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One Sabbath, Musa asked the pastor for a Bible to read.  “No,” the pastor said. “it is very dangerous for you to carry a Bible. But we won’t leave you like this. If you trust in God, nothing will happen to you.” (Andrew McChesney / Adventist Mission)

Unfairly Accused of Being a Christian

Musa never wanted to become a Christian, but then his family tried to kill him because they thought he had converted.

Editor’s note: Musa Ali is a pseudonym. Adventist Mission is not identifying Musa by his real name or his location to safeguard his life in a region hostile to Christianity.

By Andrew McChesney

Musa Ali never planned to become a Christian. But when he was labeled a Christian unfairly and ostracized by his family, he decided to learn more.

Musa was raised in the home of a non-Christian major world religion in East Africa. From early childhood, he was forbidden from eating with Christians and even speaking with them. Christians, he was told, were the enemy.

At the age of 10, he began rigorous studies to become a religious leader. He memorized large portions of his holy book. At age 15, he was appointed a religious teacher.

Two years later, 17-year-old Musa was sent with a group of missionaries to a far-off village in the African bush. His job was to convert idol-worshipping villagers and build a house of worship.

Although the remote work was grueling, Musa and his team pressed ahead. One day, while preparing a sermon, Musa came across several verses in his holy book that puzzled him. The passages spoke about Jesus and suggested that Christians have salvation. He had always thought that salvation only belonged to him and other followers of his world religion.

Confused, Musa turned to his fellow missionaries for advice. They simply shook their heads.

“You are our teacher,” said one. “You are supposed to tell us what the holy book means.”

“When we return to our hometown, you can ask the big chief,” said another.

After six months, the villagers were converted, and a large house of worship was constructed. Musa and the missionaries returned home.

‘Are You a Christian?’

The “big chief” — their religious leader — gathered the missionaries for a thank-you ceremony in their house of worship. He knew that the work had been difficult, and he wanted to distribute gifts of gratitude. But first he offered the missionaries an opportunity to ask questions.

“If anyone has questions, ask me,” he said. “I know that many questions can come to mind during these types of trips.”

Musa was permitted to go first, and he asked three questions. The religious leader didn’t answer any of them. Instead, he questioned Musa.

“My friend,” he said. “Are you a Christian or one of us?”

The question surprised Musa. But seeing that his question hadn’t been answered, he decided not to answer, either.

After a pause, the religious leader said, “My friend, leave our house of worship.”

Musa left.

Later that day, the religious leader went to Musa’s father, an influential and wealthy man in the community.

“Watch out,” he said. “Your son will become a Christian.”

Father took Musa aside privately to query about his beliefs.

“Are you a Christian or one of us?” he said.

“This isn’t a matter of religion,” Musa said. “It’s a matter of knowledge. I’m studying.”

Father expressed fear that Musa might become a Christian.

“If you do,” he warned, “your life will be in danger.”

Thirty days later, Musa was dismissed from his work at the house of worship. Under the rules, the religious leader was supposed to issue a warning first. But Musa received no warning. He decided not to protest.

Although Musa wasn’t a Christian, people began to treat him like one. His sisters and brothers hated him. His family refused to allow him to eat with them. They wouldn’t speak with him. Musa couldn’t understand what was happening because he didn’t think that he had done anything wrong.

For days, Musa survived by going house to house and eating with friends. Sometimes, however, he couldn’t find any food and went hungry.

Hated by his family, Musa decided he had nothing to lose by visiting a Christian church just once. He found a church and slipped inside. He was shocked to see people worshipping Mary and various saints.

“If this is Christianity, this is bad,” he thought. “Christians don’t worship God. They worship idols.”

Praying for Help

Now Musa was very confused. He desperately prayed for God to help him understand what was the right thing to do. He couldn’t forget the baffling verses in his holy book that said Christians would be saved.

Without any means of support, Musa traveled to a nearby city to look for work. Stopping at an office, he asked to see the director about a job.

