Adventist Refugee Learns He Isn’t Alone
After finding the Sabbath, he thought he might be the only Adventist in the Middle East.
Abu Abdaal, a refugee who had been threatened for leaving his non-Christian background and accepting Jesus, walked into a Seventh-day Adventist community center in a large Middle East city.
He asked for help to immigrate to a third country.
The community center’s director, who also was a pastor, began to facilitate the lengthy immigration process. He also spoke and prayed with Abu. He realized that Abu was a Christian, but he didn’t ask for details.
Then Abu disappeared.
Months later, Abu returned to the center after receiving a message from the director. He angerly told an Arabic-speaking employee that the center had not been willing to help him.
“Do you know why these people don’t want to help me?” he asked the employee. “I’m afraid to say it out loud, but I can’t hide it anymore. These people don’t like me because I’m a Seventh-day Adventist.”
The director, who was standing nearby, understood enough Arabic to catch the gist of the conversation. Shocked, he thought, “Perhaps this man saw something on my Facebook page and is now trying to trap me into paying more attention to his case.” He decided not to tell Abu that the center was run by Adventists. Instead he asked Abu, through a translator, for more information.
“When I was running away from my family and friends, I passed through Sudan,” Abu said. “During my journey, I read the Bible and found the truth about the Sabbath.”
After that, he went online, looking for a Christian group that kept the Sabbath, and found the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He decided to be an Adventist, but he wasn’t baptized.
Still not realizing that the community center was Adventist, Abu returned day after day for counseling, spiritual conversations, and nurturing. One day, he met a man who was taking Bible classes at the center. They began to talk in Arabic, and the director listened closely to hear what Abu would say about his interest in the Adventist Church.
Abu related the same story as he previously had told the community center’s employee. The director was impressed. But the best part came at the end of the conversation.
“I’m afraid that I have spoiled any chance of receiving help from him,” Abu said, pointing at the director. “He is from a different faith, and nobody likes Adventists.”
The man listening to Abu started to laugh and cry at the same time.
“No! He is not from a different faith,” he said. “He is an Adventist!”
“No,” Abu said. “He is like all the others.”
The director understood the conversation and tried to stay calm.
The other man explained that the director was an Adventist pastor who worshipped in an Adventist church every Sabbath and had been giving him Bible studies about the Sabbath.
Abu began to weep. He couldn’t believe his ears. On the very day that he had returned to the center after the months-long absence, he had prayed desperately one last time to meet an Adventist church member. He had prayed, “Father in heaven, I need to find an Adventist. But if not, I’ll be the only Adventist in this country.” Moments later, he received the message from the community center’s director inviting him to return.
Abu was not alone anymore. A month later, he was baptized in the director’s bathtub. Now he calls himself Abdelmessiah, which in Arabic means “the Servant of the Messiah.”
Please pray for this community center, an urban center of influence, that has helped many people like Abu in this Middle East city. The center opened in 2013 to promote the Adventist lifestyle through seminars, fitness programs, counseling, and health fairs. In 2017, it moved to another location in the same neighborhood but refocused its activities on education. While waiting for legal authorization to offer hadana, or daycare services, the center has begun to offer English classes, counseling, Bible studies, soccer training, and handcrafts and other activities for children, teens, and adults.