“Tell Baba Michael that I am still walking with Jesus,” Swalehe said. When I remember these words, tears come to my eyes. I am surprised that this man is still walking with Jesus. Swalehe threatened more than once to leave his new-found faith. I felt like we were two bulls locking horns, one making a comment or threat and the other countering. It was discipleship in the boxing ring.
I first met Swalehe on a village path. Walking that day felt like taking an energy-sapping walk in a huge sauna! After our initial greeting, Swalehe mentioned Jesus. This was unusual in a Muslim village. I asked him some questions and found his answers interesting. I invited him to our home the next day.
When Swalehe showed up, I was stunned! He told me about himself and how he had come to faith in Jesus. He said he believed in Him and wanted to know more. I struggled to believe his words and told Swalehe that we would study the Bible if we were to meet.
Swalehe grew up without a father. He had brothers and sisters from different unions and lived in a mud house. The house had a dirt floor, and the beds and mats were made from palm leaves. The food was sparse. Illnesses were frequent. The relationships in the family were tricky, with envy and greed breeding mistrust. Swalehe’s grandmother and aunt were practicing witches yet professing Muslims. Despite the unloving environment, Swalehe had a good mind. He remembered things well and asked us for many things, such as a pot, money, a mattress, shoes, etc. It was tiring. He also knew the verses that encourage (and he would say, commanded) all Christians to share everything in common, give to all who ask of you, and help the poor.
Of course, I loved the verse in II Thessalonians 3:10 that says, “Anyone who is not willing to work, let him not eat.” I was learning and struggling with questions such as, Was I being selfish? One day, Swalehe asked me for a pot for cooking. I resisted his request. Swalehe threatened to return to Misri (the Swahili term for Egypt). He referred to the Israelite’s complaint to Moses.
“Go ahead. Go back!” I said. But I warned him what he would return to and who he would turn his back on—Jesus, eternal life. This began many mini-sermons to my dear brother in the Lord. Swalehe left, and I prayed. “Lord, I need wisdom. What should I do?”
Swalehe did return. I told him I would buy him a pot. This was the beginning of many days with Swalehe.
Two to three times each morning, Swalehe visited. Over the years, he often threatened to return to Misri. Each time I said, “Go ahead.” We studied Scripture, prayed, ate, and enjoyed tea together. In time, I helped him take driving lessons and get a license so he could get a job to support himself. Swalehe eventually made the decision to get baptized.
Baptism for a Muslim convert is a big deal, a true turning away from Islam. This is also where persecution begins for them.
Swalehe didn’t give up. He fought the spiritual fight. By becoming a follower of Jesus, he had become unclean, so he could no longer live in the family house. He had to build his own separate mud hut. He woke up one morning choking on black, acrid smoke because someone had placed tires around his hut and set them on fire. They hoped it would drive him out of the village. Swalehe continued to meet with me, growing his faith in Jesus. In time, our Lord led us to a new land. We had to leave Swalehe and others in the Lord’s hands. Many fell away after we left. Few remained faithful to Jesus. The pressure was on all.
Several years later, a fellow missionary shared with me that Swalehe was distributing the Gospels of John to his fellow tribal members. He continued active involvement in church and grew in his faith in Jesus.
My prayer is this:
“Lord, you are the life-giver; you are the life sustainer. Lord, please surround this one with your love and your protection. Be the loving Father that he never knew. Be the nurturing and caring mother that he didn’t have. Open the heavens and pour your grace, truth, peace, and love in the Holy Spirit. May Swalehe always walk with Jesus, and may he always sit in your presence. May the angels of the Lord camp around him.”
Let’s talk about “heart commitments.” Through discipling, Michael learned so much! Three things stick out for Michael in his experience with his brother in Christ:
- Invest time in others. If anything, this post demonstrates the time it takes to walk with someone in learning about Jesus, to build empathy and understanding.
- Study the Bible together. The post also demonstrates how studying and interacting with God’s Word together has lasting impact on you and the person you choose to disciple. You can do this in-person or you can use online tools.
- Prayer. Lead all you do in prayer.
What have you learned in discipling others? How can we pray for you in your endeavor?
- Learn more about Michael and Debbie Bannon here.
- Enroll in a workshop to learn how to use free resources to host your own Bible Study, even a workshop in learning how to use online tools to teach one. Click here.
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