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My First Visit to a Church

My knowledge of Christianity was zero at that time, I did not know what I had to do next. The only Christian I knew was that above mentioned teacher, so I decided that I had to go to his home to know what step I had to make after this decision of mine. He was surprised upon seeing me there and asking for the address of the Church. I explained to him what happened to me, and he was very happy for my decision to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. I did not know much about the many denominations that existed within Christianity, except the general knowledge that there are Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians, and none at all about the Orthodox Church, since there was no Orthodox Church at that time. He gave me the address of his Dutch Reformed Church. I did not know what to expect when I decided to enter into the Church building that Sunday morning. Of course I did not tell anyone in my family when I did it.

My Grandfather

However one day my grandfather discovered the secret, because the New Testament that was given to me by the teacher dropped off from within the backside of my shirt as I walked hurriedly in front of my grandfather. My grandfather was shocked upon seeing the book. He slapped my face and calling me a “disgrace” in the family. I was so frightened, especially when the news was spread and one of my relatives was going to kill me for it. I was terribly frightened, being a young lad of high school age, that I had to run away from the house, and hiding in my school friend’s house for several days. But later my grandfather was able to find out my where-about. He asked me to go home with him, I was reluctant to comply with his command, after he assured me that no one would do me any harm, at last I went home with him. Upon our arrival at home, he sat me in front of him and my grandmother. He asked me the reason I left Islam.


Conversation with my grandfather: the Meaning of Islam

I said I did not leave Islam, and he asked whether I would go to the mosque again, I said no. He did not understand what I meant, and I asked him to re-explained the meaning of the word “Islam” (“submission”) and “Muslim” (“the one who submits”). After he explained the meaning of the word to me, I asked him back, whether he knew after he dies –he was 104 years old at that time, my grandmother was his last surviving and the youngest of his four wives– he would go to heaven or not, he said he did not know it. He continued, it is because according to Islamic belief, entering into heaven or hell will be determined by the weight of good deeds or bad deeds during one’s life time, as they are going to be weighed on a eschatological scale during the day of judgement. I inquired of him, whether he tried to earn his way to heaven, he said in the affirmative, and in return he asked me back whether there is any other way than that, I said yes there is. I asked him if he wanted to be saved by earning his own way through good deeds, whether it is in conformity with the meaning of the word “submission” (“Islam”). In my understanding submission means one has to submit and rely completely on God’s help, and it is God who saves and not human who tries to earn his way to be saved through his own efforts. Then I asked my grandfather to explain the story of Adam and Eve according to the Qur’an.


My Conversation with my grandfather: The Fall of Adam and Eve according to the Qur’an

Adam and Eve, according to the Qur’an were placed by God in heaven (Qur’an 2:30-39, 4:1, 7:189, 7:11-25, 15:26-44, 17:61-65, 20:115-126,38:67-88), but because of the deception of the Devil (“Iblis”) they ate the forbidden fruit and were expelled to the earth and would die there. Then I asked him, whether there is a cemetery in heaven, he said no, the reason is, heaven is a place of eternal life. If the Qur’an said that Allah placed Adam and Eve in heaven, so I said, therefore they were created not in order to die but to have eternal life. But because they obeyed “Iblis” they were expelled from heaven, separated from God and His life, therefore Adam’s spirit was no longer enlivened by the life of God, his spirit dies, that is the cause of his physical death also. All of us his descendants, must have the same predicament like our first forefather, separated from God, the proof is: all of us are no longer in heaven, and bereft of the divine life and the proof is all of us will die, because we are dead in the spirit, with the result of our physical death.

