Upon accepting Christ, I lost everything I once thought I needed. I lost the approval, association, and even the love of my own family members. I lost a connection with several of my closest friends. I lost the ability to freely visit a country I once regarded as a second home. However, these losses were frivolous in comparison to what I gained. In accepting Christ, I gained the only thing I truly needed and the only thing any human truly needs: a relationship with my Lord and Savior. With great pleasure and joy, everything else “I counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (Phil 3:7).
Born and Raised in a Muslim Family
I was born and raised in a Muslim family. Quranic legends were often my bedtime stories and Arabic Islamic prayers were frequently the background music in our house. When I turned nine, my grandmother started meticulously teaching me important prayers and recitations in Arabic. Even though I did not understand the words, let alone the meanings of these prayers, I diligently memorized them.
At a young age, I began the practice of fasting for the month of Ramadan. I deprived myself of water and food for close to seventeen hours a day; yet when I was asked about the meaning of the fasting, I could not think of anything to say other than, “because I am expected to.” These expectations were rooted in a set of rules I did not understand rather than in a relationship with God. The more I sought to be a “good Muslim,” the more perplexed I became about what that meant. No matter how hard I tried, I could not fulfill all the rules expected of me. Because of this, I always thought I was disappointing God.
Questions, Christians and the Gospel of John
Over time, my questions kept multiplying and in my heart I remained resistant to completely surrendering myself to Islam. Rather than drawing me closer to the religion, my doubts were pushing me away. I felt like a very important link was missing, hindering me from maintaining a true relationship with God. I could almost describe it as if the house was built, but the front door was missing a knob. I had no idea what this missing piece was, but deep down I knew I could not have a true relationship with God without it. The Lord had set the stage.
My sophomore year of college I was placed in a room with two Christian girls, three Christian suitemates, and a group of Christian boys in the neighboring room. All of them had known each other from the previous year and were very close. I found myself attending Christian events just to feel like a part of the group. Many times, I would overhear discussions of Christian topics and ideas, whether it was during Bible studies or just casual conversations. The discussions pushed me to think, challenged my own belief system, and fostered my desire to seek what was true. The more I learned about Jesus, the more I wanted to know, and the more passionate I became to find the truth.
One afternoon, I had a class with one of the girls from my friend group. We usually met to talk before class started. This day I went up to her and she was reading the Bible. Having nothing else to do, I asked if I could read it with her. She was delighted and turned quickly to the first chapter of John’s Gospel. We did read ten verses that afternoon, but it was enough to consume my mind and heart. I knew that the entirety of the Quran and the religion of Islam had never resonated with and comforted me the way that a few verses of the Bible had. I felt such a conviction to keep reading, yet was scared of betraying and disappointing my entire family.
A few days later, the conviction was not something I could ignore. My friend and I agreed to a weekly reading plan to go through the book of John together, and I embarked on the journey of finding the truth. Indeed, John wrote his Gospel with the purpose of encouraging faith in Jesus: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31). I don’t remember exactly when I accepted Christ, but I know that at one point, my faith in Christ was all I had; I realized He was all I needed.
Out of Nowhere?
Many people have even told me that my salvation came out of nowhere. I used to think so, too, until I read John 15:16, which brought me to realize the complete fallacy of that statement. It says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” When I look back on my journey, I realize that even before I was born, I was destined to become a follower of Christ. I realize that every moment of my life was leading up to this destiny, even though I had not realized it.
It is by grace through faith we are saved; through faith we are humbled and sanctified; through faith that we persevere through all the challenges of this world; and it is through faith that I came to Grace Bible Fellowship. My best friends in college were a significant part of my journey to the faith, so when graduation hit, I had many worries. While most people fear the uncertainty of their future upon graduation, one of my biggest fears was how my faith would be affected after moving back home. Moving back home would mean moving to a place where I didn’t have one Christian friend and where Islam was the only religion practiced. I would be moving away from the support system that had sparked and strengthened my faith. With these worries, I vastly underestimated the power of the Holy Spirit.
Finding a Local Church
Upon moving back home, the first thing I decided to do was make a list of all the churches near my home. Sunday after Sunday I tried different ones, and each Sunday I realized that the process was significantly harder than I had thought. One of the last churches I tried before GBF was very charismatic. After the service, I met a few people who asked to hear my testimony. When I was finished, the first question posed was, “Have you ever had a demon cast out of you?” At first, I thought the guy was joking. I was very confused and had no idea what to say. On my way back from church, I was so overwhelmed that I pulled the car to the side and burst into tears. I felt so unsettled about the whole experience and somehow knew that everything he was telling me was not true. That night, sobbing in the car on the side of the road, I prayed for God to lead me to a church that would help me understand the truth about what was clearly stated in Scripture, not what others simply believed from experiences.
When I got home that evening, I received a text from my friend in L. A. informing me that he had found a church he wanted me to try. “It’s called Grace Bible something,” he told me. Even though I was feeling discouraged from my previous experiences, I knew I could not give up and that I needed to have faith in Christ. One week later, God led me to GBF; and after the first day of my attendance, I knew it was the right church for me. GBF and its wonderfully faithful members quickly became the greatest church family I could have ever asked for. I immediately felt comfortable reaching out to the people I had met, asking them questions through emails, phone calls, and texts. Their thorough and scripturally-sound responses and patience with my many questions were such a blessing and a specific answer to my prayers.
Every day I’m reminded of Matthew 7:7: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.” God wants us to know His truth. He doesn’t make it mysterious, unattainable knowledge. But, He does require us to genuinely seek after it and never settle for anything less. As a new Christian, my fear of not having enough knowledge to correctly discern was quickly alleviated by the recognition that the Holy Spirit was and will always be enough. The first time I prayed, asking God to show me the Truth, I became a Christian. The second time I prayed, I was led to GBF. And I will never stop praying for God to guide me in the Truth.