In 1982, I was given thirty names of contacts from Transworld radio station and I wrote to each of them. I was excited to get a letter from one with his telephone number.
Since we didn’t have a phone, I went to the little corner grocery store and called Murat from there. He invited us to come to his house and even offered to pay for our way in a taxi, which would have been half of his monthly salary! He really wanted to meet someone who could tell him about Jesus!
We drove to the very southern edge of the city, up into the same squatter house neighborhood where my language teacher lived. Murat’s house was on a high cliff, built on a rock jutting out over the valley. He met us at the entrance of the little road that led to his house and rode in with us.
His wife greeted us at the door, where we took our shoes off. She ushered us into the living room and had us sit on the sofa bed there. We knew how to sit in the proper way, drawing our legs up under us and leaning against the cushions behind us. I got the spot of honor in the corner. Barbara sat a bit separately with Murat’s wife. The boys made friends with their two girls and went outside to play.
Murat was so shy he could hardly bear to look up at me while we talked. Over tea and refreshments he told me his story, looking down at the floor most of the time.
As a child growing up in a remote village in the eastern part of the country, he had often played in the ruins of an old church. One day when he was about five years old, he had asked himself two questions: “I wonder, is the God of this church the same as the God we worship?” And “If he is, why don’t we keep up the church the way we do our building?”
These two questions led him on a quest that lasted twenty-nine years and ended with us sitting here together in Murat’s living room. Wanting to know God, he had delved deeply into the local religion, memorizing the whole of their book in Arabic. He did not understand it, but was able to make all the appropriate sounds and so became a leader of the worshipers in his village.
He had then gone a major city in the west to study engineering at the university. In his spare time he would walk the streets, looking for a tourist who might have a Bible. He did not find any.
After graduation he did his military duty, moved to our city and got married, still looking for answers to his questions about God. He bought a short wave radio and one day while he was searching for broadcasts in his language, he came across Transworld’s frequency. He began to listen regularly to their program in his language and eventually wrote to them. They, in turn, sent his address to me.
I gave Murat a copy of “I am the Door,” the new translation of the Gospel of John. He accepted it gladly and by the next time we met had read the whole thing. He was an eager student and came to Christ during his own Bible reading.
He began to memorize large sections of Scripture, but later admitted to me that he did not know what they meant. He was memorizing as he did in the local religion’s book, believing there was magical benefit from being able to repeat passages without understanding. It took time for him to grasp that the message was more important than mindless repetition.
His wife was at first somewhat open to the gospel, but then turned against him, burning his Bible and books. This conflict waxed and waned during the whole time we knew them.
Murat worked as an inspector for a government organization, meaning he often traveled to inspect construction of places of worship, schools and office buildings throughout the country.
He gave me a warm invitation to come and visit him at his work place. I was quite hesitant to do this because the place where he worked was a very religious organization, but Orin insisted I come.
He himself also spoke very openly about his new faith, sharing with others from the Scripture portions we gave him. This was to have serious consequences for both of us.
Picture: visiting with Murat