Between Two Worlds

Soty is hurting. Imagine you are in his shoes. Feel the sharp swords of persecution slicing your heart. Hear the neighbors taunting. How alienated his young, pregnant wife Vahiroh must feel, separated from the home of her birth, her mother and four generations of closely-knit family members. Now she is scared to leave her new house because everyone asks, “Who do you think you are, spending time with foreigners and learning from them? We are Muslims. We are your people, not them.” Imagine your despair those first months after opening your clinic as patients stay away for fear they might go to hell just for seeing a Christian nurse. Feel your stomach tighten and your blood race as your neighbors call you stupid for building a kitchen for your wife with your own hands. “Since you are so close with the foreigners,” they say, “why don’t you get them to build it for you?”

Let me try to give you a little glimpse of Soty’s journey. Islam and Christianity are polar opposites. It is a huge jump from a faith where doubting God is the worst sin, to have faith in a God who says, “Come, let us reason together.” In one, paradise is only assured if you die for God. In the other, God died for you to give you assurance of paradise. I could easily list 50 more examples of how Islam is diametrically opposed to Christianity.

Muslims here like to say there is no religion that teaches people to do bad, so all paths lead to the top of the mountain. They tell me, “Christians and Muslims are so close. You already live with us, so why don’t you become one of us? Jesus isn’t God, but he was a mighty prophet.” It is unthinkable to a Muslim that God would allow Jesus to die. They believe God whisked Jesus away to heaven just before the crucifixion, putting Jesus’ face on someone else. “It is blasphemy to equate a helpless, naked man on a cross to Almighty God,” they say. “Where’s the sense in that? If God sent His son to die, that makes Him the worst child abuser in the universe.” There are countless books written to disprove Christianity with chapter titles such as “Cruci-fiction” and “The Bible: An Anthology of Incest.” It is no wonder that Soty’s growing faith in Christ is greeted with hostility.

Despite everything, Soty has been valiantly clawing his way out of the deep pit of Islam’s deceptions. What a journey! He passed a huge milestone about a month ago when he announced to us that he believes the Bible is the Word of God. Recently, Stephanie began studying with Vahiroh, starting with Genesis 1. When Stephanie asked her if she had ever heard that story, she replied, “When I was a schoolgirl, a group of tall white missionaries with long noses came through our village giving out little booklets. Everyone got one. But the local leaders told us it would be a sin to read them, and we should instead throw them into a pile to be burned. But I secretly read a little, so I am somewhat familiar with this story. Growing up in the same village, Soty remembered a little from that booklet as well. In the years since, he and Vahiroh have gone from burning
God’s word to believing it.

To get to this point, we had to start at the beginning. We explained what is the New Testament and the Old and how to use a colon to separate chapter and verse. We talked about the Dead Sea Scrolls, historical dating of the texts, meticulous copying methods, and secular history that confirms Jesus’ death. We asked Soty, “If Muslims believe that the Bible is corrupted, then why does the angel tell Muhammed to ask the People of the Book if he has any questions? Doesn’t that prove the Bible wasn’t corrupted at Muhammed’s time? There were countless copies of the Bible in existence by then in every known corner of the world. Where are the pre-corruption copies? Certainly, if the Bible was corrupted sometimeafter Muhammed, it would have been impossible to recall and destroy every Bible. If the Christians corrupted the Bible, the Jews would have objected. If Jews changed it, where is the outcry from the Christians? Do Muslims take responsibility? Think, Soty!”

During a recent phone call, Soty told me about a conversation he’d had with a Muslim grandmother who is a teacher from the town where he and his wife grew up. She didn’t answer my questions at all. She just said, “Jesus didn’t die, but he will come back again.” I showed her verses. She spoke to me very harshly. “Asking questions is not like a Muslim. If you believe, don’t doubt.” But I don’t want to believe just because others do. She got more and more harsh with me. I think she was trying to make me afraid to ask more questions. I won’t follow her. I’ll follow what I see and hear for myself. All the people who haven’t given me straight answers are only hiding the truth. She said, “All these questions are coming from you spending too much time with the foreigners.” She said many things louder and louder. “Get away from the foreigners!” she said.

But I see their lives, their kindness. Sorry. I cannot abandon my friends. “How many Christians do you know?” I asked her.

“Christians are Christians,” she retorted. “I wouldn’t want to know one.” She was not using fair arguments. She talked down to me for two hours. She called me a foreign devil for spending time with you.

I asked her, “As a member of our minority group, if I spent time with Khmer would I be a Khmer? I could never be like you and reject people without knowing them. Since I was born, I have never seen one family in my village that knows how to love like they do.”

“That is just their foreign customs,” she said.

“Well,” I said, “they are good customs. Why don’t you think I should take something good?” My shy wife even got on the phone. She tried to ask her questions but got corrected very loudly. We have discovered that when a Muslim hears the word Christian, they get afraid. That actually makes me want to find out more!

“Do you know the history of Christians?” I asked. “We all came from Adam…”

“They don’t have stories!” she interrupted.

“They do!” I said. “Noah, Moses and the rest!”

Grandmother was quiet for a moment. “The original Scripture was written in Arabic, and it has been lost.”

“No,” I said, “the Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek. The translators counted the letters on every page to make no mistakes. Why don’t we follow the Torah?”

“None of us have ever seen the Torah. It no longer exists. The Quran was given to show what the ancient scriptures said pre-corruption.”

“When were the original scriptures changed?” I asked.

“No one knows. No Muslim has ever verified the original. If you say it was written in Hebrew and Greek, why don’t you have your brothers read it to you in Hebrew and Greek?”

It has been very hard on my wife. She is homesick. I could force her to stay here but I don’t want to use that power. She calls her mom many times a day just to cheer herself up. I speak gently with her and discuss it lovingly. If both sides are trying to use force, we just argue. My family always used to yell. So, I want to learn from Bo [previous AFM missionary] and from you. Bo was patient no matter what. He spoke to people like kings, as if they were higher than him. I had never before experienced that. He spoke with love. He helped people until he collapsed. There was never a day when people didn’t come for help. He scheduled medical trips for them and drove them long hours to their doctors.

I believe Jesus died [blasphemy to Muslims], but I don’t dare tell others. They would probably slap me. Grandmother Teacher said, “Don’t doubt!”

I said, “I want to keep learning and asking questions from birth to death. Hearing others’ opinions one hundred times isn’t as good as seeing it once for myself.”

Recently, Soty had a dream in which he was a Christian evangelist to his own people. He is caught in the middle of two faiths, and often the struggle brings hot tears. Our mission team has been praying together every day for Soty and Vahiroh, and we have been praying even more individually. We plead for your prayers for them, too.

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