Editor’s note: The Seventh-day Adventist Church is often asked whether it can sell literature in the Middle East. Yes, it can, says Tibor Szilvasi, executive secretary of the Middle East and North Africa Union. In 2014, the union started sending student colporteurs out again after several decades. Was it hard? Yes. Did they sell books? Yes! “We are breathing new life into this ministry,” says Michael Eckert, Literature Ministries coordinator for the union. “We are saying, ‘Yes we can!’ and by God’s grace aim to bring our publications before as many people as possible so that they, too, will say ‘yes!’ to Jesus Christ.”
, as told to Tibor Szilvasi, executive secretary, Middle East and North Africa Union
It seemed as if we would soon run out of books, and we did.
Right before our bags were empty, we encountered a young man at a restaurant cash register who purchased a health book.
When Samir, a student literature evangelist in our group, handed him Keys to Happiness, our free version of Steps to Christ, the young man quickly opened it and began browsing its pages. Then he just as quickly handed it back to Samir.
“This book says that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” he said. “As Muslims we do not believe this.”
Samir simply agreed, saying that each one has the freedom to his or her own beliefs.
Suddenly, a restaurant coworker challenged Samir, “Are you Christian, or Muslim?”
When Samir responded that he was Christian, the man told him, “You should not give this book to Muslims, only to Christians.”
It seemed a bit deflating and disappointing as they rejected Steps to Christ.
Another day, as we came out of a multipurpose office and apartment building, we headed toward two large restaurants directly across the street. We had to wait some time before we could even talk to someone to ask for the manager. We waited so long that we were sorely tempted to just leave. We waited until we found the assistant manager, but then he asked us to wait even more while he brought the head manager.
We had nearly decided to just leave, but finally the manager came — and what happened next was truly amazing.
He listened intently to our presentation of the remaining books.
Then he said: “I am going to make a deal with you. I like all your books, and I am going to buy all your books. But, I am not going to buy them all today. I will buy two today. You come back next week, and I will buy two more, then the week after that, two more. OK?”
He also said, “Do you have any books on how to get a divorce, or on how to deal with an impossible woman? I am thinking of divorcing my wife.”
When he shared that last part I began to pray earnestly, asking the Lord if I should share my wife’s and my personal testimony. I told the man that I could empathize with him and asked him if he would allow me to share with him something from my own experience.
He agreed, and as I shared with him details about our journey and how God used prayer to heal our marriage, the manager said, “I, too, will seek God and trust that He will solve my problems with my wife.”
Then he continued looking at our books.
“My wife will really like this book!” he said and purchased two books just like he said he would.
As I was writing the receipt, Samir courageously handed him Keys to Happiness.
“What is this?” the manager asked.
Feeling a bit shy from our previous rejection experience with the book Steps to Christ that day I said, “It is a book we do not sell. It is usually only given upon request because it is about Jesus.”
He said: “I believe in Issa [Jesus]. I read the Injeel [the Gospels/New Testament]. I am Muslim, but in my home my Quran and my Injeel are right next to each other. I believe that Issa is alive and I believe that He is coming again. When I read the Injeel I close my eyes and try to picture Issa and the people who accepted him and the people who rejected him. But, there is still so much that I don't understand that I want to understand. I also want to read from the Tawrat [Old Testament]. I want to learn more about Moses and how God spoke to him.”
As we listened to this man’s testimony, there was no question that this was a divine appointment. Taking our only copy of The Desire of Ages out of the bag, we presented it to him, saying, “This is the complete life of Issa.”
“Is it the Injeel?” he asked.
It will direct you to the Injeel, we responded.
Opening the book, he read only one sentence and exclaimed, “I remember reading this in the Injeel!”
We assured him that this would be his experience as he read the book.
Looking at us intently, he reverently asked, “How much is this book?”
It is a gift, we told him.
The look on his face was as if we had just given him a great treasure! We had! He insisted that we promise to come back to him and to bring him the book like this one on the Tawrat.
As we left that visit we had to pause and pray, praising God for revealing to us one of His sheep not yet of this fold and yet one of His sheep who is following the divine Shepherd. The more we thought and talked of the wonder of it all, the more we knew we just had to pray and praise God more. So we did.
As literature evangelists, we are finding access to people who may never otherwise come in contact with our message. Praise God that He leads us through various circumstances to find His sheep!
Names of student literature evangelists have been changed or omitted because of the sensitivities of working in this part of the world. This testimony appeared in the Middle East and North Africa Union Mission Story newsletter.