A Man Converted
Some introductory remarks: Timothy’s testimony comes in very strong words, and might be offensive to some of you, but bear in mind when you read some of his sentences that he has experienced much torture and hatred for his faith. It is taken from an article written about him, so that it is in the 3rd person instead of first person. At the end you will find a speech by himself, given relatively recently, while the testimony itself is a few years old.
The Gift of Freedom: Timothy Abraham’s Testimony
Egypt. Visions of the luxurious Nile, pyramids, the Sphinx. The land to which Mary and Joseph escaped with their precious son. Egypt. “The very areas that Jesus lived and worked in have become the home-place of horror and hysteria,” said Egyptian national, “Timothy Abraham,” a converted Christian who came to this country to study, fleeing Muslim persecution.
The young man was born in a small northern village in Egypt to Muslim parents. His ancestry for hundreds of years is Muslim, he said, and he was devoted to his religion. At the age of 14 he joined the fanatical Muslim brotherhood. He preached in the local mosque, and forced his 12- year-old sister to wear the full veil of the fundamentalist Muslims:
“I was trying to perpetuate Islam everywhere,” he said of that period. A magazine came into his hands which had pen pal addresses from the United States. He chose one at random and wrote, hoping to convert the man to Islam, he said.
He didn’t know the magazine was published by Christians, and the addresses were of those who were willing to write to Arabs to convert them.
Abraham got a guy named John from Pennsylvania. They wrote back and forth for two years, each trying to convert the other. Then John surprised Timothy by coming to visit him in his village.
“That was the first time I saw a real Christian,” Timothy said. “John’s sincerity, frankness, openness … he never lies. People in the Middle East often lie. It’s part of the culture, the influence of Islam. They are so considerate, they want to protect your feelings. That’s part of it.”
John stayed with Timothy for two months. “He had an amazing prayer life. He prays more than he talks,” Timothy said of his mentor. John would get up every morning and pray, speaking the words of the Bible, Timothy said.
“I imitated his Christian prayer using the Koran, but when I heard the Koran, I was depressed,” said the life-long Muslim. “The Koran teaches torture, and Allah is on the lookout for ways of tormenting his servants. And Allah is a racist god. He hates the Jews.”
“God in the Bible is both just and merciful. His justice requires that everyone be punished in Hell, for He is perfect 100 percent. No matter how hard we try to please God, we always fall short of His perfection. Our good works will not bring us closer to God. God saw our insufficiency, and decided to pay the penalty Himself. He sent His word Is a Al Masuh (Jesus Christ), who is absolutely sinless and faultless to carry the punishment of our sins on the cross. What can you say to the Judge when He chooses to pay the penalty for you? The Bible says in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” It is because God loves us that He sent His word Jesus Christ to die for us. Islam never grants us the assurance of going to Heaven, but Christ absolutely does! Praise God!
After John left, Timothy said, his influence stayed. The Egyptian Arab sent a missal to his pen pal stating, John, your visit made me a stronger Muslim. “I was trying to depress him,” Timothy grinned, “but he prevailed in his prayers. I began to ask questions.”
Those questions started getting him in trouble, he said. “I began examining everything I’d ever been taught. I began thinking for myself for the first time. In Islam, they want to lead you by the nose – or the ear. It’s very authoritarian. Questions, they say, fly in the face of Allah. Obey. That’s all.
“It is not easy to utter these things about Islam”, he added. “When I talk about Christianity, I don’t want to hurt my Muslim brothers.”
Muslim leaders noticed the change in Timothy when he began asking why God would hate the Jews. Why shouldn’t God love His creation. His handiwork, equally? Then he noted through his archaeological studies that the Bible is substantiated historically. That irritated his Muslim friends. In the meantime, John and Christian friends sent tapes and books translated into Arabic. “After years of study, I came to two logical conclusions: The Bible is the infallible Word of God, and Jesus is the Word of God, but He can be God.”
But that was an intellectual decision, he said. “Then I said, Lord, please show me the truth and I will serve you for the rest of my life, whatever the cost may be.
“After a week of that prayer, Jesus appeared to me. I love you, I know you, and you are eternal, the vision said. I couldn’t help crying because of how many years I wasted away from Jesus. I was deceived before!”
Excitedly, Abraham wrote of his conversion to John. John sent a congratulatory letter, which Timothy placed in his prayer journal.
A childhood friend came in the house one day and asked Timothy for a drink of water. While he was in the kitchen, the friend found the letter and the journal and pocketed them. Later that morning everyone in the small village had a copy of that letter. When Timothy discovered the journal missing, he had a sinking feeling. He went to the mosque.
