Why Gambia, Africa?
I was born and raised in our beautiful country having lived in Bakau. My father was and still is a prominent Muslim leader in the community. Because of his devotion to Islam, he built a mosque and an Islamic school. He speaks weekly on a radio station, advising people on different life issues and religion.
As you can imagine I grew up also committed to Islam. I faithfully prayed and studied the Quran. I had heard of other faiths but after all I was a Gambian and all Gambians are Muslim, but something happened after moving to the United States in 1989 to go to college.
My dream was to achieve a higher education and make a lot of money. I thought the U.S. was the place to go – after all I saw American TV and movies! Although I was in this “Christian nation,” I continued to pray five times a day, fast during Ramadan and work hard to earn my way to heaven. I never knew of any other religion but Islam. I had never been inside a church before or even touched the Bible. My understanding of Christians was limited to American TV and I assumed all Americans were Christians (like all Gambians are Muslims). Seeing them live an ungodly life on TV and movies, I had little respect for Christians or the Christian faith, but something would change that in 1992.
While living in America, a co-worker befriended me. Still feeling like a stranger in a strange land, I appreciated her attention even if she continually shared a message I thought was crazy. She was a Christian, but different than what I thought Christians were like. Her faith was real. She shared her love of Jesus with me with a passion and clarity. Though I was impressed with her kindness and holiness, I still thought her message that Jesus died on a cross for my sins was wrong.
After months of sharing her faith with me, I visited her church. Because I was a devout Muslim I felt that I was sinning just walking into the church building. Yet, the people in the church were very kind. More surprisingly, I felt a holy presence, a power in the room that I had never felt in a Mosque before. It felt good to be there, even safe. That presence left me wanting to learn more about the Christian faith. I still had many unanswered questions. It was so hard to believe that the prophet Jesus, spoken of as the only sinless man in the Quran, could be God’s only Son – who died for my sins.
I continued attending this church, asking many questions and still having doubts. One verse from the Bible spoke plainly of the real meaning of this Christian faith, “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son (Jesus) that who ever believes in Him (Jesus) shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) It was not easy for me, a devout Muslim, to believe God could do such a thing. Even though I had prayed five times a day since childhood and respected all the laws of Islam, I never knew for sure I would make it to heaven. What if I displeased Allah at the end of my life? What if I didn’t do enough?
Now this Christian faith told me that God loved me, even while I was a sinner. “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8,9) And that all my religious works could not get me to Heaven, only belief in Jesus. Yet I was still not 100% sure about faith in Jesus. I wanted proof of this God. It was too big of a decision, one that would change everything in my life to not be completely sure. I prayed a desperate prayer to God to prove Himself to me. Yes, I had taken time to study this faith and look at the intellectual reasons to become a Christian but I needed more. If Christianity is true couldn’t God touch me in a way I would have no doubts? As I prayed, that same presence that I first felt in church came to me, only in a much greater and personal way. It fell on me and felt like both fire and electricity going through my body. I then began to speak a language I had never spoken before. (Though I speak three languages, this one was something new, a language I would later learn was heavenly!)
I realized in that very moment that “Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.” My life would never be the same. And I knew I must tell all my friends, family and especially my countrymen in Gambia.
Which brings me back to you. Maybe like me, you have little or no real knowledge of who Jesus was and is. Maybe too you’ve judged Christians and Christianity on American TV and movies? But can I ask you what might be the two most important questions anyone can ask you? If you were to die this very day would you know for sure you would go to heaven? And also, Do you know, without a doubt, that God loves you personally?
Maybe you are a devout Muslim or maybe you are running from God – either way today even as you read this, you can answer “Yes” for yourself to my two questions.
Let me share briefly how.
First, maybe you have been as faithful as you could be to the Quran but you must begin by realizing that despite all your good works you have still sinned against God. Begin by confessing your sins (anger, lust, greed, etc.) to God. The Bible says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9)
Second, accept that Jesus was more than a great prophet but lived a sinless life, died on a cross for your sins and rose from the grave to save your soul because God loves you. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us-we have now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”(Romans 5:8,9)
Third, receive by faith the free gift of mercy and grace God gives you through Jesus His Son. “For by grace you have been saved through faith and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of (your) works, that no one should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9)
Fourth, it all begins by simply talking to God. You can pray something like this: “Dear Jesus, I have sinned against You. I believe You are the Son of God and I need Your grace and forgiveness today. I trust not in myself but in You alone to cleanse me and make me a new person. Thank You for dying on a cross to forgive all of my sins and for rising again to give me a new life. Amen.”
Fifth, ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit so that you might have the power to live a clean and good life for Him. “For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that you should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
Sixth, find and commit to a group of other believers. Study God’s Word and pray daily. Share your faith and the love of God with others.
Maybe you, like I did, have more questions, please feel free to contact me.