MOTHER REACHED out her hand, ready to smack me across my face.
Ours was a traditional home in the Middle East, so to her my question was blasphemous. But my father smiled and put me on his lap. Then he answered, “That is a sign of faith. Don’t ever stop searching.”
What I didn’t realize then was that the One True God—the God of the Bible—wanted an intimate relationship with me and that He was, even at my young age, putting me on a search that would eventually lead me to Jesus.
That’s when God would graciously fulfil His promise found in Deuteronomy 4:29: “But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul” (ESV).
Because of who my father was, I grew up entrenched in Islam. I started wearing the hijab, a Muslim head cover, at the age of 5. Two years later, I was fasting the full month of Ramadan. In another year, I read the Quran cover to cover. As a teenager, I jumped into numerous projects, including helping widows. But deep down, I felt empty. The busier I became with good works, the bigger the hole.
In my late teens, I started searching for how I could possibly fill that void. Secretly, I read about other religions. In my early 20s, I had decided I wanted to make a difference in the world. I earned a master of education degree, then I opened an orphanage in Iraq. With my family’s help, I purchased a school and converted the upstairs into bedrooms while the downstairs continued as classrooms.
We had the support of two nurses, a doctor, a dentist and even a chef. We picked up homeless children, some of whom lived in the slums. Then one night, tragedy struck. Our orphanage was mistakenly bombed early on during the Iraq war. I was thought to be one of the only survivors. For several months, I lay in a coma. Miraculously I awoke, but I remained in the hospital for six months. I went through a painful guilt trip. I had put that orphanage together, picked its location, chosen the children who would live there and hired the staff. I felt it was my fault they died. Then I became angry with God. “I’ve done so much for You!” I’d scream. But this one point I could not shake: Everyone who died in the orphanage was considered a martyr.
I said, “God, why did you not let me go?” Being a martyr is the only guarantee a Muslim has to Heaven. You can do everything you’ve been taught, but that doesn’t mean the gates of Heaven will be open for you.
The thought of becoming a freedom fighter entered my mind, but it didn’t linger. Instead, I decided to open a second orphanage—in a different country. When the Muslim community heard about the bombing, we were blessed with donations. The project expanded to include a youth center, literacy for women and a free medical clinic. Tragedy struck again. I received a bomb threat against the orphanage.
We evacuated the building, and I called the chief of police. The threat was against me and my family. I was
a young, educated woman—with a voice. I spoke English. I had helped the United Nations as an interpreter.
Cooperating with Westerners was viewed as being a traitor. The threat shook me. I donated my orphanage and left the country. Seeking asylum, I flew to Europe. But God still had a plan for me, which He was working out (Jeremiah 29:11). While in Europe, I had been harassed, even tripped, while walking down the street. One day in our apartment, in total desperation, I threw my arms up in the air and yelled, “Enough! I’ve had it. I cannot go on like this anymore.”
I wanted to reach beyond everything I believed about Allah, Muhammad and the Quran. Not having enough food or money, I prayed: “God, You need to come. I need You. I’m going to fast until You feed me.” On the third day of my fast, somebody knocked at the door. No one in the country knew me, but I opened the door and there stood a man, a woman and their son. They called me by my name and said: “We have food for you.” I looked down. There were about 30 bags of groceries on the floor. A wave of joy hit me, and I cried uncontrollably. They invited me to their church. We went to the Sunday service and immediately I sensed God’s love.
That day I came to the cross and surrendered my life to Christ. About two weeks later, I was at the post office and a gentleman approached me and asked if I was Canadian. He was from Canada and was in town on business.
We started talking and before long, politics and religion came up. It was a very interesting conversation to have with a Hindu-background atheist talking with a newly saved believer from a Muslim background. I shared about Jesus with him. A few weeks later, the man asked me to marry him, and I accepted.
I prayed daily for Jacob, and about three years into our marriage he gave his life to the Lord. I have reached out to my family back in the Middle East. For now, I have to do it by phone. When I was young, my parents hired an English teacher who planted the seed in me. She was a prayer warrior, and I know she shared the Gospel with my family and continuously prayed for us. My father passed away two years ago, and for a year before he passed, he wasn’t able to speak. I used that year to minister to him, and I believe he did receive Jesus.
Doors have opened for me to reach out to Muslims across the U.S. and Canada, and I am relying upon the Holy Spirit to know how to connect with each person. I always lead them to the cross and speak about Christ. A few have come to know Him, and I praise God. Some are children who then reach their parents. Others are women, who then influence their families.
Last year, I participated in the My Hope With Billy Graham outreach. And in September, I served as a counsellor during Franklin Graham’s Festival in Toronto. God gave me the privilege of leading three Chinese women to Jesus. My favorite verse is Ephesians 2:8—“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”
God led me to change my name to Grace. God reached into my darkness and pulled me out. I am nothing apart from Him. He is my strength, and He has given me joy. I’m grateful that He would use this broken vessel for His kingdom and to proclaim Him as Lord!
Source: Testimonies Time (Grace Pat)