More stories surfaced this past week about Muslims coming to faith in Jesus through dreams and visions. I am writing this Weekly Word on the plane flying back from Greece after speaking at a national missions conference. There I met several workers excited about the strategic location of Greece as a doorway for Muslim refugees and migrants coming into Europe, offering the opportunity to share Jesus with them.
Jonathan Macris, who has taken over the mantle of his late father Costas to run Hellenic Ministries, told me of the numbers of Afghanis they are able to host at their water sports camps.
“We just love them, give them a fun time and share the gospel they have never heard,” he explained. The sight of the women clad in lifejackets on top of all their robes and veils, riding the ‘banana boat’ or being towed in the inflatable raft behind the speedboat was hilarious, he said, but all for the serious purpose of opening up hearts and minds to the gospel.
Significant numbers of Muslim refugees arriving in Athens receive visions and dreams, another Greek worker from the Athens Refugee Centre told me. ARC workers are able to explain that the story of the Person in the white robes whom they had seen is told in the New Testament.
Some observers estimate that up to a quarter of Muslim-background believers (MMB) have come to faith aided by dreams and visions. Of the estimated thousands of new believers in Iran in the last few years, over half of them are reported to have became believers after Jesus personally came to them in a dream or vision. Stories started trickling through to the West more than a decade ago, but reports now come thick and fast from many corners of the globe. A dvd is available via www.morethandreams.tv with documented stories of Muslims encountering Jesus through dreams.
Over dinner last week, Brother Andrew told my wife and me of MBBs he meets, on his frequent visits to the Gaza Strip and Pakistan especially, who come to faith in this way. Interestingly, he observed, unlike most Muslim converts to Jesus who are regarded as heretics, those who have visions of Isa (Jesus) are accepted and respected by other Muslims, because of the Sufi mystic tradition.
Jesus visitations are not new in the Muslim tradition. One traditional source says: ‘Someone who sees Jesus in his dream becomes a blessed person full of goodness… he will become a pious person prone to asceticism, satisfied with but little, and given the knowledge of medicine’; ‘If a pregnant woman dreams of Jesus, she will give birth to a boy who will become a physician’.
One of our YWAM colleagues went by the name of Jacob in North Africa. One day a Moroccan from the mountains contacted him saying he had been trying to track Jacob down for a long time. In a dream, a man in a white robe had appeared to tell him to look for a man named Jacob who could give him the book which would tell him who the robed man was. So the Moroccan had set out asking if anyone knew a man named Jacob. Eventually after much perseverance, he found Jacob, who explained to him about Jesus.
Closer to home in Holland, a young YWAM evangelist recently told me about a meeting he had initiated with local Turkish Muslims. In the course of the conversation, he felt prompted to ask if any of those present had experienced a dream or a vision of Jesus. To his surprise, one of the leaders, a little taken aback by the question, replied that he indeed had had such a dream. This led to a general interest to meet again to talk about the meaning of such a dream.
Paul, Peter and Cornelius all had dreams and visions as God prepared them for dramatic breakthroughs in their lives or in the spread of the gospel across new frontiers. Were these visitations simply a sovereign work of God, or the fruit of fervent prayers? In the case of Paul, it has been suggested that he was the most prayed-for person on earth at the time. He was persecuting the church more than anyone else. And the disciples would have remembered Jesus‘ instructions to pray for your persecutors. So perhaps they prayed most for Saul.
Could these reports of dreams and visions also be the fruit of sustained prayer for the Muslim world, especially since the early 90’s, when Christians began praying more intensely for Muslims during the 30-day Ramadan fast?
Till next week,