ho is this man? I wondered as I watched the festivities celebrating the life of John Wesley. My family and I had recently moved from the Middle East to England where we’d opened a fish and chips shop in the town of Wesley’s birth. I’d never heard of this cofounder of the Methodist church. In fact, I knew almost nothing about Christianity. As I researched Wesley on the Internet, I felt my heart open a little to the Christian faith.
Three years later, my family sold the shop, and I got a job at a supermarket. One day, I noticed my coworker Yusuf* bowing his head before eating his meal.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“I’m thanking Jesus for my food,” he replied. “Do you know Jesus, Altan?”
“Only that he was a prophet,” I said.
“Would you like to know more?”
“Sure, why not?” I responded.
A couple of days later, Yusuf’s pastor came to visit me at the market. He greeted me warmly, and then, to my surprise, handed me a present.
Every day, people in this teeming city take more than 100 New Testaments off the bookrack at the Urban Center of Influence!
I thanked him for his thoughtfulness and unwrapped a New Testament Bible.
“What is a Bible?” I asked. “And what is a New Testament?”
“You’ll have to read it to understand,” he replied, a little mischievously.
I couldn’t sleep that night because I kept thinking about the Bible. What is it about? I wondered. Why did the pastor give it to me? Unfortunately, I couldn’t find out because I’d left the Bible at work.
The next day, Yusuf invited me to begin reading the Bible with him.
We finished Matthew within a few days and then read Mark and Luke.
“Something’s happening inside me,” I confided to Yusuf one day at work.
“What is it?” he probed.
“I’m not sure how to explain it, but I feel something stirring my heart since we’ve started reading the Bible.”
“Go to the storage room,” he said, “lock the door, and try to say the word repent.”
In the storage room, I repeated the word repent several times and then suddenly began to cry. For half an hour, I poured out my heart to God, asking Him to forgive my sins, until I heard a soft knock on the door.
“Altan,” Yusuf said, laying his hand on my shoulder, “Jesus has given you His Holy Spirit. That’s why you’ve been able to repent of your sins.”
I surrendered my heart to Jesus that day and committed my life to serving Him.
Yusuf and I went to church together the following Sunday. The congregation welcomed me with open arms, and after the service, I told the pastor that I wanted to be baptized. He studied the Bible with me, and several months later, I was baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. It was the happiest day of my life!
I loved my church family and was eagerly involved in evangelism, but after three years, I found myself feeling dissatisfied with the church services. We spent most of our time singing and very little time studying God’s Word. “Lord,” I prayed, “I want to grow stronger in my relationship with You. Please help me to do so.”
Soon I began having an unusual dream. In it, I saw a building in the city of my homeland. In the doorway was a bookrack filled with free books. I heard a voice tell me to go there.
The next day, I tried to put the dream out of my mind, but it was useless. The Holy Spirit kept pushing me to buy a plane ticket, and I couldn’t sleep at night. Finally, I prayed, “OK, Lord, I will do as you say.”
Global Mission supports thousands of local people, called pioneers, in starting new groups of believers among people groups where there is no Adventist presence.
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When I arrived in my home city, I prayed, “Lord, what should I do now?” Suddenly, I saw a soft light, and I heard the Holy Spirit say, “Follow the light straight ahead and then turn right.” I followed the light until I came upon a small building. In the doorway was the bookrack that I had seen in my dream! Then the light rested on one of the books. “This is the book I sent you to get,” the Holy Spirit said. “Take it.”
I took the book and read it in three days. Written by Ellen White, it was about the great controversy between Christ and Satan. “Lord,” I cried, as I pored over its pages, “thank you so much. This is what I’ve been looking for!”
I researched Ellen White on the Internet, and as I learned about her books, ministry, and cofounding of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, I thought, Wow, these are the books I want to read, and this is the church I want to join.
There was an address for a local Adventist church in the front cover of the book, and, prompted by the Holy Spirit, I visited the next Sabbath. The pastor gave me more books by Ellen White, and when I told him that I’d be leaving for London soon, he also gave me the name and number of an Adventist pastor there. When I returned to London, I studied with this pastor and eventually became a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Several months ago, I returned to my city in the Middle East. Imagine my surprise when on a ferry, I again met the pastor who had given me the books by Ellen White. He explained that the bookrack was part of a Global Mission project called an Urban Center of Influence (UCI) and introduced me to the Global Mission pioneer who worked there. Then he invited me to work with the pioneer in my spare time.
In my country, it’s illegal to approach people to talk about your faith. They must come to you and ask. That’s why the bookrack is in the doorway, inviting people to take books and Bibles. Never did I imagine when I saw the bookrack in my dreams that soon I would be standing beside it, talking and praying with people and answering their questions about God!
Together, the pioneer and I have planted a new group of believers. For now, God has given me a new dream to win more hearts for Him in this city and start many more churches here. But He has given me an even bigger dream for the future. I want to plant thousands of churches for Jesus throughout the Middle East. Please pray that the Lord will use me to make this dream come true.
*The author's name has been changed and his photograph blurred to protect his identity.