“Every Muslim felt insulted, like I was slapping him in the face. They had to retaliate. They beat me up – tried to kill me.” Timothy’s little brother was watching and crying.
“I was more hurt by that, and by the fact it was a friend from when I was five years old who did that to me. I know how Jesus felt when His friend betrayed Him.”
His mother told him she disowned him until the Judgment Day. “I don’t need to look up the definition of the word ostracized,” Timothy quipped.
Timothy escaped the mob by running through fields and renting a car for Cairo.
“You shall call on me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you and thou shalt glorify me. When you experience these things, you see the real glory in the Bible.”
But Timothy’s delivery was short-lived. While a Christian connection in Cairo received him warmly, he only let him stay three days before he sent the young man home. “He told me I would get his family in trouble.” Now he was rejected by both the Christians and the Muslims, he said. When he got home, the entire village of about 500 people met him at his front door. “Are you a Muslim?” the mosque officials demanded. Timothy was ready, thanks to the advice of an underground pastor who said the definition of the word Muslim is a person who is submitted unto God. “So I could truthfully answer yes.” Then they asked if Mohammed was a prophet. “I said he was a prophet of the god who sent him. That was true.”
Though that got him off the hook then, his continued activities landed him in prison about five times on charges of high treason. Like St. Paul, Timothy turned his devotion to former religion into even stronger devotion “to the real God of love.” He helped organize an underground congregation, and used his skills in English to translate Christian books into Arabic – in a country which has outlawed possession or distribution of any kind of Christian literature. His phone was tapped. His letters were opened. Then he discovered Shorrosh’s book and wrote an 18-page letter to Daphne in response. Shorrosh allowed Timothy to call him collect from Egypt, as Timothy had to change from house to house in order to talk. And things were getting scarier.
Three friends were imprisoned last year, he said, “because they were more courageous than I was about spreading the Gospel.” Jailers heated iron bars “then placed them on their genitalia and other sensitive areas of the body,” Timothy said. “I saw the scars from the marks of cigarette ends after they got out of prison after 10 months.”
Then Timothy was arrested for the fifth time. After the routine physical and psychological torture, prison officials told him if they saw him again, the sentence would be capital punishment. All this, he said, for spreading the Gospel.
In desperation, he called Shorrosh. “Can you get me out of here?” he asked. Shorrosh arranged for Timothy to leave on a student visa to attend seminary. The under-ground church pooled their resources to come up with the $1,000 for the plane ticket.
And Timothy landed in America – in Brooklyn, N.Y. “With the violence there, I thought I was back in Egypt,” he laughed. But Shorrosh met him at the airport, brought him home to relatively- tame Alabama, and he was ecstatic. The first thing Shorrosh advised the young man to do was change his name – at least temporarily until things cool off.
Timothy was interviewed just 10 days after he arrived in the U.S. “It is a real privilege to me to be able to talk with you on this phone with such liberty!” he said. “I still can’t get over it.”
Timothy said he still has nightmares about his prison experiences, but mostly grieves over the shame and humiliation his conversion brought to his family. “I took my mother a present for Mother’s Day, and she said, `This is not from my son. My son died a long time ago.’”
But he hopes to find a new family like those he’s seen in his Christian friends. “I pray the Lord will give me a real family I feel I belong to. There are very few people in Egypt who are helpful and caring. I want a loving family, warm and sincere.”
His immediate prayer, however, is to overcome feeling like he has betrayed his heritage and identity by converting. “It is sad, lonely, and I spend many nights crying. But Jesus is worth it.”
You can e-mail Timothy Abraham at [email protected].
Risk on the Journey
(a speech given June 26, 1995)
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Today I consider myself privileged and honored to stand before you and share about my journey with Christ in Egypt. I have to admit, first and foremost, that I am grateful to God’s saints in the WMU for their labor of love to get the Gospel proclaimed to Muslims, In fact, I am indebted to each member of the WMU, exactly as the apostle Paul felt when he said in Romans 1:14, “I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise.”
It was a young man from Pennsylvania who shared Christ with me while I tried to convert him into Islam. Right after my conversion I was baptized secretly in Cairo. Filled with the joy of salvation I could not hide or deny Christ anymore. Therefore, when my childhood friend asked me if Christ was crucified, I answered, “Yes!” and explained why. He prayed with me, for the first time, to receive Christ. He was shaking vehemently and perspiring profusely every time he prayed with me. He could see how mighty the name of our Lord Jesus was. My former leaders in the Islamic fanatical group, desiring to know who the spearhead was, threatened to kill him if he would not tell them everything about my evangelism. Sadly, he betrayed me and I was beaten up in front of the mosque where I had formerly preached Islam zealously. In their sight I was a blasphemous infidel who deserved to be killed unless I would recant. They regarded my conversion as the most horrendous form of desecrating Islam and the Quran.
