Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Football match that brought Christ to Algeria

In the 1980s, most churches in Algeria were abandoned relics left over from French colonialism, which lasted from 1830 to 1962. Algeria had become a land devoid of the gospel. To be Algerian was to be Muslim.

But in a country with no Christian bookstores, no functioning indigenous churches and virtually no access to Bibles, God made a way out of no way.

In 1983, a group of young Algerians in the mountainous Tizi Ouzou province noticed a group of tourists setting up tents. "It was a windy place and they set up the tent the wrong way; the wind blew everything over, including their tent and all their belongings", says "Hassan." "We laughed at them and then went over to help them."

Hassan and his 12 friends began talking with the foreigners, and before long the visitors challenged the Algerians to a football match.  But the Algerians told the tourists that their best football player couldn't play. He was sick in be with a fever.

"They said to us, "Well, can we see him? We'd like to pray for his healing,'" Hassan says. ."We'd never heard of that, but we thought that was fine. It couldn't hurt anything." That night, the tourists prayed, and Hassan's friend was healed. He played in the football match the next day, and after the game the group questioned the tourist about the prayer.

"We wanted to know, who was the father who healed instantly?" Hassan says. Eventually, the tourists told the group about the grace and salvation offered through faith in Jesus. Then the tourists left.

"I felt the stories they told were not just stories, but real," Hassan says. "It made me want to leave everything and follow Jesus." Hassan is quick to point out that the tourists were not missionaries. He describes the encounter with the tourists as a miracle, and the football match is widely credited with the spread of the gospel in modern Algeria.

"We cannot count the number of people that came to Christ - a lot of conversion stories, a lot of miracles," Hassan says. "We don't know how it happened, just that people came to faith and came to God."

Christianity quickly began to flourish, making it the fastest growing religion in Algeria. Then the Algerian government, pressured by hard-line Islamic nations such as Iran, decided the growth of Christianity in Algeria had to be stopped. Hassan and his friends were arrested and jailed many times.

Tizi Ouzou, about 60 miles east of the capital city of Algiers, is now the center of the Protestant movement in Algeria. Most of the 100,000 Protestant Christians live in this area.

(from Voice of the Martyrs, May 2011)

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