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Where Will I Go?

*All names have been changed or omitted for security reasons.

In many countries throughout Central Asia, there is a tradition that the oldest son in the family is given to his grandparents to be raised. This is meant to ensure that the elderly are taken care of. In many cases, this tradition strengthens families. But in other cases, these young men become spoiled by their doting grandparents. This was the case with a boy named Tariq.

The problems became evident as Tariq started school. He failed first grade because he did not want to learn and he was not obedient to his teachers. After repeating the year, he managed to get through the next few grades, but with great difficulty. He rarely did his school work and he was constantly fighting with his fellow students. By sixth grade he failed again, and by seventh grade he was expelled from school. Although his grandparents enrolled him into another school, he was promptly expelled from there as well. 

Tariq ended up on the street where he began to spend his time and energy stealing and pick-pocketing. He quickly earned a bad reputation within his community. Parents would tell their children, “Don’t play with this Tariq. If you live like him, you’ll end up in prison.” 

In time, Tariq had no friends and even his family turned their backs on him. His father was ashamed of him and said, “You are no longer my son.” 

So he decided to end his life. He got some rope and went to a barn to hang himself. But the rope did not hold him, so he just fell to the ground. As he was trying a second time, someone discovered him and said, “You cannot do this. Suicide is a great sin. You must fear God.”

Tariq took those words to heart and decided to change his life. He went directly to the mosque and began doing everything a good Muslim should do, including praying five times a day and learning Arabic. 

However, as Tariq became more and more religious, there was a question that was burning in his heart: “What will happen to me when I die? Where will I go?” He asked everyone that question, but no one was able to give him an answer. Eventually, this drove him to despair and he became disillusioned with religion. So he returned to his criminal lifestyle. 

One day, Tariq became very sick and ended up in the hospital. His parents found out and they had mercy on him. They provided money for a surgery that he needed, but when doctors said that a second surgery was required, his parents could not afford it. 

Tariq’s father started asking people for money to help his son. Two men that he asked said that they had no money, but they could pray for him in the name of Jesus. In desperation, Tariq’s father invited them to pray, and so the two men asked Jesus to heal Tariq. 

Of course, Tariq had no idea that these men were praying for him. But at that very moment, he was healed. He was able to get up out of bed, walk around, and ask for something to eat. 

Minutes later, the two men went to visit Tariq in the hospital. As they entered his room, Tariq looked at these two strangers wearing big coats and warm hats. He thought they were from the mafia. They asked him how he was feeling, and he told them he was ready to go home. So the men offered to give him a ride in their car. But before they left the room, one of the men took off his hat and handed it to Tariq, saying, “Hold this hat.” 

“Why?” Tariq replied, as he reluctantly took the hat. 

“Because in this hat are all of your sins,” the man said. 

Tariq was confused. He became nervous. He wondered if he had stolen from these men at some point and now they were ready to punish him. But then the man took the hat away from Tariq and said, “Now Jesus has taken away your sins.”

Tariq was shocked. As the three of them left the hospital and got into the car, the two men explained the Gospel to him, and shared in detail about how Jesus had not only healed him but died for him and removed his guilt. Tariq’s heart was moved, and he blurted out his question, “If I believe in Jesus, where will I go when I die?”

“You will surely go to heaven,” they said. “You will be with God for eternity.”

Finally, he had the answer to the question that he had been asking for years. There in the car, Tariq gave his heart to Jesus.

Since that day, Tariq has been involved in sharing Jesus with his friends, family and others. He continues to live in Central Asia with his wife and children. They have a vision to see a network of multiplying churches established in Central Asia so that more people would be able hear the Gospel and know the saving grace of Jesus.

The Back Story

Tariq and I first met years ago at a church-planting conference. He had come from Central Asia and I had come from Germany. It was there that I told Tariq that I had served for many years in his country of origin. It was the beginning of our friendship and our partnership in church planting. 

Years later, Tariq was visiting Europe and the two of us were driving to a church where we would share about our church-planting initiatives in Central Asia. On the drive, I asked him to tell the story about how he came to faith in Christ (see the previous story “Where Will I Go?” by the same author). 

When Tariq talked about the man who handed him his hat, something sounded strangely familiar to me. I asked Tariq, “What was that man’s name?”

He told me that his name was Bashir, and after hearing more about him, I was sure that I knew him. I told Tariq, “Do you know that this man became a follower of Jesus in my house many years ago when I was living in your homeland?” 

I had met Bashir shortly after we arrived in Central Asia. He was a well-known shaman (witchdoctor) who had a gift for healing people, and he had made a lot of money from his gift. People would bring the sick to his home and pay him to heal them. But his simple question for me that day was: “Is my gift from God or from Satan?”

I remember how dark and mysterious Bashir looked to me. I had just met him, so I didn’t immediately want to tell him what I was thinking. I started talking about how God created the world and then later Satan came to deceive mankind. But Bashir had replied, “Yes, I know all that. Just tell me your straightforward opinion – is my gift from God or Satan?”

“I think it is not from God,” I had said simply. “Because you are not praying to God and not asking in the name of Jesus, and the only way to God is through Jesus Christ, his Son.”

“I knew that,” Bashir had replied quickly. “In fact, I was feeling this already for a long time.” So Bashir took the book that he had brought with him – a book of shaman rituals – and he took the amulet from around his neck, and he threw them into our fireplace and gave his heart to Jesus. 

After telling this story to Tariq, I said, “That was the same man who led you to Christ! So, if you are Bashir’s spiritual son, and he is my spiritual son, then you are my spiritual grandson!”

At the time we made this incredible connection, we were still driving in a car, on our way to a church in Germany. “At this church,” I said to Tariq, “you will meet your spiritual great grandfather. Because when I was fifteen years old, the pastor of this church led me to Christ!”

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