Let’s use the opportunity of #GivingTuesday to remember that it is more blessed to give than to receive – be it today or at any other time of the year.
Young Markus had been an ambitious Muslim. He studied in an Islamic university led by his father and his mission was to reach out to Christian youth and lead them to the “right path”.
“I told you not to read the Bible and learn about Jesus! Now you’ve become a kafir, a Christian!” Taufik* yelled at his son, Markus*, in a rage.
He couldn’t believe that his son, who he had been preparing to be the next Islamic scholar and leader, had confessed such a dangerous and deviant idea.
“No, Father! I’m still a Muslim! I only found out that Isa is the truth, the Word of God!” Markus replied, not expecting his father’s reaction.
To his confusion, Markus was kicked out of the house. Angry, confused, and deeply sad, Markus went to a pastor’s house. He never thought his questions about Isa would cost him so dearly.
TRAINED TO CONVERT CHRISTIANS TO ISLAM
All of this began three years earlier when Markus went to college in West Java, Indonesia. Markus belongs to the country’s second largest people group, the Sundanese, which is strongly associated with Islam. In this very province, harassment and attacks of Christians and churches are commonplace.
Young Markus had been an ambitious and fanatic Muslim. He studied in an Islamic university led by his father and was very active in the Islamic youth organization. For Markus, Islam was the best and only true religion —the only one acceptable to God. His mission was to reach out to Christian youth and lead them to the “right path”.
A QUESTION ABOUT HEAVEN
One day, Markus met a Chinese Christian and jumped at the opportunity to share Islam. During their conversation, Markus stressed that Christianity was relevant 2,000 years ago but not today.
“It doesn’t matter if Christianity is a true religion or not. What matters is that I will go to heaven for sure,” responded the Chinese man. Markus was startled by the answer. “What an arrogant man,” he thought. After all, heaven is serious business —so serious that, in Islam, one should never talk as such.
“What makes it so easy for you to enter heaven? Does it belong to your father?” implored Markus.
“Yes, it belongs to my Father!”
“So, who is God?”
“My God is Jesus!”
That was the end of the conversation, but not for Markus.
NEW JOURNEY TO CHRIST… AT A GREAT COST
The conversation haunted him. The name ‘Jesus’ made him wonder. As far as he knew, nobody ever referred to Allah as their father. Why are Christians so sure that they will go to heaven? And why do Christians say that heaven belongs to their father? He decided to learn more about Christianity. This was the only way he could convert them to Islam.
And so began his investigation about Jesus. In the Quran, Jesus is known as Isa. The Quran says that Isa will come again to kill Satan, to judge all people, and to kill pigs (a metaphor for destroying all vices). Markus was puzzled.
The Quran mentions that only Allah can judge people and that Muhammad is the last prophet. So why is Isa coming for the second time? Who is this Isa?
With so many queries in his mind, the first person he talked to for confirmation was his father, Taufik. To his surprise, Taufik affirmed that Isa would come again, but he also encouraged Markus to end his quest. But He never did. He kept asking his senior lecturers who Isa was and got the same reply his father had provided. He bought a Bible and began reading and comparing it with the Quran. Three years later, Markus was confirmed something that would change him forever —Isa is the truth.
How he wished things were simple, just knowing the truth and life going on as usual. But this was not the case. Before he was expelled from his home, his father beat him with a rod.
For the next 12 years, he and his parents had no contact despite Markus being their only child. For knowing the Heavenly Father, he lost his earthly parents.
CALLED TO LEAD HIS OWN PEOPLE
After learning the Bible in the pastor’s house, Markus went to a Bible school in Singapore and became a pastor. There, he heard God say to him: “Bring the children of each mile to Christ.” Markus knew at once that his calling was to reach out to his own people in West Java, prompting him to return to his homeland.
Markus started his mission in a Muslim village in West Java through community development. A year later, the village head asked about his religion. “I’m a Christian,” replied Markus firmly, who seized this opportunity to share the Gospel. Though the village head refused, Markus was welcomed to pray. The two could only cry during the prayer. It touched the man’s heart that an outsider was willing to cry for and with him. The following week, 49 people showed up at the village head’s house, asking to be baptized. This was just the beginning. Later, the whole village became followers of Isa.
As his mission expanded, Markus began to receive death threats. At one point, he was hunted by the local authorities for his evangelistic activities and had to relocate abroad. Yet, he stayed faithful to God’s calling of serving his own people, the Sundanese, and returned to Indonesia when the situation allowed him to.
Today, God has used Markus, a bright scholar with extensive knowledge on Christianity and Islam, to reach out to and disciple over 8,000 believers of Muslim background who, for their safety, mostly worship in house churches. “I now focus on equipping the young disciples at our discipleship center to be the next leaders,” he added. Open Doors helped build the center and provided Markus with livelihood loans to fuel his mission.
POSTLUDE: A HUNDREDFOLD
One of Markus’ dreams is for his parents to know and follow Jesus. During his long period of incommunicado, he prayed day and night for his parents’ salvation.
In 2013, the Lord granted his petition. His father accepted Jesus as his Savior after witnessing his wife’s miraculous healing from an illness which spared her from a surgery.
“My oldest son, then nine years old, was the one who told her that Isa could heal,” Markus recalled. “My father scrutinized the Bible ever since the healing and then one day he told me that ‘your faith is the right one.’” Father and son soon found themselves in each other arms, in tears, reconciled.
To Markus, perhaps nothing resonates better than Jesus’ promise that “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. (Matt. 19:29)” What he had lost, the Lord has restored—in a hundredfold.
*Names changed for security reasons