Since my secret conversion was now made to the public and Muslims plotted to kill me, I had to flee. I was hunted by Muslims from my village in the Delta, to Ismalia until I arrived in Cairo where my Christian friends lived. Yet Christians were not willing to shelter me and I had to go back to the village, seeking refuge in His protective hands. I came back from Cairo and found an angry mob of Muslims filling up our house. My mother was wearing the garment of mourning, dressed in black as is the custom in Egypt. Muslim women yelled at me, “Your mother doesn’t deserve all this from you. Why cause her all this grief7” Another woman lamented, “Poor mother! Her son left her for the Christian infidels. If I were her, I would kill my son for running after the infidels like a dog.” I received a letter from a friend in Jordan who reported that my father was walking down the streets in Jordan weeping bitterly as Muslim laborers there reproached him severely. He stayed sick in bed for a month because of this until he and I talked on the phone.
It is absolutely unforgettable that outraged Muslims broke into our house barbarically. My mother knelt down at the feet of our neighbor “Sayed” begging him to spare my life and kill her instead. In such indescribable agony, my mother disowned and disinherited me before all people in my village. I love my mother more dearly than any person in this world, but no human power, regardless of how gigantic it is, can separate me from the love of Christ. I will always live for Jesus.
For the first time in my life, my Bible, all my Christian books, and music tapes were confiscated and burnt. I decided to flee from the Delta region to Cairo. Even though the police were tracking me down, the Lord blinded their eyes and protected me. In Cairo, I was hiding at Mounir’s, an Egyptian Baptist friend who was comforting me all the time. I broke down when he read,
“So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).
I am grateful to God for providing this Baptist friend who discipled me, teaching me to live a victorious life affluent in worship and thanksgiving. He gave me a pocket Arabic New Testament and told me frankly that his parents were afraid that if they continued to hide me they would be in jail forever. I had nowhere to go. So, upon the advice of my secret pastor, I went back to the village, hiding the Arabic New Testament in my socks, praying that it would not fall. I was eventually arrested and released repeatedly. I learned what it means to have God as my only Hiding Place. In prison, my Savior knows I have come to experience true peace. I was not shaken because I saw Christ in prison, not myself. I sang songs of joy in the midst of tears, anticipating the shining Morning Star to come and deliver me. I decided to hide the Bible in a place where the police cannot confiscate it—in my heart by memorizing it. I have since made it a habit to sleep with my Bible by my side. Five years later, I managed to flee Muslims’ attempt to kill me just to find that there are some professing Christians in America who attack the inerrancy of the Bible for which I was willing to die. What a scandalous thing!
When I went to give my mother a Mother’s Day gift, she asked me rhetorically, “Mother’s Day gift?” I answered, “Yes” every time she repeated the question. She looked at me with such crushing grief and said, “My son, whom I waited 15 years to have and finally was born is now dead. I disown you till the day of judgment, Ibrahim.” I cried but Christ touched my heart and said, “I am your family now! I am your father, brother, mother, sister, friend, and everything to you, Timothy, now.” I cannot forget those days when my mother would call the police to arrest me. She even went to a witch to put a curse on me and bring me back to the fold of Islam. The witch said, “Your son is following a path which he will never forsake and he will be victorious all his life as long as he walks in it.” These words, from the mouth of a witch, brought my younger brother to know Christ. The testimony of demons about our victorious Lord renders skepticism and unbelief absurd.
I decided to move to Cairo which was not any safer. The last time the police had arrested me they said, “According to us, you are an infidel who has committed high treason. Next time we arrest you, it will be capital punishment.” To make it worse, the “Christian” landlord told me he could not shelter a fugitive criminal anymore. I was not welcome in my own country anymore. Nevertheless, the Lord intervened, and a Palestinian evangelist, Anis Sharrosh, introduced me to Dr. Paige Patterson. At first, I was denied the visa, but Dr. Patterson did not give up. Finally, I was granted an entry visa, and I was supernaturally able to leave Egypt.
If it had not been for Dr. Patterson, I would have been history today. I was scheduled to be executed, and God saw that He had more work for me to do. So, he used Dr. Patterson in supernaturally rescuing my life. I was scared of coming to the seminary when I was in Egypt because I did not want to begin in the Spirit and be made perfect by the flesh. My heart was finally reassured when I saw the burning embers of revival being kindled. My own family disowned me, but Dr. Patterson has become my father and Dr. Mrs. Patterson my mother. I am grateful to God for my new family. Please pray for our seminary, my home now.
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This page last updated: 11/26/98