Names have been changed to protect the privacy and safety of those involved.
I love missionary work. However, I never seem to meet anybody new to share the gospel with, and this bothers me a bit. Recently the good Lord gave me a chance to talk about the church and I almost didn’t realize it. It was a cold and blustery spring morning and I was trying to sort out my two children, a mess all over the house and my forthcoming lesson for the evening (I am a language teacher). An icy and snowy winter had left a bleak memory as I had just lost my dear father a few weeks before. I was not feeling at my best and my looks were not wonderful, either.
Just as things looked as busy as they can be, the doorbell rang and I quickly went to see who wanted my attention. When I opened the door a guy smiled and asked me if I had ever heard of a particular electricity company. A bit annoyed, for a split second I considered explaining how busy I was and that I wasn’t planning to switch my electricity provider.
Then my eyes fell on his name tag, which showed an Arabic surname.
Meanwhile he had started talking about his wonderful company, and I thought I wouldn’t mind talking to him for just a minute, as I always complain that I don’t get chances to practice my very basic Arabic skills.
As soon as he stopped to breathe, I launched a “Do you mind telling me where are you from?” He replied, “I’m from the Middle East, but I’ve been in England for several years.” I then asked if he spoke Arabic and when he confirmed, I summoned all my previous knowledge of his language and stuttered a few welcoming sentences. His mouth dropped open and he started to chat to me in Arabic for a bit. He asked me how I learned Arabic and which books I used.
Sure enough, I had my study books only three metres away from the porch, so I zoomed indoors, grabbed two books and waited as the salesman wrote the titles on a piece of paper. Meanwhile he stood there in the blustery wind and told me a bit about his life, informing me that he was a Muslim.
Only at that point I remembered that I had another interesting book in Arabic, so I asked him to wait just another minute so I could show him “another special book”. I’m glad I keep all my missionary stuff very near to the house entrance. In less than a minute I handed him an Arabic Book of Mormon. I was showing him the book only because it was written in Arabic, and I hadn’t yet realised that a missionary opportunity was, well… standing in front of me. His eyes became wide with excitement as I asked, “Do you know what this book is about?”
Within a few minutes I was able to explain to him the divine origin of the Book of Mormon, which was written in reformed Egyptian, and he informed me that he had heard of Mormons and of Joseph Smith. Not only that, but he believed that Christ was a prophet, and recently had developed a desire to know him.
He added that in his home country anyone can purchase Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s CDs and he absolutely loved them. But every time he tried to find information about the Mormons he had no luck. “Well, – I thought – and now you have knocked on the door of a returned missionary who is also serving in Public Affairs- I’ll make sure that today you will have a lot of luck, my dear friend!”
At that point any worries about my house or my lesson had vanished from my mind, and I was totally focused on this practicing Muslim man and his search for Christ. The next thing I told him was that if he wished to listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, he could come to Church on the coming Sunday as we were going to have General Conference.
Incredibly, this young man was absolutely delighted to hear that, and when he found out that attending conference is free for all, he couldn’t stop saying, “Yes! Yes!”
I was also saying to myself, “Yes! Go, Franz!” – I like these golden moments.
I returned to the bookshelf and picked up a Book of Mormon in English, the “Faith in Christ” DVD, and the Articles of Faith. I gave them all to him, and he started to thank me profusely – it was really a good day for both of us. Then he looked at me and said, “This is interesting, let’s put the kettle on, I want to hear more about your Church”.
I don’t know about the U.S., but over here in Europe you don’t get to hear an expression like this very often. In fact, it must have been the first time in my life that somebody asked me anything about the church with such enthusiasm.
My daughter was home and I hoped I was going to be safe with a stranger in my home. So this young man came in my kitchen, and we spent several hours talking about Christ, his Muslim faith, eternal families, and more. I showed him my copy of the Quran in English/ Arabic and he read me several quotes and explained them. I showed all the questions about the Quran that I had written years before and were still inside the book and he answered each question in depth.
He also told me that some corrupt Imams interpret the Quran literally (where it was not meant to be), and twist its meaning to teach Muslims to fight against the non believers. He added that those people have not understood the real message of God or Mohammed and they just want power. We talked and talked and meanwhile I made sure I never mentioned the kettle again as I didn’t want to add the word of wisdom to the conversation. I was becoming hungrier every minute.
This guy had knocked on my door at about 10 a.m. and now it was around 2 p.m., almost time to get ready for the school run and perhaps grab some food! So I pushed my luck and asked him to read from the Arabic Book of Mormon the promise that Moroni 3:5 gives to all who will read the book. He read the verses aloud and then I promised him that the Spirit would give him an answer regarding the book if he asked sincerely. Then he told me that he Muslims believe in visions, plus a few years ago he himself had a vision. I’m sure he won’t mind me sharing this vision.
