Being a Christian and a teenager isn’t easy. But deciding to follow Jesus as a 15 year-old from a Muslim family in a Middle Eastern country makes the choice much, much harder. For Abdu, the choice has meant persecution, rejection by family, violence and exclusion. You can read his full story below, but what we’d love to do is to help him now. We want to show him that he’s not alone, and that Christians (young and old) around the world are praying for him. Click the link below to send Abdu a message, video, image, prayer or Bible verse to give him some much needed encouragement to keep going…
“I knew that choosing to live with Christ would get me in to trouble. And I trust that God has a plan with all this. But I am tired of the continuous pressure and I miss my family. I don’t know how much longer I can hold on like this.”
It’s hard to listen to Abdu’ story and not feel with him. Before his 16th birthday, he has faced more hardship and struggles than most believers have to deal with in their entire life. And yet he trusts that God has a plan for him and that someday he might understand why all of this is happening to him.
Abdu (not his real name) is from the Middle East. In order to keep him safe, we cannot disclose all the details of his story, his real name or where he’s from.
“I grew up in a normal Muslim family, but both my parents were not very religious. There were a lot of conflicts between them. Apart from that, both my older brother and I grew up like normal kids. We both like football… Barcelona is the team I support.”
“I don’t know why, but one day my dad moved out and from then on he disappeared from our lives. So, it was just the three of us. Still, life was calm and relatively stable back then. But, suddenly my mum became Christian.”
But then everything changed. Abdu was about to start high school when his mum became a Christian. “She convinced us to become more interested in Christianity and taught us about Jesus. I immediately liked Him. A kind man, like Santa Claus… At least that is what I thought as a kid.”
Abdu was baptised, but looking back he says he didn’t really understand what had happened. However, for the Muslim community around them it was very clear: this family had left Islam and had converted to Christianity. And in Islam, that is an offence ultimately punishable by death. It took Abdu’s mother no longer than two weeks to realize the danger she had put herself in. She took her sons with her and sought refuge in another city. Because of their conversion to Christianity, they couldn’t go to school there. Muslim converts are not accepted in most schools in the Middle East.
Soon after they had settled, Abdu’s mother travelled abroad to arrange a better future for her and her two sons. But she left without their father’s approval, and so it became legally impossible for Abdu and his brother to leave the country and join their mother. Leaving the boys with a relative, Abdu’s mother left them for what initially was meant to be a short time. It’s now been two years.
“At first I was convinced that we would be back together quickly and live together in peace. But now I’m afraid that I may never see her again. Why? I don’t understand. I truly
Abdu and his brother couldn’t stay with their relatives any longer. “We really outstayed our welcome. But without any place to sleep, we had to choose: return to a father we really didn’t know or just live on the street.”
The thought of returning to their father was so troubling for the boys that they chose the other option. “We lived on the streets for two nights,” Abdu shares. “We tried to make no trouble and to stay out of people’s way, afraid they might call the police who would then probably deport us.”
But then God intervened. Through local contacts, a Christian couple found out about the two boys’ dire situation and took them into their house. “They took us in, they bought us clothes… And they took us to their church.”
Going to church wasn’t something that was normal for the boys. In name they may have been Christians, but looking back on that period Abdu realizes he wasn’t a believer. “To be honest, I was not very much interested in church. I thought the sermons were boring. But living with this Christian family and seeing how they interacted with people did speak to my heart: I experienced that they really loved each other. That encouraged me to open up to them.”
Abdu decided that he wanted more than to be called ‘Christian,’ he really wanted to live with Christ. “God has given me a chance to really live for Him. He is my Father now. He will take care of me. I found a new family with these loving people.”
Sadly, that is not the end of Abdu’s story. As his life was settling down, and his faith building, he received a call from his dad. He wanted his boys back home. “When I spoke to him on the phone for the first time, he didn’t even recognize my voice. He hadn’t been in touch with us for more than six years.”
The father made a heartfelt plea that he wanted his boys back home. And because they were both minors, the Christian family had no choice but to let them leave. “They told us, ‘He is your dad. He loves you. He will take care of you.’”
But after travelling home the two boys didn’t received the warm welcome they had hoped for. “He didn’t prepare anything for us. There were no beds to sleep in, no chairs to sit on. Most of the furniture was broken, and the house looked filthy. And I found out that my father was using and distributing drugs.”
The day after they returned, the father started to put pressure on the boys to return to Islam. “He urged us to be Muslims. To pray five times a day.” Abdu refused to do that, and in return he told his father about the Love of Christ he had experienced. “I told him how Jesus changed my life. But it didn’t land well with him. When he was out of arguments, his eyes turned red and he became angry. ‘If you are not a Muslim, you are not my son. If you don’t choose Islam, you will die,’ he threatened me.”
Abdu felt lonelier than ever. In an effort not to anger his father any more, he went up on the roof of the house every night in secret to read his Bible and sing the few Christian songs he remembered. “I repeatedly told myself: in Christ I am risen. He is in charge!”
Abdu started to long for the love and the acceptance he had experienced when living with the Christian family. His brother, however, seemed better able to adapt to the new life in their father’s house.
At this point, the 15-year-old had a hugely difficult choice to make: after already losing his mother, should he stay with his brother and remain cut-off from believers while living under massive pressure? Or should he return to the believers he lived with before, giving him a chance to learn to live with Christ and be discipled but remain separated from his family?
When he looks back at this moment now, Abdu is still unsure he made the right choice. But he decided to leave his father and his brother and return to the Christian family. Alone.
That is where things are at for Abdu now. Understandably, he’s struggling with his situation. He hasn’t been going to school for four years now, and he’s struggling with a growing gap in his basic education. He’s worried about his future:
“I’m so tired of the pressure, of being in hard places. I did not grow up a family that was a safe place. There was no mutual trust and love. I think that is why I still find it difficult to accept that these people really love me and care for me.”
His father is putting pressure on Abdu to return home, threatening him and the people around him. He prays for the Lord’s protection every day.
His biggest fear now is that he will lose the people he is living with as well. “I grew up without a father; I lost my brother, I lost my mother. I don’t want to lose any more people. I really wouldn’t know what to do. I still pray every day that God will reunite us as a family.”
What he does know is that Christ is living in him. And that is not something Abdu can keep quiet about. Already he has started sharing this good news with some of his peers, he tells us. “What keeps me going is the absolute trust that God has a plan. Even when I have to go back to zero, God still has a plan. I believe that He will take care of me. Whatever happens.”
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.