The Day my Mother Met an Islamic Terrorist
My mother doesn’t shy away from talking to anyone, especially when it’s about Jesus.
In 2006, at the age of 65, my mother left the comforts of her home in Medford, Oregon to begin a new ministry with Child Evangelism Fellowship. My mom was the pioneer in launching After School Bible Clubs at the public elementary schools located on military bases around the country. To her, she viewed her ministry as serving God and her country at the same time. She worked closely with military chaplains, local churches and volunteers, as well as the local school administrators. Her first ministry was at Fort Hood in Texas, the largest Army base in the world. This 215,000-acre installation has six elementary schools. In only a few years, this grandma from Oregon had installed After School Bible Clubs in every elementary school at Fort Hood with hundreds of children learning and singing about Jesus every week!
After Fort Hood, she was transferred to and launched this ministry at military bases in California, Alaska, and Washington. Military bases in Hawaii and Georgia had asked her to come to their base as well but God never opened those doors. For sixteen years, my mother’s passion for this military ministry to children remained strong.
As often as she had the health and finances to attend, my mother would attend the annual CEF International Conference. People who worked with CEF around the world would attend. My mother always left inspired and encouraged. She also came home energized because she got to share her ministry with many innocent bystanders who just happened to ask her, “So, what do you do?”
One such conference stood out above the others. It was the time my mother met a former Islamic terrorist. During a break, she grabbed some coffee in the lobby, sat down on a bench, and noticed a lady next to her with a special conference name tag. These special name tags indicated to everyone that this individual was visiting from an underground country. There were strict guidelines about these special guests – you cannot post their names or pictures online because this could put their lives in danger. Sharing the gospel of Jesus in these countries could get someone arrested or even killed.
After some simple chit-chat with this lady about the impending weather headed their way, my mother asked what country she was from. She answered. Soon, a man walked up and introduced himself as this lady’s husband. His voice was very soft and he humbly shared, “I was a former Islamic terrorist who used to make bombs and teach Shariah Law.” His former organization’s arch-enemy is the nation of Israel. The bombs he made were made to inflict death and damage upon Jews.
My mother couldn’t help herself, so she asked, “What was it that transformed an Islamic terrorist?” His answer stunned my mother. He said, “When I heard that Jesus said, ‘Love your enemies.’ I had never heard that before. I had been taught we kill our enemies. This simple statement put a desire in my heart to learn more about who Jesus was.”
Love. Your. Enemies. So simple yet so profound. The words of Jesus still exude power today. Now this former terrorist and his wife are introducing the Prince of Peace to Islamic children!
Before heading back into the auditorium, the wife wanted to share one piece of exciting information with my mother. She said, “Before coming to Jesus, we were unable to have children. This was really hard for us because we really wanted to start a family. Today,” she said with a large smile, “we have three children!”
Several weeks ago, I visited my mother in Medford, Oregon. She is getting close to receiving the ultimate health upgrade from her battle with cancer and will soon graduate to heaven to be forever with her Savior, Jesus. All around her bedroom walls are eight panels of pictures. Seven panels represent each of her children and their family photos. For years now, she spends time every day praying for each panel and every one of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The eighth panel of pictures is for special people outside of her family. As I looked closely at this panel of pictures, I asked her, “Mom, who are these people?” She replied, “Oh, this is my former Islamic terrorist friend and his wife. I pray for them every day!”