town for two and a half years.

The boys laughed as they repeated the story. “Imagine a heathen Christian being sent to our village. We’ll see what happens if he tries to sell his books here!”

But the man didn’t try to sell books. And he didn’t attack their religion or talk about his. He just smiled at everyone, learned their names, and began to help them. The villagers noticed that the man and his wife didn’t drink alcohol, eat pork, or smoke like other Christians they knew.

Before long, the community loved and respected the couple. They were like grandparents to all the kids in town. The villagers invited them to weddings, and they were involved in village decisions. When the time came for them to return to the capital city, the community showered them with gifts and hugs.

Can you imagine how the couple felt as the train pulled from the station? They had longed to share the gospel, but they had been exiled to a place where they couldn’t talk about Jesus. Did they wonder whether the past 30 months had been a waste of time?

The Army Calls

Ten years passed. Babur married his childhood playmate, Nadire, and went to the capital city to serve in the military. He loved to party, and for a while, he spent his ample free time doing so. However, he kept thinking of the loving man who once lived in his town.

Babur learned where the man lived and went to visit him. As they talked, Babur asked whether he could accompany him and his wife to their place of worship.

Babur began attending the Adventist church frequently, and soon, he quit smoking, drinking, and partying. He prayed like he had never prayed before. One night, he felt the power of God come over him and wept as he realized that Jesus had died for him and that his sins were forgiven.

Babur worried about how to tell his wife about the transformation he had experienced. After much prayer, he wrote her a letter explaining how his life had changed and that he was attending church with the couple they remembered so fondly.

Within days, an angry letter arrived. “Lies!” Nadire snapped. “You’re just going to church to see Christian girls.” She couldn’t fathom that he was interested in the Christian’s God.

Sentenced to Die

When Babur came home to visit, Nadire noticed that many things about him were different. He spent much of his time playing with their baby girl and caring for their parents. Nadire liked some of the changes, however, others irritated her. She loved to dance, but Babur wasn’t interested in such things anymore.

When Babur returned home from military service, he shared with his family what he had been learning about God. The news spread like wildfire. People began gossiping about the couple. Babur and Nadire had problems with their parents because Babur wouldn’t help in the fields on Sabbath. Finally, Nadire’s father brought her and the child to his home to live and publicly declared, “Babur must die!”

Somehow, Babur and Nadire got messages back and forth. They packed what few belongings they could carry and met at a bus stop. Tears streamed down their faces as they sped away.

As the miles ticked by, Nadire remembered her dream the night before. In it, she and a friend were watching a storm approach. In the clouds, she distinctly saw a face she had seen in Babur’s books—the face of Jesus. He smiled and said, “Don’t be afraid.”

Suddenly, gigantic waves began washing people away. She and her friend tried to run, but Nadire wasn’t scared. She called out to her screaming friend, “Be quiet. He is the Redeemer, and He will save us!” Then, she woke and prayed to Jesus for the first time. On the bus, she whispered to Babur, “I will follow you wherever this experience takes us.”

Approaching Uncle

Over the next two years, Nadire and Babur studied with the kind man in the capital city, and then they were baptized. One day, Babur told Nadire that he was going to see his uncle. “He’s constantly looking to kill us,” Babur said. “I must tell him we’re not what he thinks we are.”

As Babur walked to his uncle’s home, he saw people watching from their windows. He prayed and then knocked on the door. It was opened by his aunt. “Babur!” she hissed through clenched teeth. “Leave quickly. Uncle isn’t here, but if he sees you, something bad will happen.”

“Auntie,” Babur answered softly, “I will come in and wait for him.”

Finally, there was a noise outside. The door flew open, and Uncle stomped past Babur without looking at him or saying a word. Behind him was a religious leader.

“You’ve brought shame on your family and village,” the leader said, glaring down at Babur.

Babur began to speak. “I want to tell you, Uncle, who I am and what I am not. There are no crosses in my home. No idols. I go to church with the man we loved. You remember, the one who lived in your house?”

Uncle grunted but still refused to speak.

“What’s in that book you’re carrying?” the leader demanded. “Read something to me!”

Babur began to read from his Bible about the prophet Abraham.

“Hmmm,” the leader said thoughtfully. “Read from another place.”

Gaining courage, Babur read verses from several other chapters.

The leader turned to Babur’s uncle. “I don’t see any difficulties with this young man,” he announced. “You’ve been exaggerating the problems.”

Although Uncle still ignored Babur, the anger was gone from his eyes. He let Babur leave without making further threats.

Changed Feelings

Babur and Nadire stayed away from their home village for several years. When they returned, they tried to be like the couple who had come years before. They were friendly to everyone and helped them with their needs. In time, the villagers grew to love them.

Eventually, Babur and Nadire spent many years in a neighboring country serving the needs of others. When they returned to the village to visit, they were welcomed with open arms.

With tears in his eyes, Babur says that God sometimes allows pain to come, but He always has a purpose. Years ago, God let a couple be banished to a remote village. They experienced loneliness and fear, but their quiet witness changed one young man’s life. Then God allowed almost everything that young man cherished to be stripped away. He came close to losing his wife, his child, and his life. But through that experience, the villagers saw the tremendous change God can make in a person’s life. Some of Babur and Nadire’s relatives and friends have joined them in following Jesus.

I don’t know whether the old couple ever learned what a difference their lives had made. But in heaven, they will see that their time in exile was not wasted!

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Homer Trecartin now retired, wrote this story while serving as the planning director for the Office of Adventist Mission.