Sunday, May 29, 2011

Muslims turning to Jesus in the Algerian Sahara

Muslims in Algeria first started turning to Christ 25 years ago in the region of Tizi Ouzou. Today there are more than 100,000 Protestant Christians who live in this area, which is also home to the indigenous ethnic group known as the Kabyle (ka-bee-li). 

More than 900 miles away from Tizi Ouzou, the Sahara Desert looms large in southern Algeria. Yet "Hamid" and his wife "Imane" left the comfort of their Kabylie village to take over an abandoned church in a southern Algerian city in the Sahara.

The couple began to hold prayer meetings. At first it was just the two of them. Then three members of the nearby Catholic church, which is open only to foreigners, began to come. After the new church's third meeting, the police showed up.

"They ordered me to leave the city and said no more meetings should be had." Days later, Hamid and Imane were startled from their sleep by crashing noises. Muslims were throwing coffee cups, glasses and stones at the church door. Later, Imane and another Christian woman were assaulted by a group of teenagers in the city. About 20 teenagers appeared and began shouting at them, calling them "kafir" (unbeliever) and throwing trash at them.

"One of them took an iron rod and began beating the woman who was with me," Imane says. "I tried to defend her and they hit me too. They hit me in my arm, and as I began to run away they began throwing stones at us. I went into a shop, and the owner defended us and got a taxi for us."

Imane arrived home without serious injury, but the incident terrified her. She and her husband were in the lion's den, sharing Christ in the heart of Muslim territory. "I started thinking this was impossible," she says. "Then God told me in Acts 18:9, 'Do not be afraid, keep on speaking, do not be silent.'"

After nearly three years of restoring the church, being harassed by police, fighting off attacks by Muslim mobs and repairing vandalism, Hamid and Image were becoming very discouraged. They asked God to show them the fruit of their labor. The couple climbed up on the church's roof and kneeled to pray. "We said we need five souls for Christ," Hamid says. "We needed five Arab souls by the end of the year, ,and that would let us know that God was with us.

Just months after that prayer, a young Arab walked to the gates of the church. "I'm a Muslim," he said. "I just want to know about Christ." Within three months, five Arabs had come to Christ.

Now Hamid and Imane have a vibrant church congregation of about 40, with Bible studies, baptisms, outreach activities and discipleship training for new believers. The police no longer harass them, and the couple says the persecution they suffered helped them to bear their fruit.

"We are hoping that a strong wave of persecution comes to the Kabylie area so Christians will be pushed out from that area and come after the Arab souls," Hamid says. "We have a big vision about southern Algeria; we pray that God extends our territory more. Please pray for our protection and that the Arab believers who are with us now will be encouraged and share their faith with others."

(from Voice of the Martyrs, May 2011)

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