GETTING TO KNOW HIM, GETTING TO KNOW MORE ABOUT HIM
It was winter in her Central Asian home city when Aliya, a doctor, faced overwhelming discouragement in her family and career. Her country was still finding its way as a recently independent nation, paralleling her struggle.
Bilingual in the trade language as well as her country’s native language, Aliya had just accepted work as a teacher in a language learning center operated by a group of Jesus followers. She traveled on small city buses in the cold rain between her new students’ homes, helping them learn basic phrases then progressing further into reading and speaking her language.
Seasons passed, and Aliya acquired more students. As students’ conversational abilities grew, several asked for help learning to read the Bible and talking about Jesus. Aliya raised a nominal Muslim, was politely uninterested in Jesus. In fact, the more she heard about Jesus, the more she felt she should be trying harder to seek God instead. Aliya turned to the Koran and began seriously practicing the Muslim faith embraced by almost everyone in her country. She prayed regularly and tried harder to please God.
At first, Aliya felt pleased with herself, at peace that she was trying to follow God. But she kept teaching students and hearing about Jesus. Sometimes she would gently debate with them, but she experienced something previously unknown as she got to know them better.
These students became her friends, showing her a new kind of love. They genuinely wanted to know and care for her — they planned surprise birthday celebrations, gave her gifts, and prayed with and for her. Aliya’s respect for Jesus as a good teacher and prophet grew. She sometimes attended church gatherings and listened to her Christian friends.
Through her students, Aliya connected with a Christian medical professionals’ group that invited her to a European conference. She spoke little English and found herself alone after the meeting, in an airport in a foreign country where she knew no one and understood nothing. After hours of waiting for a contact who never arrived and whom she never met, she prayed in desperation, “Jesus, if you’re real, would you get me out of here? If you do, I’ll believe in you.”
A few minutes later, Aliya approached an information desk where a man spoke to her. Somehow, she understood him, even though she sensed his language wasn’t hers. He asked what was wrong, called her contact, and arranged transportation to her lodging. Later that evening, while lying in bed as a stranger’s house guest, Aliya realized the only explanation was that Jesus had made it possible for her to get there. Remembering her earlier promise, Aliya began to pray, telling Jesus that she chose to believe in him!
When back home, Aliya shared her experience with a few people. She often attended house church meetings, so some of her student friends soon realized the depth of transformation that had begun. Over the next few years, Aliya faithfully gathered with other believers and soaked in every opportunity for growth in her new faith.
In a country where men see themselves as culture defenders and are often slow to hear Jesus’ call, Aliya usually met with groups of women. They were mostly unmarried or widowed or had been abused or abandoned by their husbands. A local leader was eventually needed for the group, and the mission team sensed it was time to ask Aliya to lead it.
Aliya was uncertain at first. But she was studying God’s Word, learning to depend on prayer and willing to serve. She looked for opportunities to grow as a leader. Missionaries partnered with local leaders to offer new church leaders training seminars on the Bible, leading groups, and church meetings. Aliya attended and grew in the wisdom and maturity of faith the Lord had already given her.
Aliya discovered the spiritual gift of evangelism. She loves working with the elderly, even seeing her mother come to faith in Jesus in her final months — something nearly unheard of in a culture so bound by Islamic traditions. Aliya loves sharing her journey, meets with other house church leaders for prayer and fellowship, and gently challenges people to understand Jesus’ love.
In May 2019, Aliya attended the International Conference of The Wesleyan Church in Barbados. For the first time, she met men and women who served in leadership roles worldwide and was encouraged to hear their stories and learn what God is doing in their churches. Aliya publicly shared her story there, thanking those who had helped make her faith journey possible. She closed her testimony with these words:
“There is less than one percent of people in my country who are following Jesus. So, we are the first generation of Christians … We have a great need for missionaries, for workers. I know that it’s because of missionaries sent to us that I am before you … God orchestrated all of that.
If you grew up in a Christian home where you learned about God and Jesus at a young age, are you still as excited as Aliya about her relationship with the Son of God? Or have you become so used to being a Christian and going to church that it doesn’t make you leap for joy? Perhaps we all can learn what we have in Jesus and treasure it as something priceless. Aliya learned about God through His Word, so that too should be as valuable to us as it is to her. – Dr. Robert R Seyda