By Mark Ellis —
At 19, a leper first introduced him to Christ and a blind man led him to salvation.
“His reading braille captivated me,” says Brother Thomas*. “I asked him where I will go when I die.” In response to the young man’s request, the blind man quoted Scripture from the Book of John.
The power of God’s Word left a lasting imprint on his heart and propelled his future ministry. “I didn’t understand the cross or what my decision meant, but I went ahead and received Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.”
Raised in a Muslim home and community in West Africa, he experienced hostility, but took it in stride. “Every true believer should experience opposition,” he maintains. “The important thing is the discovery of the life-given Spirit in Christ. I found a new life.”
Two years after his life-changing conversion, he felt an overwhelming desire to share the Good News. “I saw my people were living in darkness,” he says.
Although he had little training, he began to travel from village to village for several weeks at a time. “Nobody told me to go. I didn’t know many of the Scriptures,” he admits, “but I wanted to tell people that Jesus can give you eternal life.”
Through eventual contact with SIM, he received further training. In 1990, he went on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ and served with them for a decade, utilizing the impactful JESUS Film.
In 2000, he started his own organization, which targets Muslim leaders throughout West Africa. “They (the leaders) are sincerely deluded,” he observes. “Satan has blinded their eyes. They cannot see the light of the gospel.”
“They were born into it,” he continues. “Nobody told them anything different. Most people in West Africa are not Muslim by choice. They are born into a community that believes in Islam.”
Brother Thomas decided he and his team would have to approach the “custodians” of the community of Islam, something very few are willing to do. “Christians never take the initiative to go to them,” he observes. “The Bible never tells us to wait for them to come to us. The Bible says to go. The lack of going to the Muslims is disobedience.”
Brother Thomas and his team develop relational connections with Muslim scholars slowly and privately. It may take weeks or months of meetings before an Islamic scholar will discover the Truth.
“We met with a Shia leader in one country for a year,” he notes. After Islamic services on Friday, this Muslim leader would drive several hours to spend a weekend with Brother Thomas.
“I went through the Word teaching him. The turning point was when he realized that Jesus is God.”
Remarkably, this imam actually stayed in the mosque, but his message changed dramatically as a follower of Jesus. The man’s changed perspective did not go unnoticed. “They took him to a psychiatric hospital and took his wives away. They said he was mad,” Brother Thomas says.
After his release from the psychiatric facility, Brother Thomas urged the man to escape. “We don’t know where he is today. Quite a few of these leaders who converted have died.”
Another Muslim leader who met with Brother Thomas made regular appearances on national TV during Ramadan. “He came to Christ because we proved to him the Quran is not the inspired word of God and is not in the program of God for salvation,” he recounts.
One Friday evening a mob of other scholars came to kill the recent convert, but were unsuccessful. “He was fearless,” Brother Thomas says. “They gave his wife to his best friend and took his daughter away because he rejected Islam. This year he was poisoned and died.”
Brother Thomas believes that in the top ranks of Islamic scholars, many are atheists, because they no longer believe in the inspiration of the Quran.
In the last 15 years Brother Thomas and his team have led 18,000 imams, mullahs, and emirs to Christ in West Africa. “We have led several Al Qaeda commanders to Christ, including some who penetrated our center as spies.”
His team of 300 people has dwindled to 65, due to the intensity of the fight. “Some have died, some left us, and some became afraid,” he says.
He has developed a training program, “Engaging the world of Islam,” that is bearing fruit in many countries where
it has been employed.
Brother Thomas believes the church has been ineffective reaching Muslims because they have concentrated on methods and strategies, including an over-emphasis on relief and compassion. “Christians want to bribe the Muslims to become Christians, but those methods do not save. If you give relief to him it will not save him. Even dreams and visions will not save.”
For salvation, he believes that Muslims must discover the deity of Christ – demonstrated by the efficacy of God’s Word. “Salvation is God in Christ reconciling humanity back to Himself.”
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*name changed for security