"You run towards the gun!"
Missionary to America: Julie Aftab, Pakistan
“You run towards the gun.” The missionary shocked the audience at a recent conference I attended, by telling us, ” We are taught as children, ‘If an attacker enters your church, do not run away. Run towards the gun. That way you may die, but others will live.'” When I heard that, I sat upright in my chair, remembering something another missionary had said.
Rev. Tambatua Naibaho, a missionary sent to America by the Indonesian Batak Lutheran Church, says in the interview we did with him a while ago that one of the jobs of the ushers at Easter and Christmas is to be the first to go into the church, to look under the pews to see if any bombs had been planted.
It is different in America: we are not required to take such risks. We have a mostly complacent Christianity. Our children are not taught to run towards the gun. It costs to be a Christian in Indonesia and Pakistan. Julie Aftab found that out when she was sixteen years old. In a recent interview she tells us about that cost.
Julie is a missionary to Muslims in Houston, Texas, but she grew up in Pakistan. For many years her father was a truck driver, navigating the mountainous and many times unpaved roads in Pakistan. When his back gave out and he could no longer work, Julie’s mother earned an income sewing clothing. Unable to afford to go to a Christian school, Julie had to make do with public education. As a Christian she was a despised minority, and was shunned by the children and teachers at her grade school. Once her teacher, disciplining the little girl, broke the knuckles of her hand. Unable to tolerate the abuse, she left school after fifth grade to help her mother sew.
In her early teenage years, when American children are beginning high school, Julie got a job sweeping floors in a factory. At sixteen, she was working behind the desk of a telephone call center when a middle age male customer came in. He made mention of the cross she was wearing. “Are you a Christian?” he asked. “Yes,” she answered. That is when the trouble began.
The man reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of money. “If you convert to Islam you can have this money – even more if you wish.” The teenager declined the offer, but the man wasn’t listening and put more money on the counter. Another refusal. The man persisted, and Julie insisted he leave. “I will go, but we will see if your Jesus can save you.”
Thirty minutes later the man returned with a friend. the first man approached Julie at the counter. That is when he threw acid in her face. The other man dragged her down and held her while the first man poured acid down her throat. She ran outside – a kind Muslim woman wrapped her hijab around the girl, and brought her into her house to protect her. It was difficult to find a hospital to treat her, since the man had claimed he had done this because the girl had insulted Islam. A mob threatened the burn down the first hospital she was taken to if they treated the Christian girl. Only at a fourth hospital was Julie’s mother’s pleas heard to give her aid to save her life. Her attackers went free. It took the Christian community to raise funds to send Julie to be treated in America for her to get well. The treatment has taken years.
Despite all the pain she has suffered, Julie has grown spiritually. It took time, but she has learned to forgive. Today she is a young mother, with a loving husband, searching out Muslims to tell them God who loves them. She is a living testimony to Who Jesus is – Jesus “ran towards the gun.” As the author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us: “ Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” The Letter to the Hebrews, 12:1-3.
If you love God and want to serve Him, that service will involve risk. (See Matthew 25: 14 ff). The Christians in Indonesia and in Pakistan know they are not alone – our Lord has given His word to be with us. (Matthew 28:20).
Maybe, as God winnows His flock in America, the time will come and some of us will be given the opportunity to “run towards some gun.” Even now we see formidable needs around us that require a faith-filled response. At those times, times of risk, face whatever the “gun” is knowing we are not alone.
Watch Julie share her testimony (short)
Julies shares more of her testimony