A few months ago I received a text out of the blue from Ishmael, a Hui man in his twenties living in China. It was a picture of a Bible and a simple message: “I need you to teach me the way of salvation.”
I first met Ishmael five years ago at an English language school in NW China. I remembered him as thoughtful and enigmatic. He had taken me out to dinner where he and his friends plied me with questions about the prophets. In our next conversation he asked, “I know from Islam that God has a high standard but what about those who don’t meet the standard? Is it possible for them to receive forgiveness?” That day in my home, he begged me to give him my Bible. Despite my suspicion that he may be a government spy I gave it. Then he disappeared.
It was two years before we connected again and I had a wonderful evening, chatting and joking with him and his friends. He told me he had a lot of important questions to discuss, but we had no opportunity to talk privately. I felt I was leaving him once again with unfinished business between us.
When China’s Coronavirus lockdown began Ishmael was given an unexpected break from his hectic work life and family responsibilities. That’s when I received the text. We started a Bible study online looking at parables and stories such as Nicodemus and Zacchaeus. At times he expressed desperation to embrace Christ’s salvation but was also trying to convince himself that Jesus’ message and Islam were essentially the same. Sometimes we would pray together: his prayers were beautiful and left me stunned. Sometimes he did not want to pray.
Then as soon as the Chinese lockdown lifted he disappeared again. Pray with me for Muslims in China like Ishmael, who are searching for the truth.