To Kamel*, Hazim didn’t appear to be a likely candidate to study the Bible. It was early 2019 when Hazim responded to a social media ad about the reliability of the Bible that the Middle East and North Africa Union Mission (MENAU) media team had posted. Kamel was one of the follow-up instructors in the ad campaign. But every time they connected, Hazim raised impossible questions and debated every point Kamel made.
In fact, Hazim was pursuing a university degree in religious studies in a closed country in the region to have a deeper understanding of what he believed. It wasn’t clear that Hazim wanted to know about the Bible at all. One of Kamel’s roles as a follow-up instructor was to politely disengage from those who simply want to debate.
Kamel, a theology student at Middle East University (MEU) in Lebanon at the time of the ad campaign, was certain that God had put Hazim and him together, however. From the very first chat, Kamel realized he and Hazim came from the same isolated region in the same closed country of the Middle East. They both spoke the same, uncommon regional dialect. It was instant communication, even if it wasn’t instant agreement. So Kamel stayed engaged and chose to continue in a series of studies with Hazim that were drawn from Jesus' miracles revealing the most clearly what God was like.
What Kamel did not know was that Hazim had grown up with a sense that something was not right in his family’s faith. He was pursuing an advanced religion degree in hopes it would help him in comparing his beliefs with other religions. He was on a journey to find out if his understanding of God was accurate.
For nearly a year, Kamel kept in touch with Hazim, answering each question and relating to each challenge. When Kamel graduated from MEU and returned to his home country, he contacted Hazim. They began meeting with a handful of others who were interested in learning about the Bible. Despite Hazim’s debate-like approach, Kamel sensed that he had a sincere heart with a strong desire to know God. As they met each Saturday (Sabbath) with their study group, Kamel saw God answering Hazim’s longing to know the truth about Himself. “I knew the Holy Spirit was working powerfully in Hazim’s life,” Kamel recalls.
After completing several series of Bible studies, the group began studying the 28 fundamental beliefs found in Scripture that are embraced by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Among many other things, Hazim learned about the sacredness of the seventh-day Sabbath. Kamel recalls, “He was deeply convicted at first. Satan’s temptations were strong though; he began dismissing what he was learning, doubting it was really necessary.”
As a small business owner, Hazim had done the math and realized that Saturday was the day his business took in the most money. His store was his livelihood. Closing it every week would mean serious losses. He didn’t feel he could do it. He doubted. He struggled.
But, Kamel explains, “In an act of trembling faith, Hazim counted the cost, claimed God’s promises, and closed his business on his most profitable day.” It was a decision God honored. In the weeks that followed, God blessed his business. His sales and income on the other six days of the week increased to meet the projected loss.
God’s blessings, however, were not only financial. Hazim experienced spiritual blessings as he got a better glimpse of God. After three years studying the Bible, Hazim expressed a strong desire to accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior and carry the unique message of the Adventist Church to others.
In March 2022, Hazim decided to be baptized and to continue his personal journey with Jesus as a brother in the Adventist family. Now he shares his testimony with his friends easily and prays daily that they too will come to see God in a new light — as a loving, saving God. In the long process of trying to understand God, Hazim not only has come to a new knowledge of God, but God has given a new purpose for his life as he shares with others what he has learned about God.
As of March, three more young men have been baptized in the very challenging, closed country where Hazim is a gospel worker.
*For safety reasons, only first names are provided.