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Surprised by Jesus

*All names have been changed for security reasons.

By Mark J.H. Klassen

“I was born in desperate poverty,” stated Youssef about his childhood in West Africa. “When I was very young, my father left us to look for work in another country, and we never saw him again.” 

Youssef was taken to the local mosque and handed over to the Imam (mosque leader) to study the Quran. During this time, he was required to go beg for food and money for the Imam. This was a common way of life in a Muslim society that valued the giving of alms to the poor.

When Youssef had the opportunity to go to elementary school, he refused at first, saying that he needed to finish his studies of the Quran. But later, an uncle persuaded him to enroll and Youssef quickly rose to the top of his class. 

By the time he graduated from high school, he was encouraged to apply for a scholarship to attend college in the US. Again, he initially refused, saying that he didn’t have the connections to make it happen. But when he finally applied, he received the scholarship and attended West Texas University where he completed a Bachelor of Agri-Business. 

Upon returning to West Africa, Youssef was given a stable job in the government and he worked hard to advance his career. He remained a devout Muslim throughout this time, and yet he began to become more focused on his own success. 

Eventually, Youssef was granted another scholarship to return to the US to work on a master’s degree. However, when he left West Africa that time, he had no intention of returning. He chose instead to seek US citizenship and pursue the American dream.

In the US, Youssef again met with success, first in his studies, then in his work. He joined a beef packing company and, after being trained in their head office in Iowa, he was moved to Garden City, Kansas. Youssef was well on his way to living his dream when he had a surprise encounter.

One evening after work, while Youssef was lying in bed in his apartment in Garden City, he had a vision. “I saw the person of Jesus Christ,” he said. “He was clothed in a glowing white robe and gleaming with an intense white light.”

Youssef was fully aware that he was still in his apartment, but he also knew that Jesus was there with him. “Christ approached me,” he explained, “reached out his hand, and placed a wafer in my mouth. I was startled. Jesus did not say anything to me.”

However, when the vision was over, Youssef knew exactly what was being asked of him: Jesus was inviting him to be his follower. 

Though the personal encounter was clear, Youssef was still confused about what he should do next. As he continued to ponder the vision, he became hungry and decided to go to the grocery store to buy some food. 

In the grocery store, a man approached him and said, “Hello, I would like to invite you to have supper with me at my home.” 

The man was the pastor of a local church. Over the course of the next few days, he led Youssef to faith in Christ and explained what it meant to follow Jesus. Later, he was baptized in a local church in Enid, Oklahoma. 

God continued to speak to Youssef through dreams and visions, and eventually it became clear that God was calling him to return to his homeland in West Africa to serve his countrymen and to provide for both their spiritual and physical needs. 

As he was preparing for his new mission assignment, Youssef met Reyna, a young German woman who had also dedicated her life to serving God. The two decided to get married and to prepare together for their future ministry in West Africa. 

After they eventually settled in Africa, Youssef and Reyna began their ministry, which quickly gained the favor of the local government and people. As the ministry grew and flourished, the couple saw God’s hand of provision in miraculous ways. 

One day, Youssef was approached by the leader of another ministry who told him that their organization needed to leave the country in a hurry, so they were forced to quickly sell their property. The price was low at $12,000, but they needed payment by the end of the day. Youssef was interested, but he had no money. However, the very same day, another agency came to Youssef and asked if they could purchase his broken-down vehicle. Apologetically, they said that they could only offer $12,000 for it! Youssef was both surprised and delighted. He humbly accepted their offer and bought the property the same day.

Youssef has also been given many opportunities to share his faith with his countrymen. In light of his own surprise encounter with Jesus, Youssef has been able to explain to others how God speaks through visions and dreams. 

Recently, a Muslim man who was known to Youssef was having dreams about Jesus. After several similar experiences, the man said to God, “If it is really you coming to me in my dreams, then send Youssef to visit me.” So the man went outside, sat under a tree and waited. 

That afternoon, Youssef was was tired and on his way home to rest when he had the impression that he needed to go visit that man in his village. He did not know why, but he felt prompted by God to go. As Youssef entered the village, he saw the man sitting under a tree. When the man saw Youssef, he ran over to him and told him that he’d been waiting for him all day. After telling Youssef about his dreams, the man gave his life to Jesus right there and then.

God is at work in West Africa and he is using people like Youssef and Reyna to multiply the message of the Gospel. Today, this couple is partnering with several organizations and churches to provide medical services, clean water, agricultural development, evangelistic outreach, women’s ministry, literacy and Gospel-centered radio and television broadcasting to the people of Youssef’s homeland.

In 2019, Multiply will be sending a young couple from the US to work alongside Youssef and Reyna. Please pray for this newly formed multicultural team as they serve together that the people of West Africa may know Jesus.