By Mark Ellis
He earned the nickname “Haji” because of his pilgrimage to Mecca. He hated Christians with such a passion he and his friends attacked them on their way to church and burned their Bibles. But two powerful encounters with God changed the course of his life.
“He was saved through a vision and a dream,” says Dr. Howard Foltz, president and founder of AIMS. “He came out of Islam to become a mighty gospel missionary for Jesus Christ in Ethiopia.”
Mohammad “Haji” Ahmed grew up in a devout Muslim home. “In my family, our purpose was to build mosques and spread Islam everywhere,” he says. “All my life I was a very strong Muslim.”
As one of the leaders in the mosque, Ahmed oversaw small gangs that stalked Christians in his area. “We would beat Christians who were going to church,” he notes. He recalls that he burned seven Bibles and attacked one Christian with a knife.
But like another persecutor named Saul of Tarsus, God stopped him unexpectedly in his tracks. “When I was sleeping, a voice came from heaven and said, ‘Mohammad, you are living in darkness. Come out of that cave and follow Me.’”
Somehow, Ahmed knew it was the voice of the Christian God. When he confided his unusual dream to his mother, she reacted harshly and kicked him out of the family home.
Because of his strict Muslim upbringing, Ahmed refused to heed God’s first attempt to get his attention.
So God approached Ahmed a second time, and now His manner was more brusque. “Mohammad, you will leave this place of darkness and follow me,” the voice said.
Even after this second encounter, Ahmed stubbornly dug in his heels. He would not bow his heart to the Christian God.
Following the latest dream, Ahmed came down with a serious ailment. “I couldn’t eat; I couldn’t walk; I couldn’t talk,” he says. “I went to different hospitals to get treatment, but I couldn’t get healed.”
Burdened by his body’s steady decline, he got desperate. As he tossed and turned in his bed, suddenly God brought to his mind some missionaries who attempted to share with him about Jesus Christ.
“I was afraid my friends and relatives would kill me, but I decided to call the missionaries to talk with them.”
With a voice that was still weak, he asked for help, and the missionaries came immediately to his bedside. They talked about Jesus, His message of salvation by grace through faith, and they prayed together.
Ahmed knew it was time to surrender his pride. “I decided to receive Jesus as my Savior,” he says. Remarkably, his sickness and his burdens faded away the same day.
“I told my family about my healing and my peace and many of them received Jesus,” he says.
In the days and weeks that followed, Ahmed felt some remorse about the way he treated Christians in the past. He asked God to forgive him for his attacks. Then he went a step further. He sought the people he assaulted and asked them to forgive him.
Amazingly, one of his former victims is now a close friend, made possible because Ahmed serves a God of reconciliation.
“I don’t have any hesitation that Jesus is real,” Ahmed says. “He is my peace, my healing, my ministry, and my Savior.”
Dr. Howard Foltz and AIMS has been training Ahmed and his friend for service to God’s kingdom. “They have both been trained by AIMS to spread the Gospel through Ethiopia. Their friendship is only possible because of the healing power of Jesus Christ,” he says.