I grew up in a Muslim family on the coast of Kenya. My father served as an Imam, and I was one of the muezzins (Muslims who call others to pray five times a day) at a local mosque.
The only school I ever attended existed to educate young men in the ways of Islam and to help them grow as Muslims. I was being trained to defend the Muslim faith and to share it with others. As a young man, I became one of the best and most well-known evangelists for Islam in my region.
Early in life, my father had taught me to hate Christians and even to beat them if necessary. I was trained to believe that Christians were on the same level as animals. We were not allowed to associate with them in any way.
A Miraculous Transformation
In 2009, my life was forever changed. The day started out just like any other: I woke up and went to the local mosque to start calling people to pray. I was set to recite the adhan (Muslim call to prayer) into the microphone so that my call could be heard throughout the city. But when I tried to speak, nothing came out. Leaving the mosque, I saw my friend Ali in the street and I tried to explain what had happened, but he wouldn’t believe me.
We went back to the mosque, where I stepped up to the microphone and attempted to call the adhan once more, but again my voice would not come out. Ali was as surprised as I was. We both were nervous, but he took over my duties so that I could go home for the day.
When I got home, I tried to relax and calm my mind. My heart was heavy, and I felt troubled. I went to my kitchen, grabbed a thermos, and started to make hot tea. I poured the tea into a mug and was about to start drinking when I saw that the tea had turned red, a dark red that looked like blood. I left the tea on the counter and took a walk, hoping to clear my mind after a day full of seemingly crazy events.
During my walk, I came to a marketplace where a large crowd had gathered around the back of a pickup truck. Getting close enough to hear and see what was going on, I listened as a Christian missionary was preaching. He was clearly a Kenyan, just like me, and not someone who had come here from the Western world. I was skeptical and kept my distance, but I listened to what he was saying.
After the man had finished preaching, I felt compelled to approach him. Because I was known very well in that area, the pastors who were with him (they were also Kenyan) initially blocked me from coming forward, but the missionary allowed me to talk with him. He shared the gospel with me, and right then and there everything felt different. I saw everything that had happened during that day in a new light. I knew that God was the one who wouldn’t let my voice come out; he was the one who turned my tea blood red, as a symbol of Christ’s blood spilled on the cross for me.
The Holy Spirit changed my heart, and I gave my life to Jesus. The missionary told me to go tell my family what had happened, and I did as he requested, even though I knew my father would not like it. Sure enough, he saw my conversion as an abandonment of Islam and an act of personal betrayal. He called my uncle, a well-respected leader in the Muslim community, to ask for advice on how to handle this crisis. My uncle recommended having me excommunicated. But my father was in no mood for half-measures: He wanted me dead. He ordered me to get out of the house right away, and I wasn’t even allowed a moment to gather my belongings.
After my father had left the house, I returned and saw my sister. She told me that my father had burned all of my belongings behind our house. She had been washing clothes at the time, and she gave me one set to take with me.
That night I ran away, staying outside on a park bench. It was a cold night, and I considered returning to my father and apologizing. But as I prayed, I found new strength in Jesus Christ. The next day, I went out and started sharing my testimony, explaining what Jesus had done for me and how others could receive him as well.
I found the missionary who had shared the gospel with me, figuring I would stay the night with him and his fellow pastors before leaving the next morning. But soon we heard that my father had sent people out looking for me, people who would kill me if they found me. So that night, around 3 a.m., the group of missionaries escorted me out of my hometown.
They brought me to a city eight hours away. A longtime member of a local church took an interest in me and started to disciple me. Another member even allowed me to stay in his home since I had no place to live.
The more I got settled in this strange new place, the more I felt a call to ministry. I started sharing the gospel to lost people in the area, gathering a group of about 10 people in the area to disciple as I had been discipled.
I hoped to attend a Bible school, so that I could become a better preacher and teacher of the gospel, but I did not have the money to pay for it. So I started traveling around and visiting different churches and congregations, where I had the opportunity to preach, teach, and share the story of my conversion.
Yet danger kept stalking me. After visiting one church in the region for five days, preaching and sharing the gospel, I learned that some men had come there looking for me. They had been sent by my parents. In the mosque where I grew up, an announcement had gone out that I was wanted, dead or alive.
Counting the Cost
Over the years, I’ve continued to travel and visit different churches under the support of the national missionary organization that aided me at the time of my conversion. In April of 2017, I took a new step of boldness. Alongside one of my own disciples, I journeyed to a city close to the border of Somalia, where the population consists mostly of Somalis who were members of my own ethnic group. I had ventured there to do what God had put in my heart so many years ago: sharing Christ with Muslims in my homeland.
We had planned out a four-day trip. On the first day, as I started to preach and share the gospel, a crowd gathered. As I continued evangelizing, the crowd became angry, and a few people complained to the police that I was causing trouble.
The police arrested me and took me to jail. I was punched and kicked by other cellmates and by the corrupt police officers. I learned that the man I had been discipling had left to return home. But I continued to share Christ, and 10 Somalis came to know Jesus as Lord in jail. On the fourth day, I was released, and I walked straight from the jail to the market where I had preached the gospel. Seven Muslims prayed to receive Christ that day.
In the Gospels, Jesus tells the crowds that anyone who would follow him must be prepared to leave everything behind for the sake of carrying a cross (Luke 14:26–27). Since becoming a Christian, I’ve had many occasions to count the cost of discipleship. On top of having to flee from my home and family, I was forced to part ways with the Muslim woman I was set to marry (though God later saw fit to provide me a wife at one of the churches I visited). On several occasions, people from the cities I’ve evangelized have shown up at my home in the middle of the night to threaten me and my family. I have been beaten by crowds five different times.
And yet, when I think of even the worst suffering—of all the slaps, punches, and kicks I’ve endured—I still “count it all joy” (James 1:2, ESV). I’ll gladly surrender everything for the cause of Christ and to reach my Muslim brothers who are blind.
Aaban Usman (a pseudonym) works as a national missionary through Reaching Souls International, an organization based in Oklahoma City. Koal Manis is a freelance writer and a student at Oklahoma Baptist University.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more
Read These Next
- TrendingRussell Moore: I Already Miss Tim Keller’s Wise VoiceThe late pastor theologian gave strong counsel to me and so many others in ministry.
- From the MagazineWhen Politics Saved 25 Million LivesTwenty years ago, Republicans, Democrats, evangelicals, gay activists, and African leaders joined forces to combat AIDS. Will their legacy survive today’s partisanship?
- RelatedMobs Kill 6, Burn Down 25 Churches in Northeastern IndiaWhile ethnic tensions have festered for decades, leaders in Manipur say religious extremism is fueling the extreme aggression.
- Editor's PickWorship Music Is Emotionally Manipulative. Do You Trust the Leader Plucking the Strings?The Spirit is at work, but so are the mechanisms around high-production sets.