By Mark Ellis
When a young Mauritanian Muslim received Christ in the U.S., he had no idea how God would use a return visit to his homeland.
“My husband invited Ahmad over for dinner,” recalls Samya Johnson, cofounder of Call of Love Ministries. While Samya and her husband Mike had a pleasant evening with Ahmad in their Cincinnati home, the young man refused to eat any of the food they placed before him.
“He was afraid we would put poison in the food,” Samya notes. “He was also shocked that I, as a woman, would talk to him.”
Later, as their friendship blossomed, Ahmad prayed to receive Christ with Mike. Ahmad said a huge burden “rolled off his back,” and a peace and joy swept over him. He cried in front of Samya and Mike, overwhelmed by the love he felt from God.
Ahmad wanted to return to visit his family in Mauritania, but he faced a dilemma. He left his country labeled a “revolutionist.” He knew he would be refused entry to Mauritania if he attempted to fly there directly. Instead, he decided to fly into a neighboring country and travel across the border on foot.
As he prepared to leave, he placed a small copy of the New Testament in his pocket. “He knew it would endanger his life if someone found it,” Samya notes.
After a difficult journey over many days, Ahmad finally arrived at his village after nightfall, with his New Testament undiscovered.
First, he visited his Muslim father, but didn’t dare tell him he had become a Christian.
His father had some sad news. One of their dearest family friends, a neighbor named Yacoub, was seriously ill. In fact, Yacoub had been sick for almost 16 years. But he had taken a downturn, and his daughters informed them he might die within the week.
For almost a month, Yacoub had been telling his daughters, “I will not die before I see the book.” Then three days before Ahmad’s arrival, he started saying, “The book is coming! The book is coming!”
Yacoub’s daughters wondered if he was demented or delusional. Perhaps his mind was failing with the rest of his tired body. Still, they encouraged Ahmad to come by their home to encourage their father, knowing his time might be short.
When Ahmad entered the ailing man’s room, Yacoub sat up in his bed. It was the first time he had raised himself to a sitting position without assistance in many months.
As the two men embraced, Yacoub whispered in Ahmad’s ear, “You have the book with you, isn’t that right?”
Ahmad pulled back slightly, then said cautiously, “Do you mean the Quran?”
“No! No! The Holy Book. The Holy Book,” he replied.
Then Ahmad remembered the New Testament still in his pocket. He pulled it out and placed it in the man’s weathered hands.
Like Simeon when he beheld the Christ child in the Temple, Yacoub’s face brightened. “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation…” (Luke 2:29-30)
Yacoub put his head back on the bed and closed his eyes. Then he fell into a deep sleep, his face one of utter contentment.
The next day Yacoub’s daughters came running to the house. “That was the first time our father slept peacefully through the night,” they reported, “and at dawn he passed away.”
The back-story to Yacoub’s lifelong wish is important, Samya notes. “Later Ahmad found out this old man belonged to a tribe in the mountains that were Christians, but they were converted by force 60 years ago,” she recounts. “But he still remembered his grandmother telling him about the true God, Jesus, and about the Holy Book.”
“He spent his whole life waiting to hold the Bible,” she adds. “He believed in the God of the Bible before he died.”
The next day, Ahmad went with Yacoub’s son to bury the body in the desert. Ahmad was conflicted, however, because he knew that his family would want him to be buried the Islamic way, with the head facing east, toward Mecca.
As the two men attempted to dig a hole in an east-west alignment, the parched, rocky ground refused to open.
Approximately three-fourths of Mauritania is desert or semidesert. Because of extensive and severe drought, the desert has been growing there since the mid-1960s. “It never rains in Mauritania,” Samya observes, but when it rains, it’s a flood.” While they dug, a storm broke forth with fury, and a flood followed unlike anything Ahmad had seen in his life.
After struggling for a time under the severe conditions, Yacoub’s son returned to the village. Once he left, Ahmad began to dig a hole in a north-south direction.
“Suddenly it was as if the ground opened by itself,” Samya reports. After Ahmad marked the burial spot with a stone, he began to worry. He knew that Muslims would visit the gravesite the next day and see Yacoub was not buried according to their tradition.
The next day, after the storm subsided, villagers went to inspect the burial field. The flood had washed away all the grave markers, so no one could tell that Yacoub was buried with his head facing true north.
Ahmad shook his head in wonder. “He is the God of nature!” he exclaimed. “That was a miracle all on its own.”
Note: the names in this story were changed for protection