In North Africa, Kabil runs discipleship programmes for new, often secret, believers - over a decade, thousands of believers have benefited. But he had a painful choice to make when he became a Christian.
"You must make a choice: it is us or Jesus. Do you want your family, or do you want your new faith?” This is the choice Kabil* in North Africa was faced with 10 years ago. It’s the choice many secret believers must make when their Christian faith is revealed to their Muslim families. Kabil found it a painful decision but he knew what he’d decide: he had to choose Jesus. “Nothing can equal the life that Jesus gave to me,” he says. And now he can share his experiences and knowledge with hundreds of believers, via a network of discipleship trainers.
Kabil, delivering training to new believers in North Africa
When Kabil first became a Christian, his family were not particularly hostile. They were Muslim, but not very strictly. A few years later, however, things got worse. “Big problems started, and I had to choose between my family and Jesus,” he remembers. “I decided to follow the Lord. I gave up my family, my home and my business.” Kabil hasn’t seen his mother since then, and is only rarely in contact with his brothers and sisters.
But, as Jesus said in Mark 10:29-30, “No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.” Kabil has give up home, brothers, sisters, mother – but now he has a wide family of believers in his country.
Shortly after he decided to follow Christ, Kabil praying from Joshua 24:15: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” He was give the role of Bible teacher in his church – and noticed that, though the gospel was reaching people, recent converts to Christianity were stopping coming. They discussed the issue in church and saw that what they were lacking was discipleship training.
“The need was obvious,” says Kabil. “We saw that, once someone from a Muslim background was baptised, you do not see him or her at church. We also saw that some believers, after some years were not stable, in their faith. We wanted to offer a quality service, so we needed to organise training.” They used a programme developed by Open Doors. “After we started offering the course, we noticed changes among our brothers. We saw that they were staying in the church, we saw that there was great progress in terms of the relationships between the brothers and sisters.”
The training course has been transformative in Kabil’s church: “We witnessed so many positive changes on the spiritual level and in practice as well. I see lives that have been transformed. I saw people who did this course and who are now pastors. I saw isolated people, shy people who were rejected and who now blossom with groups. I think that if this training did not exist, the church would not last over time.”
And it’s not just Kabil’s church. The discipleship course has been offered across various regions of North Africa for almost a decade, and continues in an online form now that measures to combat the spread of coronavirus mean that believers are physically isolated from one another. Currently, there are about 350 attendants in different churches, including many whose faith has to be kept secret from their families. “I can tell you for sure that many people have been blessed,” says Kabil. “I would say thousands of people.”
As in many Muslim-majority countries, Christians in North Africa face persecution – particularly those from a Muslim background or whose family are Muslims. But Kabil sees blessing in the midst of persecution. “I would say that persecution is never fatal to the church; actually, it is a blessing. The church grows and blossoms thanks to persecution. Jesus talks about that in the Bible: ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted’.
“Rejoice when being persecuted, because this is how they persecuted the prophets and the apostles. It would be dangerous for the church if it got sleepy. I rejoice because the church is blossoming, thousands of people come to pray to the Lord. The enemy saw that the church spreads and that thousands and thousands of people converted to Christianity. I rejoice and I am very happy about the work of God. But, of course, I know persecution can damage me or my family.”
“According to Psalm 126:6: ‘Those who sow with tears, will harvest at the sound of joy and happiness’. One day we will harvest so many souls in this region. One day we will carry the gospel to all the countries around us. The Lord will rejoice when He sees the people awaking in North Africa.”
Kabil has made sacrifices, but he knows how important his work is to the life of the church and to many hundreds of believers: God has ordained him for this role.
“Teaching, communicating, seeing people growing in the faith, is what motivates me. I am here today because I love doing this, I love helping people and see them blossom,” says Kabil. “My life is fully dedicated to the Lord, especially to discipleship training.”
*Name changed for security reasons