“My boss is out,” the office manager said. “Sit and talk with me. I can see you are under stress.”

“How can I talk with you?” Musa said. “You will not accept me because you are from a part of our country that hates my people.”

“I am a Christian, and I will accept you,” the office manager said. “I am an elder in my church.”

“Church?” Musa said, skeptically. “The church can’t help anyone make good personal decisions.”

“The church has answers from the Bible,” the office manager said. “But you wouldn’t know that because you haven’t gone to church.”

“Yes, I have. I went last Sunday.”

“Last Sunday? That is not the right church. The right day to worship is Saturday.”

Musa’s eyes widened.

“My pastor can answer all your questions,” the office worker said. “Please, see my pastor.”

Musa snuck out of his father’s house early Saturday morning. At the church, the pastor welcomed him.

“My friend, I hear you have a problem,” he said.

“Yes,” Musa said. “I need to know the truth.”

“Have you memorized your holy book?”

Musa nodded his head and recited several verses that were bothering him.

The pastor understood.

“It is very difficult when you see the light of Jesus Christ and you cannot reach that light,” he said. “But you are near the light. You are in a Seventh-day Adventist church.”

He invited Musa to his home for Bible studies. Musa agreed on the condition that the pastor only used Bible passages that also appeared in Musa’s holy book.

“I know your Bible is not the original and has been changed,” Musa said. “I will only believe what I know came from my holy book.”

Bible Studies and Love

For weeks, Musa visited the pastor’s home every day from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The pastor’s wife welcomed Musa like a brother. The kindness of the pastor and his wife touched Musa’s heart. He wondered, “Are these people the enemy? Why is the enemy giving me water and food?”

After three months, Musa realized abruptly that his people had lied to him. The Bible had not been changed. The people whom he had viewed as the enemy were actually his friends.

Another month passed, and Musa was convinced that his holy book had told the truth: Christians would receive salvation. He believed that the Seventh-day Adventist Church was God’s church.

Musa’s father, meanwhile, was growing suspicious about his son’s activities, and he gave him a warning.

“My friend, prepare your grave,” he said. “I see you will die soon.”

When Musa didn’t reply, Father asked, “Are you a Christian or one of us?”

“I have asked questions that no one has answered,” Musa said. “Now you are asking me a question, and I will not answer you.”

Musa began to attend worship services every Saturday, but he took care to make sure no one noticed. He snuck into and out of the church. Sometimes he hid behind the church, listening to the sermon out of sight. He knew that if anyone saw him, he could be killed.

One Sabbath, Musa asked the pastor for a Bible to read.

“No,” the pastor said. “it is very dangerous for you to carry a Bible. But we won’t leave you like this. If you trust in God, nothing will happen to you.”

Musa’s love for Christians grew in his heart. He had many new friends. He asked them for food — a shameful request in his culture — and they readily provided. He looked for work but couldn’t find a job.

‘You Are Going to Die’

One morning, Musa woke up and saw his father and older brothers crowded in his bedroom. They were holding sticks in their hands. The brothers lived in houses of their own, and Musa wondered why they had gathered together for a meeting.

“Good morning,” he greeted them, sleepily.

No one replied. Then Father said, “I told you that there would be consequences. You thought I was joking, but there are consequences.”

“You mean that I’m going to die?” Musa said.

“Yes, you are going to die.”

“Father, I respect you, but I do not respect you more than my Lord,” Musa said. “But today I’m not going to die.”

“Why not?” Father asked, startled

“Today is not my day.”

Father closed the bedroom door and raised the stick in his hand. The brothers joined him and beat Musa.

As the blows rained down, Musa didn’t cry out. In his culture, men don’t cry. But the heavy sound of the thudding sticks caught the attention of Musa’s mother, who was standing in another room. She burst into the bedroom and fell on top of Musa.

“If you want to kill my son, kill me first,” she cried.

