FROM A RADICAL MUSLIM TO A CHRISTIAN REVEREND
True Story of a Thai Muslim Man Converted into Christianity
Compiled by Vachiravan Vanlaeiad
(His name is omitted in compliance with his request.)
I was born into a very religious Muslim family in Trang – a Southern Province of Thailand. My father was Pakistani and my mother Thai Malay. Since my parents’ eldest child was female, I had to be responsible for making sure that my siblings would attain thorough knowledge on Islam: teaching them to read the Al Qur’an. My father had taught me to read it since I was four. By ten, I could read and memorize the whole Book, rendering feelings of joy and pride to my parents. I was the apple of their eye, and all their hopes and dreams had been placed on me.
After finishing Grade 4 from a Buddhist temple school in Trang (note: almost government primary and secondary schools are located within or nearby Buddhist temples because in the former time temples were the center of education), by the grace and miracle of God, I had furthered my study at Trang Christian School (which was established by American missionaries). It is an unusual practice for a very religious Muslim to send his or her eldest son to study in Christian school. However, due to my solemn oath made with my father: not letting any Christian beliefs to influence my life, plus my serious and steadfast characters and personality, I had gained great trust from him. I was one of a few Muslim students studying in that school.
During the time spent at school, I had behaved myself well as a good and religious Muslim and, especially, as a very obedient son of my father. I had tried my best to reject the religious things of Christianity by closing my eyes, my ears, and my thoughts every time I had been exposed to them. Sometimes I was so offensive that I would tear the gospel tracts received from Christian students in front of them, openly proclaiming enmity towards them. My aggressive behaviors had notoriously and rapidly spread among both fellow students and teaching staff members. In this way I could manage to go on living my academic life in the Christian environment intact.
However, there was a rule of thumb in that Christian school: all students had to participate in a daily, 45-minute meeting: receiving teachings on the Bible. These were the hardest times of my life at school. Of course, as a good and responsible student, I had to follow the rule by letting my body inside the meeting room, but leaving all my thoughts and mind at my Al Qu’ran.
One day on my first encounter with the Bible, I was very astonished, knowing that many stories in the Bible and Al Qu’ran were almost the same. That afternoon after school, I could hardly wait to inform my father about the discovery. My father told me that although many stories in the two Books were alike; yet one utmost difference between the two religions was that Christians believed Jesus Christ was God but Muslims believed He was a prophet.
Upon hearing my father’s explanation, my dislike towards Christians and Christianity were increased to the point of extreme hatred. I had attended the meeting with new attitude and more reserved manner. Now I knew that these so-called Christians were deceiving the whole students into believing that Jesus was God!
After a year or two at school, nobody dared to confront me with Christian beliefs, except one very brave student. He was my own friend and he was a Christian! He challenged me to read through the whole New Testament Bible (Gideon edition) to see whether Jesus was God or not. After thorough reading, he said, if Jesus were not God then I could throw away or destroy my Bible. He had also accused me of presuming Jesus was not God without even reading or studying His words recorded in the Bible.
At this point I was so enraged. How could he challenge me who had studied the Al Qu’ran since 4 years old? The Al Qu’ran clearly said that Jesus was only a prophet and Muhammad was the last prophet after Jesus. And that if we wanted to be saved we had to follow the teachings of Nabi Muhammad: ceremonious washing five times a day; fasting; making a pilgrimage to Mecca; etc. Practicing these things was to accumulate good deeds which in turn would enable one to be forgiven by Allah. And only Allah could decide who would be in heaven or hell. I thus solemnly responded back to my friend’s accusations, “Jesus is only a religion leader!” Even though seeing my extreme anger and annoyance, my friend retorted unflinchingly that Jesus was not only a prophet, He was God.
From that time on I started to read the Bible. I had compared the Bible with the Al-Quran, page by page and chapter by chapter. The reason I had made thorough reading and studying the Bible was to find faults (if any, and I was so sure at that time there were many) with it, and to find some arguments in order to prove that Christian beliefs were foolish and unreasonable, and that Christians were pitifully misled and misguided.
It took me five long years to undertake the process of finding faults with the Bible and Christian beliefs. One day, I had noticed some differences between the Bible and Al-Quran. I found that the Al-Quran was full of instructions and directions; however, while reading the Bible, I felt that its stories were lively and could not be put down. Reading the Bible, especially the four gospels: Matthews, Mark, Luke, and John, had rendered me peaceful feeling. I gradually believed that Jesus was God because of the following reasons:
First. Jesus’ birth was a miracle. He was born in accordance with numerous prophecies clearly stated in the Old Testament. All of them had unanimously pointed to the One sent by God to the world to save all humankind from sins. Not only the miraculous birth of Jesus, all things happened in His life which were recorded in the Bible long before He was born had been amazingly accomplished, especially the story of the Virgin Mary. He who is not Jew nor Muslim would never deeply understand this story. The Messiah who was to be born must not descend from the first man and woman on earth: Adam and Eve. He must be born from a virgin who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit: that is without the seeds of sin. Moreover, Jesus is God and God is Spirit. He had to be born into the world as a human-being with senses and feelings, to be able to bear all our punishment by suffering and dying on the cross.
