Inside View Jul/Aug 2014
What price would I be willing to pay to follow Jesus? The question resonated with me over and over during our recent Up to Jerusalem tour.
Each issue of Israel My Glory runs “They Cry in Silence,” a column devoted to reporting on the persecution of Christians—a subject that rarely makes it into the mainstream news. In fact, it is seldom mentioned in American churches. Most Americans are ignorant about the tremendous persecution Christians suffer regularly in other parts of the world.
On Sunday morning, a few hours after arriving in Israel, I had the privilege of meeting Pastor Umar Mulinde from Kampala, Uganda. He spoke to our tour; and after hearing his incredible story, I was humbled to be in his presence. His testimony left me asking myself, What price would I be willing to pay to follow Jesus?
Pastor Mulinde grew up in Uganda in a Muslim home, the 52nd child of his father. He was raised and educated to be a good Muslim, learning the Qur’an. In college he first encountered the gospel. There he came to faith in Christ and was excommunicated by his family. When they couldn’t convince him to return to Islam, his family was obligated by the teachings of Islam to kill him; and they marked him for death.
God led Umar Mulinde to shepherd a church in Kampala that has grown to more than 1,000 members, 30 percent of whom are former Muslims. As he studied God’s Word, he began to see that the hatred for Israel ingrained in him growing up was contrary to Scripture. In time, God turned his heart from hatred to love for God’s Chosen People.
Several attempts have been made on Pastor Mulinde’s life. Once he survived shots fired at him from close range. On Christmas Eve 2011, as he was leaving the church, a man approached him, asking for help. As soon as he got close to Pastor Mulinde, he poured acid over the top of the pastor’s head, shouting, “Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!” (“Allah is greater!”)
One of the most caustic substances to human flesh, the acid ran down the right side of Pastor Mulinde’s face, melting his skin and damaging his right eye.
Uganda’s medical system was unable to treat his wounds. So Umar Mulinde reached out to a Jewish friend in America, Andrea Gottlieb, executive director of JerusalemU.org. She immediately contacted the Sheba Medical Center, a world-class medical facility near Tel Aviv, which offered to treat him free of charge.
When Pastor Mulinde met us, it had been more than two years and many surgeries since the attack. The skin grafts and reconstruction done by Sheba Medical Center are amazing, but the scars still remain. He will carry them the rest of his life.
The same people who attacked him later destroyed his home as well. He lives in Israel without his wife or children, and he desires to return to his family and the church he shepherds.
Yet Pastor Mulinde told us he does not hate the men who did this to him because they are blinded by spiritual darkness. What they need is to be introduced to Jesus Christ and come to faith in Christ’s redeeming work. It is what everyone needs to do.
I learned shortly after our tour ended that the doctors gave Pastor Mulinde permission to return to Africa and rejoin his family. But the threats on his life continue, and returning to his ministry will be a great challenge.
I closed our time together with prayer for him. But my heart wondered, Would I be willing to pay a similar price to follow Christ? With the rapid spread of Islam, persecution is a reality that may come to all of us soon. Yet God teaches that His grace is sufficient to give us the strength to face whatever trials come into our lives (2 Cor. 12:9). God’s grace is abundantly evident in Pastor Mulinde’s life.
Meeting this man of God was a remarkable way to begin our tour of Israel and a vivid reminder to me that Jesus Christ endured intense suffering for my sin.