Price of Being a True Believer from a Muslim Background
Rena converted to Christ from Islam in her early 20s. She is a courageous young woman who was bold in expressing her faith to her family. She knew that she would be cursed at and driven away by her own parents, yet she could not keep her joy in the Lord hidden.
Living alone was lonely and Rena longed to marry someone who shared her faith in Christ. She cried out to the Lord and asked for a godly husband. Most of her friends were married with children. “To be honest, I really wanted to get married at that time,” Rena said. “Then I met Jess.”
Jess was not a Christian, and did not know anything about Jesus. Falling headlong in love with Rena, he wanted to follow her faith and did not think twice about the cost involved. Jess went with Rena to a local Christian leader, also an MBB, and learned a little about the scriptures and was baptized. They got married soon after.
Happily ever after?
The first year was a disaster—they quarreled every day. Rena often wept and complained that she had been deceived. Jess dropped his masquerade and refused to go to Bible studies or other gatherings with fellow MBBs.
Jess tried to run away from the tension and conflicts at home. One day, he saw the Bible on the bed and began to read. “It was my first time reading the Bible and I couldn’t stop,” Jess said. “I really prayed that day when I read His words, I experienced unexpected inner peace that I never experienced before.” Something changed in his heart. He cried out, “Jesus, please help me to love my wife, fix my marriage if you are the true Lord.”
After that, Jess began to help Rena with some housework and care for their baby. Rena noticed the difference. One day, Jess asked to attend the weekly bible study group. “I pray for you every day and God clearly answered my prayers,” Rena turned to Jess and said. “In the past many brothers and sisters were against our marriage, now I see God’s grace when I was rebellious.”
Fierce storm brewing
Just when Rena thought they would live happily ever after, a fierce storm was building.
Jess’s two older brothers found out about his new faith and were deeply offended. They slapped him around violently. “They never beat me before,” Jess inhaled deeply and said. “I couldn’t betray Jesus again.” Jess and Rena with their baby son were kicked out and all their sheep and horses were taken away. They had no money, not enough clothes to wear and no place to live.
“Yes dear, Jesus is worth it.”
“My parents had left an abandoned house in the mountains,” Jess shared. It was their only option. The ceiling leaked and all the windows were broken. Temperatures often dropped dramatically at night and gusts of wind made them shiver violently. There was no water or electricity either. “Is it really worth it?” Rena looked around and asked. Jess held her tight in his arms and said, “Yes dear, Jesus is worth it.”
Jess makes a daily trip to a nearby river to fetch two buckets of water and they use candles for light at night. His brothers once came and demanded that he divorce Rena. “They know it’s impossible. They told us if we turned back to Islam, they would build a big, beautiful house for us. But Jesus is more precious than that.”
Without sheep or horses, it’s hard for them to make a living. Jess figured out a way to earn money by purchasing socks, scarves, and belts and selling them at a weekly local market. Life is still hard for them, especially in the winter when it’s freezing outside. Jess travels far to fetch water when the nearby river freezes over.
Having learned about Jess’ situation, Open Doors has provided a small fund for him to do more street vendor business to support his family and remain in the community. “Thank you so much for your support,” Jess tells us.
China’s tremendous rise on the Open Doors 2019 World Watch List
Among the 90 million Christians in China, there are only a few thousand Muslim background believers (MBBs). Those living in western China are some of the most persecuted groups. The government imposes tight control over this sensitive region to defend against terrorist attacks and to reiterate its position of anti-Islamic extremism and anti-infiltration of religious issues by forces from overseas.
China has made a tremendous jump on Open Door’s 2019 World Watch List, rising from 43 to 27. Mainstream media have extensively covered China’s ‘crackdown’ on churches, house churches and Christians. Some analysists warned that China has reverted to the times of the Cultural Revolution.
Open Doors strengthens the faith of the most persecuted MBBs in China by providing persecution related training and Christian materials, connecting the isolated ones to Christian groups, and providing micro-loans for them to maintain livelihood.