How Beautiful Format Saved My Life

The following true story comes from a reliable source and concerns a beautiful Arabic edition of the Gospel of Luke. We are sharing this with permission from the author:

Some years ago I got a phone call that nearly killed me.

My wife and I were living in a flat-roofed house in a city in Central Asia with our four small Central_Asia mapchildren. A local friend of mine called to ask me to meet with the leadership of a militant group who were quickly overrunning the neighboring country. He wanted me to take an unmarked taxi to the “wrong” side of town to house 12B at midnight. There the leader would be waiting for me.

Why would I even consider going on such a foolish errand you may ask? Long ago I had,  at least theoretically, decided to put myself under local believers. My friend was a local believer from a Muslim background.

A year earlier he had been rounded up as a dissident, and been locked in one of Central Asia’s most infamous jails in the capital city. With him were a small cadre of men who opposed the current regime. These men clung together in the most horrific of conditions. With little food, poor sanitation, freezing cold and frequent beatings one or two men died every night. The survivors formed strong bonds of friendship that would last a lifetime.

Later the others who survived would go on to lead the militant movement, and my friend went the other way – finding Jesus and visiting me weekly to study and pray. I was deeply touched by his transparent prayer life and his open confession of weakness, precious evidence of how the Lamb had touched his life.

So he called me to share the story with these men who now were leading one of the most fearsome militant groups on the planet. Torture, kidnapping, beheadings, IEDs and suicide bombings were child’s play for them. They were rabidly opposed to Christ and especially to Westerners – like myself.

Gospel of Luke study arabic
Arabic Gospel of Luke (not the one referred to in the article)

I prayed with my wife and thought about what Scripture portion to take as a gift. I had just been given six copies of Luke’s Gospel beautifully printed in Arabic. While not the local language, I knew it was the most respected language, the language of heaven. I slipped one copy under my jacket and caught a taxi to meet my fate. I was not sure I would return, but felt joy in obediently following my friend’s request.

I was thrilled when the taxi driver could not find the house. “I’m off the hook,” I thought to myself. “I have been obedient, but the Lord has other plans.”

“Let’s go back,” I told the driver.

“Hang on, one more street to check,” he said.

And there was 12B, the house ringed by men holding Kalashnikovs. I wished the driver would just keep going, but he stopped. I stepped out and a large bearded man said, “Are you Ahmed (my local name)?”


“The boss has been waiting for you.”

He searched me, and somehow did not feel the Bible pressed against my trembling chest. He ushered me into a large hall lined with armed men. At one end a neatly dressed man with hard blue eyes was squatting on a raised stage. I was ushered toward him. We exchanged greetings and he beckoned me to sit with him on the stage. I removed my shoes and timidly began to sit. I sensed that all the eyes in the room were intently watching me – like spiders watching a fly landing on the web. I was the fly, now trapped.

I was surprised when the leader nodded to his deputy to dismiss all the men. Only the two of us were left, face to face on the mat. “So, my friend told me you have something to share with me?”

Such was my fear that even at this point, though I had the Bible and was ready to share, I did not want to. I had no idea how open I should be, or what line I might cross that would cause me to be the next victim. But suddenly I felt calm and relaxed. Is this what the verse about the Holy Spirit giving us words to say means?

“Well, I came to bring you Good News.” I used a special word used for the kind of good news carried to relatives when a son is born in a family. I was carrying the Good News to the man of very high rank, who from his hard eyes I could tell, had ordered men to be killed.

I felt a great relief that I had a Bible of high quality and beautiful appearance stuffed under my jacket. At this point to have handed him a small tract or poorly printed Bible would have been an insult.

I notice he hesitated, thinking perhaps I was reaching for a gun when I reached under my jacket. “This is a translation of the Holy Injil,” I quickly interjected.

Then I passed him the Gospel wrapped in a special cloth.

To my surprise he smiled for the first time.

“I have been waiting a long time to read this,” he said as he reverently held the book up to his lips and kissed it.  “Tell me what it says,” he asked.

As he held the beautiful book I felt freedom to gently tell the story. I felt great calm and caught a tiny insight into how much the Lord loved him.

About half an hour later I wrapped up the story, he kissed the book again and said the most remarkable words: “This is a holy book and I will insist that all my field commanders read it.”

I was sure that the appearance of the book – its Islamic style calligraphy, cover and introduction all added to its credibility, and had saved my life.

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