‘God didn’t quit on me, even when I moved 15,000 kilometres away’

Badawi’s story | I was so surprised. He prayed for me.

“Growing up in Palestine, with an Islamic background, I knew a few Christians (and what they believed), but I thought they got it wrong. The first time I knew there was a different story (to the Islamic story) was from a TV cartoon. The cartoon was made in the US, and broadcast from a channel in Cyprus. We would get a weak signal where I lived in Palestine. I remember the cartoon told the stories of the Old and New Testaments. The cartoon was well done for the 80s … and it was fascinating. It made me realise there was a different book and a different faith to Islam.

After that, I clearly remember a radio station in Arabic. It was always on after the 10.20pm news. It talked about the teachings of Jesus. I used to listen to it as a teenager. I didn’t think it was the right way, it was just interesting.

Then I went to university and worked in the medical field. I was mixing with people with wealth and power. That’s when Islam stopped making sense to me. I saw a schism between Islamic teaching and behaviour. If Islam was the solution to people’s problems, then why didn’t they live like it? I started to move away from it. It was Ramadan, but I was not fasting. At the same time, there was an ultra-conservative Muslim movement emerging and I thought about leaving the country.

I came to Australia in 2007. I knew nothing about Australia, except for a weird TV show called Neighbours. My degree meant nothing here, so I started a Master’s degree. At the same time, my brother back in Palestine was having medical issues. He was born with congenital problems and he was back in hospital. I couldn’t see him. I felt very stressed. I told my lecturer at the university and he said, “Would you like me to pray for you and your brother?”

It seemed amazing to me. I had started a whole new life 15,000 kilometres away. Nobody knew me here, and I was in a secular country where nobody cared what anyone believed. And yet, the first person I spoke to – someone in a very high position – offered to pray for me and my brother. I said yes.

Afterwards, I wanted to know more about Christianity. I had noticed a Bible college near where I lived. I thought that I couldn’t approach a new faith system without studying it, so I went in and asked if I could enrol in a short course.

The person at the Bible college seemed surprised. He said that normally people who studied there were practising believers. Some of them were on the path to ordination. I said that’s okay, I was just interested. He enrolled me in two subjects – an introduction to Old Testament and an introduction to New Testament.

In the first two weeks of being a student at that college, I saw how the students treated me and each other. I saw how they behaved. They lived what they preached. There was no schism. So I went back to my Christian lecturer at university and I said, “I want to follow this faith.” That’s when I prayed with him and I became a believer in Jesus. Less than a year later, I was baptised. I found a church where they met in a housing estate and cared for refugees. I went on and did my Master’s in theology.

Now, I want to say to people … listen to the voice that keeps calling you. I was lucky. God didn’t leave me. He didn’t quit on me, even when I moved 15,000 kilometres away. He put people in my life. And when you accept Jesus into your life, the change will come naturally. It comes from inside you. God helps you. There is a verse in Matthew 11 where Jesus says, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest’ (v28). Except that in my Arabic Bible, the verse says, ‘I will give you comfort.’ Jesus will take the heavy burdens and he will give us comfort. That’s what God has done for me.”

Badawi’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.

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