He saw Jesus as he was pouring tea to some guests sitting on the floor in the Arabic custom. He then said “hello” and Jesus smiled back at him and greeted him. Since then, he added, he developed a desire to get to know Jesus. At his request, we went to the internet, on Google images, and he found a painting of Jesus that reminded him very much of the man he saw in his vision.
“It’s him,” he said , “but his beard is not as dark as in this painting”.
Well, “what a guy,” I thought. He really is searching for Jesus. Then I remembered a video of a U.S. born ex-Muslim who had a vision of Jesus and left his faith to preach Christianity to his Muslim brothers. He gave a powerful testimony of the reality of Jesus in that video. I quickly found the video and showed it to my new friend.
I added that we believe in a living God who speaks to his children through a prophet.
“You really got me” he said. “I feel it here”. We chatted a bit more and then he said, “Would you mind telling me how can people join your Church?”
“It can’t get any better than that” – I said to myself – so I responded, “We get baptised by immersion just as Jesus did, but we are not allowed to become members unless we have learned that the Church is true. So, first we read the Book of Mormon and pray, then we see the Missionaries and they teach us about him….” You know the rest of the story.
The salesman was now even happier. “Do you mean that some of your people will come and see me to talk about the scriptures? Wow!”
I explained how the system works and I offered to telephone the Elders right away. He accepted and I called two Elders, a Brazilian and a Swedish one, who proselyte in the area where my friend lived. I explained to them that I had in front of me a Muslim investigator – would they like to teach him? My guess was right and when the Elders stopped saying “wow” and “thank you!” I said, “Well, my friend is coming to General Conference on Sunday, could you go and pick him up?”
I don’t think I ever had a more cheerful response in my life.
Within minutes, the Elders and I had taken note of all the contact details of our investigator and he promised to attend the Priesthood session with them. After closing the phone, I showed my guest the lds.org website and where to click for General Conference. I told him not to hesitate to call if he had any questions and wished him an enjoyable time at Conference. Then I let him go and he waved cheerfully in my direction as he left in the rainy afternoon.
It was then 3 p.m., and we had both completely missed lunch, my house was still a mess, but I felt like the sun was shining on me. What a remarkable experience. I’ve always assumed that we just don’t do missionary work with Muslims as they are squarely firm in their religion but I had proved myself totally wrong.
Not only this guy was open to my religion, but we found out so much common ground while he shared his beliefs about a spiritual world, pre- existence, life after death and the reality of prophets.
I asked myself, “Will he read and pray about the Book of Mormon and then attend Church?” I didn’t know yet but I was glad that for the second time in a few months, Heavenly Father had given me a chance to share something I felt passionate about with a complete stranger, even a Muslim salesman who happened to love the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Please note that God didn’t wait until I had the perfect hairdo, a spotless house, lunch on the table, a prepared gospel lesson, and nothing to do. He sent somebody during the busiest day of the week, and he sent him to the only place where he would have been welcomed inside, spoken to in his native language and shown sacred scriptures in that special language. All I had to do was open the door and then talk! (I must admit it’s never a problem for me to talk, as my husband will happily confirm!) A week later I called the Elders to check what happened at conference. I was pleased to learn that my friend had attended with them and had loved the friendly atmosphere he found. The Elders started to teach him the missionary lessons.
This young man came to visit us about 8 days later and related many quotes straight from conference: he remembered which speaker said what, even better than us!
Time passed and the day before Easter I received a phone call from the two Elders. They informed me that our friend had completed the lessons and was going to be baptized on Easter day. I couldn’t believe my ears! The Elders asked me if I could attend and give a talk on baptism. Apparently our friend was so eager to get baptized that the Elders had been asking him to be patient and wait for quite a few weeks.
Needless to say, on Easter day, after our own sacrament meeting, we travelled to the city where our friend was about to be baptized. We found him surrounded by the warm presence of the members of that ward. Our stake president and his wife had been inviting him in their home with the Elders an had helped tremendously with his progression.
We had a wonderful, spiritual service and we remained in the chapel for over an hour just to make sense of everything that happened.
It has been about seven months since that remarkable day and our friend is still strong in the gospel and active in the Church. I am thankful to all those who worked together to teach him the gospel and became his friends, helping him at all levels to integrate within the ward and to be protected from danger as he left his religion.
I am also deeply thankful for a gracious Heavenly Father who had enough faith in me to send an investigator to my door. His timing was different from mine but everything worked out quite well in the end!