From Muslim Leader to Evangelist for Christ in Nigeria

Monday, September 19, 2005

He was once warmly welcomed by his family; now they threaten to murder him.

by Obed Minchakpu

JOS, Nigeria, September 19 (Compass) -- His father sent him to Saudi Arabia from Nigeria when he was 3 years old to be trained as an Islamic cleric, but God had other plans for Ahmed Abdullahi.

Raised in Saudi Arabia and born into a northern Nigeria family with several relatives who are Muslim clerics, Abdullahi was an unlikely candidate to become a Christian evangelist to African Muslims. His path to Christ, however, has carried him past all obstacles -- including the death sentence his family has pronounced over him -- to become just that.

Abdullahi has not seen his family in more than 20 years. Those who warmly embraced him when he returned from Saudi Arabia in 1980 as a learned, 30-year-old Muslim cleric felt they had no choice but to kill him when he turned to Christ. “When I told my people that I have decided to follow Jesus Christ, they planned to kill me, forcing me to run away,” Abdullahi told Compass.

Married to Margaret, founder and president of Home Makers Ministries International, an evangelical Christian ministry to women with international headquarters in Jos, Abdullahi now has his own Christian family.

Abdullahi was born in Keffi town in Nasarawa state in northern Nigeria. His father, a Muslim village leader, gave him away to a Saudi Muslim cleric, Muhammad Ado, when he was just 3 years old so that his son would be trained as a reputable Islamic cleric. Abdullahi received an Islamic education in Saudi Arabia, and when his guardian died he returned to his ancestral homeland in 1980.

His relatives were proud to have a knowledgeable Muslim leader in the family, but before long their joy was cut short. For the first time in his life, Abdullahi met Christians.

“I was surprised to see Christians, because in Islam, we know that the time of Isa [Jesus] had passed,” he said. This encounter with Christians aroused his curiosity, and he asked for a Bible to find out more about Jesus.

While on a visit to his brother, Alhaji Sule, then a worker with the Nigerian Railway Corporation in the city of Maiduguri in northern Nigeria, Abdullahi met a Catholic priest known to him only as Father Macaulay. The Rev. Fr. Macaulay gave him a copy of an Arabic Bible, as Abdullahi could not read in English.

“Having read the Bible, I prayed that God should show me the right path,” he said. “It appeared as in a dream, when I saw Christ, who appeared to me and was telling me that He has given me the truth which is contained in His word. I decided to become a Christian in 1984, after reading about the life of Christ in the Quran and the Bible.”

Rev. Fr. Macaulay prayed with Abdullahi, who committed fully to becoming a disciple of Christ. Abdullahi’s relatives mourned for him. They tried to persuade him to return to Islam. Having failed to convinced him to renounce Christianity, his family pronounced a death sentence on him in accordance with Islamic injunctions.

“Now I can no longer live with my people,” he said. “They told me that it is better for them to kill me than for them to live in shame of losing me, a member of the family, to the Christian faith. I knew I was definitely going to be killed, so I fled from my village.”

Though receiving Christ was the best thing that ever happened to him, he said, it has cost him everything.

“In Islam, when you deny Muhammad as a prophet of God, then you are supposed to be killed,” he said. “I knew this. But I had thought that since I was no longer in Saudi, my people would not treat me the way I would be treated in Saudi. I was wrong. I didn’t know that there is so much harassment that awaits converts to Christianity in Africa.”

Devastated and destitute, in order to survive Abdullahi sometimes returned to the mosque to pray -- and to get food. “But after years of persistence, I no longer have to go back,” he said. “I believe that my conversion is the work of God, for if it was not so, I would have returned to Islam because of hardship.”

In 1986, he got involved in the Kanuri Project, an evangelical evangelism ministry to Kanuri Muslims in northern Nigeria. Since then he has been an evangelist to Muslims in Cameroon, Chad, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), Ghana, Benin Republic, Niger, Libya, Sudan, Morocco, and Togo, as well as Nigeria. Abdullahi’s outreaches have won converts from Islam and in some cases planted churches. His testimony resonates with Africans accustomed to interacting with spiritual powers.

“How did I know that my conversion was the work of the Holy Spirit, you may ask?” he said. “The truth is that, while I was a Muslim, I had powerful charms that could make me disappear at will. There were times I did not need to travel in a car. All I needed do is to think of where I wanted to be and I was there. So also, knives could not cut me.

“But when I became a Christian, I was baptized and suddenly I became powerless. All the powers I had disappeared. I then realized that I had been rendered powerless by powers that were greater than mine. I never knew that I could ever be rendered powerless, because I was assured in Islam that nobody can take those powers away from me.”

Abdullahi knows the consequences of his boldness to proclaim Christ among Muslims, but he is not afraid to die. “If I am killed as they plan to kill me, I know that death in Christ is a blessing, a gain,” he said. “I am not scared. Jesus Christ is my Lord, and he has given me the boldness to profess him anywhere I find myself.”

Copyright 2005 Compass Direct