Second. Jesus had been living His life without sin. There is not one record of His confessions or repentance made in the Bible. Besides, His life was full of miracles. It was true that many prophets were able to work various wonders, however, they had limitations (in comparison to Jesus’). Jesus could open the eyes of the blind, stop the gales, and raise the dead, etc. Moreover, there is a miracle nobody could do except God (Jews and Muslims share this same belief), it is forgiveness of sins. Since Jesus, according to the Bible, could forgive all sins of humanity, He therefore is God. He must not be only a prophet or nabi.
Third. The reason I was convinced that Jesus is God was His death on the cross. Jesus had clearly said in advance that He would die for the sins of mankind. However, He was miraculously raised from death (resurrection) on the third day. Resurrection is the greatest and most amazing thing in the world. Human-beings have never been able to overcome death no matter how hard they tried to find various immortal formulae. Jesus being raised from death implied that He is God, not a religious leader. This is supported by various evidences and testimonies which have never been eliminated or deleted from the Bible since His times onwards. The Bible also records that there were more than 5,000 people testifying about Jesus’ resurrection and seeing Jesus ascend to heaven with their very own eyes. His power could overcome death which is the worst and most fearful enemy of mankind. All these have concretely confirmed that Jesus is God. As a result, all human-beings have since had hope of living better and eternal lives after death.
After thorough reading and studying the Bible for 5 long years, I had more confidence that Jesus is God and that His words are 100% correct.
There were other reasons I convincingly believed that Jesus is God. I had personal experiences with Jesus for the first time when I challenged Him that if He were God, He would please manifest Himself to me. One night I prayed the sinner’s prayers, inviting Jesus into my heart. I could pray that prayers because I had been participated in the daily Christian meetings at school for a number of years. After the prayers, I felt great and genuine peaceful feeling embracing my heart, shedding tears of joy all through the night. For all of my life I had never felt peace when I prayed. And despite my highly religious ideation, I had never been sure of myself being able to be in God’s presence. However, that night I was so confident that I had been in His presence, and that I had been absolutely saved from all sins. I was so happy that I wanted to shout loudly for the whole wide world to share my utmost joy with me.
After welcoming Jesus Christ into my life, I had been gradually transformed. It seemed accepting Him equaling receiving a great power into the core of myself. Since Grade 5, I had never got high grades, especially in the English language studies. After I prayed for God to help me improve my grade and input brand new interest in the language, my marks in that subject had been gradually increasing until I got the highest marks in class for many times. Both my English teacher and classmates were so astonished that they tried to find the reasons behind these amazing incidents. Moreover, my overall grade had been increasing little by little until one day I was transferred to another class which belonged to the brightest students.
Not only my school life had been transformed, my characteristics and personality as well. I was very selfish, delighting in taking advantage of my 5 siblings, etc. I had also been addicted to cigarette smoking and using profane words. I had desperately prayed to God to delete these bad characters and behaviors of mine. God had gradually dealt with me in these areas until I felt I was more gentle, polite, and generous. And I could quit smoking!
During this time, almost everything both great and small I had asked from God was granted. I was astonished that this God was so caring and interested in the very trivial things of my life. This God was absolutely different from the almighty and fearsome One I had been taught since my childhood.
However, the truth about my conversion into Christianity was impossible to be kept secret from my family and friends. I think I was so apparently changed that even I myself was extremely surprised. Since the day I opened my heart to accept Jesus, some Christian friends had brought me to worship God and attend Wednesday prayer meetings at a church in Trang. At that time I was so overwhelmed with joy and delight that I had never noticed the reactions from my family members, relatives, and Muslim friends. I remember every time I walked home after church, I was so happy that I wanted to shout and tell everybody that I was Christian, that I had Jesus as my Lord. These were the happiest moments of my life.
Arriving home one afternoon, I was dealt tactfully and calmly by my father. He tried to explain to me about the serious consequences of converting into another religion. He also told me that I had brought great shame to my parents, and my conversion was the act of unforgivable rebellion against Islam. He had been beating around the bush, softly persuading me to come back to the true religion: Islam. And finally he asked me to stop believing that Jesus was God, and quit going to church. As a result, I had quit going to church for only about one or two months! Partly because I had made exhaustive Bible study for the whole 5 years and partly because of my personal experiences and encounters with the greatness of Jesus, I could not retire myself from my Christian beliefs and faith in Jesus.
When the gentle methods proved unsuccessful, my father then gave me the ultimatum: If I kept on going to church to worship Jesus, he would cut me completely off from the family. I knew that I had caused great grief and disappointments to my parents since they had placed all their hopes and dreams on me. Yet at the age of 17, I could not comply with their strong advices despite risking my security in life.
