There’s a new believer in our church plant, a local man we’ll call Hank*. He’s from a very conservative Islamic city not too far from here, the kind of place known for its history, pomegranates, and the presence of radicals. As a friend of one of my colleagues, he’d heard the gospel often over the last five years. Something changed this year, however, and quiet and thoughtful Hank placed his faith in Christ.
When it was time for his baptism, the weather was still warm enough to drive to a nearby lake for a day of picnicking, swimming, fellowship, and celebrating Hank’s immersion. The rocky slope into the lake was quite steep and the men doing the dunking struggled to keep their balance. They wobbled, but put him under the water nonetheless. Our group cheered and yelled congratulations. Actually, the local phrase for “Congratulations!” directly translates, to “May it be holy!” – a very appropriate cheer indeed for a baptism. Other picnickers up on the slope eyed us curiously.
After he dried off, Hank was still quiet and thoughtful as usual, but his eyes were beaming.
A few weeks later he wanted to share a prayer request during our service prayer time. Since we are still a very small church, every service involves a time of prayer together. We regularly begin this time by asking if anyone has had a chance to share the gospel the previous week or if there’s a particular unbeliever on their heart they desire to share with. But it’s also a time for prayers of petition and thanksgiving.
Hank spoke up during this time, and with a shy smile began to tell us what had happened the previous week.
“I was on the phone with my brother who lives in Europe and I began to feel this desire to tell him about my new faith. But I was afraid to. So I started inching closer to the topic by talking about spiritual things and about Jesus. To my surprise, my brother was eager to talk with me about this. After a little while, he said to me, ‘If I tell you something, do you promise not to tell our family?’ I said yes. ‘I’ve been a believer in Jesus for a few years now,’ he said. Then he waited to hear what I would say, not knowing about my faith. ‘You too!?’ I answered. ‘I just became a believer in the last few months and just got baptized!’ We were so surprised and so happy to find out one another’s secrets. I was so afraid to tell my brother about my faith and he was afraid to tell me! But we were both already believers and didn’t know it. Isn’t that great?” Hank said, smiling and shaking his head.
We listened to Hank’s story and laughed and celebrated with him. It doesn’t often happen this way in this persecution-prone society, but every once in a while a dreaded conversation with a family member turns into a joyful revelation of long-kept secrets. “You too?!” takes a believer facing isolation from his biological family and shows him that God has already been at work, quietly saving those in his household without his knowing it. In a society where kinship is everything, this is a tremendous mercy.
A local proverb states, “When a brother backs a brother, barring catastrophe, they are divinely prospered.” Even from a distance, these two brothers can now back each other in their risky faith.
Hank and his brother were already brothers by blood. Praise God, now they are brothers indeed.
*Names changed for security