Testimonies of Muslim people who have met Jesus Christ through dreams and visions are not uncommon. But for most of us in South Africa such miracles are something that apparently happen in mysterious, faraway places.
It therefore piqued my interest when Heinrich Alberts, who leads a church in my home city, Port Elizabeth, told me he once met five such people together and that he was still in email contact with one of them, who was now planting Christian churches in North Africa.
I asked Heinrich to tell me more.
He says that in 2007 he went to Egypt for the first time to visit a college that equips grassroots leaders in interpreting the Bible and planting churches in North African and Middle Eastern countries that are closed to the gospel. He was part of a group from a circle of South African churches which support the work of the college. He was struck by the fearlessness of local believers who openly followed Christ knowing that it could cost them their lives. He was also moved by their love for the people who persecuted them. When he got back to South Africa it felt as if the whole church here was “fake” because it is “so easy and without cost”. But God worked in his heart and showed him that the SA Christians were His children too and have an important role to play in supporting church planters in “closed” countries.
In 2012 he returned to Egypt with his brother, Werner, to attend a graduation at the college. It was there that they met five Muslim background believers who had all encountered Jesus in dreams and visions in their different countries, and who had all independently come to the college at the same time to be equipped for ministry.
“What a wonderful group of people! To meet blank-slate Christians who have no church history was incredible. The love that emanated from them was absolutely beautiful,” he says.
Since that time Heinrich has kept in sporadic touch with one of the five, Ahmed Sami*, via email. When they met Ahmed was heading for a seminary in another Middle Eastern country. Now, according to the most recent email from his friend, it seems that Ahmed is back in his home country in North Africa, discipling Muslim background believers and trying to plant five churches in a city to which God has called him.
In an email Ahmed writes: “Please pray with me through this verse that I am claiming. ‘Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.’ (Phil 3: 13 – 14)
Commenting on the phenomenon of meeting Jesus through dreams and visions Heinrich says the Bible talks in Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17 about a time when people will have dreams and visions. He also says we cannot “box” God’s way of doing things.
“It’s wonderful to see that in places where no missionary can reach, those are the places where people are getting saved directly by God through dreams and visons. But after that He uses those people (as was my experience with the five people in Egypt) to go back and further the gospel via human agency — His Plan A.”
He says having seen it [people who came to Jesus through dreams and visions] himself he is a firm believer that it is something that God does in closed countries — possibly not just Arab countries but in any place that is closed to the Gospel.
Vision in a tent
As I started working on this report my attention was captured by another remarkable testimony reported by God Reports about a family of Muslims in a refugee camp in Syria who were told by Jesus in a vision to wait for a man called Daniel who would come and tell them more about Him. The story is one of a number shared by Tyler Connell with the Ekballo Project who has been touring college campuses around the US, recruiting students to join the Middle East mission field where there is a hunger for truth among disillusioned and broken Muslims.
One of the films which Tyler shows to students chronicles a young missionary named Daniel*, 24, originally from Vermont. Two years ago Daniel moved to the Middle East to work with Syrian refugees.
“They go house to house and visit these Muslim families and sit with them and talk with them and find out their names, their stories, and love them. As trust is built, they begin to open up about the Gospel.”
One afternoon Daniel walked into a white tent with a family of eight people inside. “Hi I’m Daniel and I’m here to tell you about Jesus,” he announced.
He wasn’t quite prepared for their reaction.“The family freaked out, they looked at each other, almost turned white. The father was excited, yelling.”
What’s going on? Daniel wondered.
The interpreter explained that the night before Daniel’s visit the whole family was sitting in their tent having tea together and a man in white opened the door to their tent and stood at the entrance. The man was glowing.
“Hello, My name is Jesus and I am sending a man tomorrow named Daniel to tell you more about me.” Then he disappeared.
So when Daniel arrived at their doorway and told them his name, they were completely undone. “They asked him to tell them more about Jesus and he gave then the gospel and the whole family gave their lives to Jesus,” Connell reports.
Planting underground churches
The father had been a part of the Free Syrian Army. “He had known bloodshed. He was a devout Muslim. This man and his family are now planting underground churches and are seeing a harvest among Muslims.”
Recently the father was dismayed by a large cell phone bill and he asked his 15-year-old daughter about it.
“It’s because I’m telling all our relatives in Saudi Arabia about Jesus,” she said.
*Names changed for security reasons