Father and brothers stood helpless. Men cannot kill a woman in their culture.

Still covering Musa with her body, Mother escorted the teen from the bedroom and then out of the house. Opening the gate, she said, “Go! God’s world is big. Please, go.”

Musa hobbled down the road, but he couldn’t see where he was going. His eyes were swollen shut from the beating. His back was terribly sore. As he limped along, he passed a man from that part of the country known to hate Musa’s people. The man immediately took Musa to the hospital and paid his medical bill. Musa, sore and bruised, asked himself in awe, “If he were in my place, would I do the same for him?”

The kind stranger told Musa that he didn’t need to repay him and left.

When the Adventist pastor learned about the attack, he urged Musa to move to another city far away.

“It is too dangerous to stay here,” he said.

In the new city, an Adventist pastor gave Musa work and a place to stay. He also advised Musa to study theology and considering becoming a pastor.

“But I don’t know English,” Musa protested. “I can’t learn it in one day.”

“You can do it,” the pastor said. “No one is born speaking English.”

A short time later, Musa was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He was 18. Then he fell in love and married a woman who, like him, had become a Christian.

Arrested on Honeymoon

On their honeymoon, he was arrested.

Musa and his new wife had decided to stay at home for their honeymoon because they had no money. The police pounded on the door one day and hauled Musa off to the police station.

Musa was questioned.

“Musa Ali, you’re a Christian, right?” a senior police officer asked. Without waiting for a reply, he announced, “You will die in three days.”

‘Yes, I will die, but I will be happy,” Musa said.

Although he had been baptized recently, he was confused about what happens when a person dies. He thought that, like in his former religion, people went straight to heaven on the day that they died.

The police thought Musa had gone mad, and a prisoner was brought to his cell who sought to persuade him to give up Christianity. But Musa wasn’t interested, and he tried to convince the prisoner to become a Christian.

Finally, the prisoner declared in exasperation, “You’re dangerous!”

He stood up, opened the cell door, and walked out. At that moment, Musa realized that the man wasn’t a prisoner but an undercover police officer.

Musa waited for three days to pass for his hanging. He wasn’t afraid. He prayed.

Saved From Hanging

Now Musa Ali is a common name in his country, and it so happened that the city mayor had a son who also was named Musa Ali. On the night before Musa’s execution, the mayor’s son got drunk and was arrested. People in that culture aren’t supposed to drink alcohol.

In the morning, the mayor scrawled an order on a piece of paper.

“Bring Musa Ali to me,” he wrote and delivered the paper to the police.

At the police station, the police read the order and chose the wrong prisoner. Remembering that the Christian Musa Ali was to be die that day, they decided that the mayor must have wanted to see him.

The police dropped Musa off at the mayor’s office.

“You called for me?” Musa asked as he strode into the room.

The mayor looked surprised.

“I didn’t call for you,” he said. “Where did you come from?”

“The police brought me,” Musa said.

“But I didn’t call for you,” the mayor said. “I called for my son, Musa Ali. He was drunk and was arrested yesterday. But the police came with you.”

He thought for a moment.

“Are the police waiting for you outside?” he asked.

“No, they left,” Musa said.

The mayor, perhaps exasperated at the police, smiled slightly and spoke in a joking tone of voice.

“Fine, just go then,” he said. “Go quickly.”

Musa didn’t wait to be told twice. He left immediately.

A short time later, he surprised his wife at home. After a brief and tearful reunion, they packed their bags and jumped on the next train out of town. They have never returned.

Musa and his wife have had many more amazing experiences as they have sought to follow God’s will. When Musa was 28, the Adventist Church’s East-Central Africa Division awarded him a scholarship at an Adventist university. Last year, he graduated with a degree in theology and, to his surprise, good English-language skills.

Today, Musa is 33 and living back in his home country. He works as a local Global Mission coordinator, teaching his people that their holy book does contain a truth: Christians have salvation.