One late afternoon after church, I walked with the mixed feeling of happiness and apprehensiveness through rain showers back home, expecting some terrible things. Only about a hundred yards from my house, I saw a blurry figure of my father throwing a piece of stone at me: rejecting me as his son. At 17 years old, a part of me was stunned and scared and a part was so exulted and happy, resulting in crying openly for the first time. While turning my back and running aimlessly through rain showers, I was extremely confident in my heart that I would be taken care of by God. I was so sure that although I was homeless, I would not lack shelter to protect myself. Upon thinking this I decreased my pace to a slow walk towards my Christian friend’s home which he had shared with his poor grandmother. Thank God that this happened during my school’s long vacation. And praise the Lord that both my friend and his grandmom had willingly opened their hands and hearts, welcoming me into their modest shelter.
Following that incident, every Christian friend at church had wholeheartedly received me into his or her home. I was not only provided with clothes, food, and all life necessities; I was able to further my study for one more year in order to finish school! During the year of wandering from house to house, I had been living my life on a day to day basis. Even though I did not know what would tomorrow bring, I was so confident that my God would provide for me as He had promised in the Bible.
One day, a Christian friend came to inform me about my father’s sickness and his hospital admittance. My father had serious problems with his kidney and was predicted to live not so long life. So I went to see him at the hospital.
Upon seeing me, my father’s countenance reflected utmost regret and disappointment. However, he was in a bad shape that he could not say or do anything to me. I took this opportunity to return home, despite my mother’s cool manners and dissatisfaction. During these times I had stopped going to church for about 7 months, taking care of my father during his long months of being in serious condition. During these times I was sustained both physically and spiritually by the prayers of all Christians at church.
Finally, my father was dead. Strangely that he died on a Wednesday. On that day, although I had known for a long time that my father’s time on earth was running out, something inside my heart had urged me to attend a prayer meeting at church (after a very long absence). Moreover, after the meeting, I went to stay overnight at my friend’s.
On Thursday, I was informed that my father was dead during Wednesday’s night. My mother later told me that my father had called all his children, especially me, before he died. Looking back, I am thankful that I was not at his bedside during that time because I might be asked for the last time to renounce my faith in Jesus and quit being Christian. And God knows that I might conform to the asking for the sake of the dying. God had protected me from that seemingly inevitable incident.
According to Muslim practice, dead body has to be buried within 24 hours. I was not allowed to touch or wash my father’s body since I was now a pagan! I had been quietly opposed by my mother, my siblings, and all my relatives. I was so grieved, confused, and hurt that I had to stay in a room upstairs during the ceremonious baht to cry and pray for God to sustain and strengthen me.
After that the dead body had to be moved to a Muslim cemetery. Nearly 100 Christians had chartered big buses carrying wreaths to pay respects to the dead. Moreover all of them were dressed in black color. To make matters worse, they even went so far as to distribute copies of the Gospel of John to every one attending the funeral! These had caused dissatisfaction and resentment to Muslims all over Trang Province. As a result, all Trang Muslims now were aware that one of the dead person’s sons was Christian. I had been treated since with utmost contempt, especially by all Muslim brothers and sisters in my same village. Thank God that He had enabled me to bear up under all persecutions and oppressions.
After completing school, I had furthered my study at Trang Technical College. During college study, I made an announcement to go to church and keep on being Christian. Since then, every Sunday afternoon after church, I had been confronted with my mother’s sarcastic and hurtful words. My faith in and love for God had strengthened me through all these times. Even though my mother had been extremely against Christianity, her motherly love for me was never shaken. She had supported me to further study at a technical college in Phuket (an island province located along the Andaman seashores) for two more years.
Upon graduation from the college in Phuket, I and a Christian friend had found a highly-paid job, in which, however, we felt no peaceful. We then made the decision to go to Bangkok to look for jobs. Two weeks before starting work, we participated in a 3-day Christian retreat organized by Thai Christian Students Society. The speaker, Rev. Set Jansong, had stressed the privilege and importance of serving God. I thus made the decision to dedicate my whole life to God. I went to study the Bible at Bangkok Bible College and Seminary (BBCS) until I attained a Master’s Degree in Divinity.
Before going to the college, I had the Rev. Set pray for God’s confirmation of my decision to study the Bible. I myself had also prayed that if this were His will, the answer would come from my mother. I went back home in Trang and prayed and fasted for a month, then I told my mother that I would go to study the Bible in Bangkok. My mother had always offended all Christian things, however, this time she did not say anything except cried. She had been crying for a long time, and I had also been patiently waiting for her response. When she stopped crying, she talked to me calmly, “You’re a grown-up man. No one could control you. You can do anything you want.” This was exactly the confirmation from God! So, at 25 years of age, I attended that Bible College, and after graduation I have served this true and faithful God at a church in Bangkok since.