An Iraqi man who grew up believing all Christians were "liars" who sought to kill Muslims has shared how he embraced the religion he once feared after hearing the gospel and witnessing the love and compassion of believers firsthand.
Growing up in Iraq, Mahmoud had been told that Christians are sinners and liars, and that he should not trust them. He was eventually forced to flee his hometown after ISIS invaded and tortured him because he refused to support the terrorists' caliphate, according to Christian Aid Mission.
While traveling by dinghy to Greece along with a number of others, his boat sank, thrusting him into the Aegean waves. As the Greek coastal authorities came to rescue him, Mahmoud was filled with dread, believing they were Christians bent on killing him.
"I saw them coming, and I was in tears, trembling from my fear," he recently told the male director of a ministry led by a husband-and-wife team based in Greece. "I knew they would kill me because I am a Muslim, as this is what I had been told."
The coastal authorities pulled him from the water and gave him dry clothes and food. Eventually, Mahmoud was connected with the ministry director, who told him about Jesus. Moved by what he had heard, Mahmoud asked if he could return in a few days for further explanations.
"For 40 years my people have been lying to me," he told the director, hands on his head as tears came to his eyes. "Why? I grew up with lies. I need to know the truth. I need to know about Jesus."
After a lengthy discussion, the ministry director asked Mahmoud if he wanted to accept Christ as his Lord and Savior.
"After finishing praying with him, he kept still with his eyes closed," the director said. "We left him like this for a few minutes and asked if he was okay."
Mahmoud told team members, "I have never felt this peace in my life, I do not want to lose this feeling - this is why I do not move!"
The indigenous ministry in Greece, whose directors speak Arabic, work tirelessly to minister to the hundreds of thousands of refugees flooding to Greece from the Middle East.
Team members provide food packages for refugees to cook themselves - Syrians in particular prefer to prepare their own meals - as well as blankets, sleeping bags, tents, diapers and hygiene items, reports CAM. Team members also provide legal information and help in making appointments with government agencies, and spend time developing relationships and building trust before traumatized refugees will consent to go to a counseling session with a mental health professional.
"Then on the spiritual level, we offer Bible studies, but we're doing this separately from the humanitarian work, because we don't want them to feel like we are proselytizing them or we are exchanging services for their faith," the female ministry director told CAM. "We offer Bible studies with an open door to anyone, but we never ask them if they're Christians or Muslims."
She added that because of their horrific experiences back home, refugees are very open to the message of Christ's salvation.
"We have the ones that are literally fleeing from Islam and ISIS, and they say that if this is my religion, I don't want it anymore," she said. "Some others, when they come to Europe, to Greece, then they compare what they have believed with what they see, and they say, 'Christians now are the first ones to receive us and give us food and protection.' So we appreciate Christian Aid for enabling us to help them - you have been steady with us from our first steps. Thank you."
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