As the shovelfuls of dirt rained down around his head, Mr. B* knew there was a good chance he would not live through the night. His neighbors – as well as his youngest brother and sister – were intent on burying him alive.
He desperately clung to the small bamboo pipe that was his only source of air, and began to pray.
That night, I fully surrendered to God
More than 10 years before, Mr. B had discovered AWR’s shortwave radio programs in his language.** He was a vegetable farmer, and was in the habit of bringing his radio to work.Why was this happening now? After all, it had been three years since Mr. B had been baptized. Why had his Muslim neighbors and family members decided to attack him today?
“Many people in my village cannot read,” he says, “so we were happy to listen together as we worked. We would be out in the fields early in the morning, then come home for breakfast at eight o’clock. AWR’s program was on right then, so we could listen more closely. After working until four o’clock, when we came in for a rest, AWR would be on the air again.”
Mr. B was a committed Muslim, and at first he rejected what he was hearing about Christianity, although he did like the health and family programs. But little by little, he also became interested in presentations about the Bible. He began to compare what he was learning about the Bible with what he knew from the Quran, and spent more and more time studying.
The AWR presenters in this country know how to present Christianity in the context of the culture and beliefs of their listeners, so that the messages won’t be immediately rejected. For example, in Islam, Isa (Jesus) is understood to be the penultimate prophet of God, so Mr. B was willing to listen to stories about the Christian Isa.
To win people to Christ in this country is very hard
“To win people to Christ in this country is very hard,” says Pastor G, the local communication director. “You have to know the customs, the culture, the way people live and talk. In this country, we have many, many different tribes and languages, and also communication styles. In some tribes, the people are blunt and not very diplomatic. But for this particular cultural group, the soft approach is much more effective.”
Eventually, it was the Bible’s promise of salvation that changed Mr. B’s mind about Christianity. He contacted the AWR studio and was given an audio Bible, which also helped him in his studies. “But the radio was not just for me,” he says. “Little by little, as my neighbors listened with me, some of them also came to believe.”
Sadly, his successful witnessing led to severe problems with his community. After his baptism, many people followed Mr. B to the Adventist church. But among them was a spy.
The local government leaders ordered Mr. B to appear before them for a hearing. Facing a panel of 25 people, he was questioned for hours about the gospel, Biblical law, the Psalms, comparisons between the Bible and the Quran, and more.
“It was like facing the judgment,” he says, “But, like Paul, I told myself it was an opportunity to share the Bible.”
Among the visitors coming to the church was a spy
That interrogation wasn’t enough for the community, however. A group of neighbors – along with Mr. B’s own brother and sister – decided to implement a Muslim tradition of “testing.” First, Mr. B was forced to fast for six days. Then came the burial. He was put in a box below ground and covered with dirt, and would be kept there overnight – from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m., according to the schedule of Muslim calls to prayer. If he survived, his accusers would admit that he was following the right way, and he would be allowed to attend church.
“That night, I fully surrendered to God,” Mr. B says. “I made a promise: if I am wrong, take me now. If I am right, give me a chance to witness to these people.”
God did indeed reward Mr. B’s faithfulness. After this harrowing experience, the Holy Spirit worked on his community. All six of his children have been baptized, along with other family members and many neighbors … and even the spy who had reported him to the government. Together, about 100 people are now meeting regularly.
“When I hear testimonies like this, I am humbled and thankful that someone has heard and appreciated our messages,” says Pastor J, the producer of the programs Mr. B heard. “We don’t always know each contact, but we do know that people are listening.”
* Name withheld for security.
** Language and country withheld for security.
By Shelley Nolan Freesland
AWR Communication Director