Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: CALL (01/14/16)
By Gary Ritter
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I turned from the game I was playing with my sister, and winning! “Father, must I go?”
“I promised him, and I will not break my word.”
“But, Father, you don’t go to church. Why should I?”
Father put his hands on his hips. “Son, we are Christians. My father made me go when I was young. Your mother and I may not attend these days, but we have an obligation for you to learn the Christian faith.”
I slumped and hung my head. Mother walked into the room and I brightened. “Mommy, can I stay home from church? I don’t want to go.”
“You are thirteen years old, Samuel. Soon you will be a man and make your own decisions. For now, you will go with your uncle.”
I grudgingly rose from the straw mat covering our dirt floor and shuffled toward my uncle who had stood watching our exchange. He ruffled my hair and put an arm around my shoulders. “A special man is coming today to preach, Samuel. They say he is a powerful man of God.”
“Yeah, right.” I knew Uncle Yousuf meant well. It’s just that I saw no point in this weekly exercise when I could be home enjoying my games and other pursuits.
We walked the three miles to the tiny building where the church held its services. About twenty people were there and my uncle joined in the worship that had already begun. He raised and waved his hands. Seldom did he open his eyes during the songs. I stood there like I always did.
The man Uncle Yousuf mentioned as their guest came forward, introducing himself as Pastor Ibrahim from a neighboring country. He spoke for a while, something about Jesus, but my mind wandered and I didn’t catch much. Auntie UmHana came forward when the man invited the church to do so. Crippled and bent over, she’d been like that for years. Pastor Ibrahim spoke a few words and suddenly Auntie UmHana stood straight and cried out in a joyous voice: “I’m healed! Thank you, Jesus!” She danced and skipped like a young girl. I couldn’t believe it.
Moments later the sound of screaming interrupted the praise that came from everyone’s lips. A burst of automatic weapons erupted and people began to crumple to the ground. Uncle Yousuf grabbed me and threw me down, covering my body with his.
I peeked from my place of refuge and saw the most amazing thing. The three gunmen stopped firing at the command of Pastor Ibrahim in Jesus’ Name. They looked like they wanted to pull the triggers of their weapons, but couldn’t. The expression on their faces changed. It was a magical transformation to watch. The hate melted away as the pastor spoke about the love of Jesus. Tears rolled down their cheeks. They dropped their weapons. In a moment all three fell to their knees and wept.
I listened – really listened – to what Pastor Ibrahim said, because I realized that without his intervention we’d all be dead. I would be dead. The life I had before me would be extinguished. And I wasn’t really sure where I would go when I died.
I’d absorbed enough in these weekly excursions to learn that death wasn’t the end after life as we know it. Would I go to heaven? Or would I end up in that place called hell I had previously refused to even think about?
The love of Jesus and the price He paid came through loud and clear. Our attackers heard that message too. I knew of the Muslim faith and the hate that Islam proclaimed for non-believers. This was different. This was about the love of a Father so great that He sent His Son who willingly sacrificed His life for ours.
Right then those men repented. They gave their lives to the Lord Jesus and renounced what they had been.
A strong urging within me caused me to struggle from under Uncle and he let me wriggle free. Thankfully he still lived! I ran to the pastor. “Please, sir, hear me, help me! I can’t live another moment without Jesus. I must have Him. Will He take someone as sinful as me?”
Pastor Ibrahim nodded. “He has accepted these men; He even accepted me.”
I bowed my head and bent my knee, and Jesus said yes.
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