RICHMOND, Va. (BP)--Charlie Brodie* was on a dry streak.
Charlie, from Colorado, and his wife Abby*, from South Carolina, had spent the past four years working among Muslims in North Africa and the Middle East. Yet they hadn't started any churches or seen one person accept Christ. They felt like their time as Southern Baptist missionaries had been one big zero -- at least on paper.
"Every month we'd have to fill out reports saying how many people had been baptized or believed. And typing a zero every month gets pretty old and frustrating," Charlie says. "We were resigned to the possibility that we might be the ones planting seeds but never seeing the fruit."
But that was about to change.
In August, the Brodies followed God's call to a new city of more than 100,000 people with very few churches or Christians. Even worse, those who did believe were not sharing Jesus with their own people. After four years with no visible results, the Brodies were moving from a hard place to an even harder one. It was dry, rocky ground for the Gospel.
"We are in the desert and it mirrors the spiritual condition of the heart here," Charlie says. "The idea of the Son of God just does not jive with Islam."
The Brodies moved to one of the 30 unreached urban centers newly engaged by IMB missionaries and their partners in 2008 (up from seven in 2007), including 27 with populations above 1 million. According to the IMB's Annual Statistical Report covering 2008, missionaries and their ministry partners also engaged 93 new people groups with the Gospel for the first time last year (down from 101 in 2007), more than 50 of which are larger than 100,000 people.
While moving, the Brodies met Ahmed Hejazi*. Right away, he noticed Charlie wasn't like other foreigners.
"What is it that is different about you?" Ahmed asked. "Why is it that I feel you have a white heart -- that your heart is clean?"
Charlie noticed something different about Ahmed as well. He openly admitted that he was disillusioned with Islam. Charlie explained that Jesus was the one who had cleaned his heart, and He could do the same for Ahmed.
The two men became friends, and as they continued to talk about God, Charlie was amazed at Ahmed's openness.
"The questions he was asking were making my jaw drop because I've never had an experience where I didn't have to argue with a Muslim about whether Christ really died on the cross," Charlie says. "Many people have been taught a lot of lies and misunderstandings" about Christianity -- that the Bible is corrupt, that Judas was disguised as Jesus and took His place on the cross, that Jesus was not born of a virgin.
To further their relationship, Charlie asked Ahmed if he would help him improve his Arabic. During their first lesson, Charlie wanted to practice speaking so he decided to tell Ahmed the story of how Jesus changed his life.
Charlie explained there was a time when he "didn't care about anything to do with God." He drank, used drugs and lived only for himself. When his father lost a two-year battle with cancer, Charlie began searching for God, eventually gave his heart to Jesus, and through Christ's redemptive power, cleaned up his life.
Tears filled Ahmed's eyes as he listened to Charlie's testimony.
'I'VE MESSED UP MY LIFE'
"I've messed up my life, and I don't know how to fix it," Ahmed confessed. "I divorced my wife three years ago, and I haven't seen my sons since. They're and they don't know who I am. I drink to forget them because it hurts, and I don't want to do that anymore. Tell me what I have to do to be like you and have a clean heart."
"There's nothing we can do to earn God's favor -- it's a gift," Charlie replied. As he explained Christ's sacrifice on the cross, he knew the Holy Spirit was opening Ahmed's heart to the Gospel.
"All these barriers that are normally in place just weren't there," Charlie says. "God had been obviously working on this man's heart for some time, and I explained to him that Jesus ... took on the sin of all mankind."
Ahmed again began to cry and said, "What do I do?"
"All you have to do is ask God to come change your life," Charlie said. "Show Him that you want a new heart."
"Teach me how to do this -- how do I pray?" Ahmed asked, wiping the tears from his eyes. "Do I need to wash off? ... Can I speak to God if I have beer on my breath?"
"Do you want to change?" Charlie asked. "You can pray anywhere -- here, right now."
He told Ahmed that he didn't have to go to a mosque, face Mecca or wash his hands (a Muslim custom) to pray.
Ahmed immediately stretched out his hands in the Muslim prayer position as he had done so many times before. But this time, he was speaking to a God who listens and responds.
"I didn't tell him what to pray for," Charlie says. "He started asking God for forgiveness for all the things that he had done and asking for a new life. It was exactly what we always hope new believers will pray for.
"When he was done, he just took these big breaths and said, 'I am just so comfortable in my spirit, in my conscience. I've never felt like this.'"
"I have to leave," Ahmed said suddenly. "I have to go to the city where my wife is -- I want to get my wife and kids back."
A NEW MAN
Since that day Charlie says Ahmed is a new man. He stopped drinking and got a job. His wife has agreed to come back to him with their two sons so they can be a family again.
Charlie baptized Ahmed in the Red Sea during his lunch break on the first day of his new job. They drove down the coast, climbed over the guardrail and walked into the ocean. Ahmed called the experience "beautiful" and asked Charlie when they could do it again. He told Ahmed not to worry -- it only needs to be done once.
Ahmed's wife isn't the only one who's noticed the change.
"He was the black sheep of his family, but now they all see a difference in him, every single one of them," Charlie says. "They know something's up, and he'll quote the New Testament to them."
Ahmed's father even called Charlie to thank him for what he did for his son. Ahmed hasn't shared the full extent of his transformation with his family, but he's slowly revealing the truth.
Because there's no evangelical church to attend, Charlie has accepted the responsibility of discipling Ahmed. Together, they are reading through the New Testament.
"It made my four years. It's always worth it to be obedient," Charlie says of the day Ahmed accepted Jesus.
*Names changed. Don Graham is a writer for the International Mission Board.
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