Muslim believer filled 'empty space' with God
CAIRO, Egypt (BP)--When he was a boy, "Nader" seldom thought about God.
Allah was far away -- and much too busy, Nader was sure -- to be concerned with his childish dreams and fears.
But as he grew into a young man in Cairo, a lonely place grew in Nader's heart.
"People told me not to do bad things, to go to the mosque," he remembers. "I prayed five times a day. I fasted during Ramadan. But there was something missing. I needed God to fill my empty space."
Like Job, Nader decided to take his case directly to God, to challenge Him to reveal himself. One day, a silent reply came: "Something in my spirit told me, 'Don't worry. I will not leave you alone. I will reach you. Be patient.'"
At age 18, Nader discovered an Arabic-language copy of John's Gospel at a newsstand. He didn't even know at the time that it was part of the Christians' holy book.
"I don't know why I bought it, but I felt the need to," he says. "I didn't understand it all, but when I read the words I felt a beautiful sensation."
Muslim friends who found him reading the little book rebuked him, cautioning that he would be condemned as an unbeliever. But he kept reading -- in secret.
University brought distractions and exhausting years of work. During those years, Nader met two men who were experiencing great hardship and poverty. Yet they seemed happy. What did they have in common? They were followers of Christ.
"One of these men was suffering, yet he was so peaceful," Nader recounts. "I asked him how he could be this way with so many problems. He said, 'I know God. He forgave me, and He will forgive you.' He awoke my old feeling about God and opened a door of hope for me."
Nader had been warned many times never to enter a Christian church. One day as he walked to visit a friend, however, his feet took him to an unknown street.
"I felt euphoric, like something good was about to happen," he says. "Then I heard a strange sound."
It was music: a hymn coming from a church on the street. Did he dare step in or not? He says he knew the choice would change his life forever.
"I found myself inside. It felt like it was not part of earth, but of heaven. I felt I was in the spirit, and out of my body. I didn't know or care how I lost the next hour or two. My job and studies didn't matter."
When Nader opened his eyes and looked around, a man approached. He told Nader about Jesus Christ -- and connected him with other students who helped him learn more.
Over the following months, the man took risks to spend time teaching Nader, who also read the Bible and other books about Jesus. One day the man said, "You now know about God. You believe in Jesus. Do you know what it means to follow Him, and can you pay the price?"
Nader knew the price could be everything -- his future, his family, his life.
"It was a very hard decision," he admits. "I didn't leave my room until I found the answer. I cried and struggled. God said to me, 'Don't be afraid. Follow Me.' I am not a strong man. He said, 'I will make you strong.' I said, 'Okay. I am your child. Do with me what you want.'"
The year since has not been easy. Nader, now about 30 and still unmarried, has told a few trusted friends of his decision, but has yet to reveal it to his family.
He worries about the consequences of making his faith public -- which could include anything from rejection to death. He longs to meet another Muslim-background follower of Christ for mutual encouragement.
But deep down, he feels peace at last.
"Before, you could hurt me. Now no one can hurt me. I am full of God."