Then I asked my grandfather, with that human spiritual predicament in mind, where would he go if anytime he had to die. Could a dead spirit unite itself with the living God upon his release from the human body at the time of death? So our human problem is not so much going to heaven as the restoration of the divine life within our spirit. When the divine life is restored in the human spirit then we can be reunited with the living God, and that is what heaven is actually all about.  No amount of good works will do any good, if the spirit is still in the state of death. My grandfather answered that if what I said is true he might not go to God, to heaven, if he died with this state of spiritual death. So what could one do, he asked me.  I said that in spite of the common Muslims’ conception that Jesus Christ was not crucified on the cross, but the transformed Judas Iscariot who was put in his stead ( Qur’an 4:157), the Qur’an also says otherwise:

“(And remember) when Allah said: O Jesus! Lo! I am gathering thee (Arabic: “mutawwafika” = “causing you to die”) and causing thee to ascend unto Me, and am cleansing thee of those who disbelieve and am setting those who follow thee above those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then unto Me ye will (all) return, and I shall judge between you as to that wherein ye used to differ.” (Qur’an 3:55)

Peace on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised aliveSuch was Jesus, son of Mary: (this is) a statement of the truth concerning which they doubt.” (Qur’an 19:33-34)

69778291_2530014123758418_4961785299693731840_nI asked my grandfather, if the “prophet” Jesus died and was raised alive and was caused to ascend to God after this resurrection what did He do to the death? He said, that Jesus Christ had defeated death. So I added, which means He was victorious over death, therefore He also could defeat death within us, which means He could restore eternal life, that is, divine life within us. Therefore if we believe in the “prophet” Jesus, we will be given back that divine life in us, so that when we die our spirit is in the state of life, therefore we can be reunited with the living God when we die. My grandfather turned his face to my grandmother, who sat quietly beside him, asking for her opinion, she said that she trusted the judgement of my grandfather, and she would follow him. Three of us kept quiet for a good 15 minutes, and I did not know what to expect and what more to say. Suddenly my grandfather said something that blew my mind away. He said:” I think you are right. Can I also believe in Him?”.  I was so joyful for this unexpected happening. To make long story short finally I had to take my grandparents to the teacher’s house, since I did not know what to do. And after undergoing some basic teachings in this Dutch Reformed Church we were baptised. It did not take even a year finally my grandfather passed away as a baptised Christian, two years later my grandmother also passed away a baptised Christian. Slowly my immediate family members: my parents, my aunts and uncle, my brothers, my sister and my cousins also became Christians.


In the Charismatic Movement

Not long after all of these, I left my home town and fell under the influence of a strong Charismatic movement in the Capital city of Jakarta. I became a Charismatic movement activist with a lot of young people following my lead. I felt that the Holy Spirit called me to preach the Gospel to all over Indonesia. So I became a freelance evangelist and ventured on with my preaching activities all over the country. In one strong Muslim area in Sumatra I was arrested by the police and put into custody for 3 days for converting the Muslims and for preaching on the street. They gave me warning to stop my activities and to leave the area or else. Finally I had to leave the area and returned back to Jakarta. I continued my preaching and evangelistic activities until the time when I was requested to be a youth chaplain by a Christian Governor in the province of North Sulawesi. At these times I began to ponder upon the nature of Christianity, because I saw so many doctrinal and practical discrepancies between one denomination to the others. I also missed some of the regular liturgical life that I had when I was a Muslim. I questioned myself if Jesus was a Jew, and all His disciples were Jews, therefore Christianity is actually eastern religion, because it is originated from Asian (Western Asian) soil. If so, at least there has to be some similarities between the original Christianity with Judaism and Islam, because all the three came into being from Semitic cultural milieu. But the Christianity that I embraced so far was a Western one, I wondered if the original eastern Christianity of the Apostles of Jesus Christ is still around. I did not get any answer for this question at those times. One day the Governor asked me to go to South Korea to learn the growth of Christianity in that country and to learn how to start a retreat house or prayer mountain as it is done by the biggest Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea. With his help finally I went to Seoul, South Korea.


This interview was conducted by:

Fr. Gavril Galev

Abbot of the monastery “St. Clement of Ohrid”,

Kinglake, Melbourne, Australia

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