“I was looking for a visa for Europe, but God gave me one for heaven,” says 23-year-old Algerian, Amir.
Among the more bizarre lies reported by Algerian media about the Algerian Church is their use of “financial seduction,” offering Algerians large sums of money and assistance in obtaining visas if they convert to the Christian faith. These media, close to the Islamist movement, have never actually reported any concrete evidence of their claims which are intended, of course, to discredit the Christian community. However, these false allegations against the church have sometimes led Algerians to the discovery of the gospel message and true conversion.
Such is the story of Amir (pseudonym) who, like many of his compatriots, dreamed of immigrating to Europe in search of the good life. One day, he came across an article published in the newspaper Ennahar reporting that the security services were investigating a group of Evangelical Christians said to offer Algerian Muslims money and visas to travel to Europe, provided that they converted to Christ. This seemed like the opportunity for Amir to realize his dream. “I thought that living in a European country would make me happy and rich and would give me a good life away from poverty and problems. When I read the information published in the newspaper, accusing the church of seducing people with money and visas to convert to Christianity, I jumped at the chance,” he explains.
He knew no Algerian Christians or churches, so Amir went searching the internet for possible contacts. “I searched the internet for information about the Christian community in Algeria so that I could contact them. I came across the website of the El Hayet Christian Association. I wrote to them and gave them my contact information. At the same time, I read a lot of articles about the Christian faith on their site,” explained Amir, who lives in a city in the west of Algeria.
A few days later, a man phoned Amir to make contact. “I sent several emails to the site of El Hayet. One day, a man called me to schedule a meeting. I met with him, and we talked at length. I asked him about Christianity, Jesus, and Islam. He invited me to attend the Christmas services which would be held on the premises of a church in my city. I accepted the invitation immediately.”
This was the chance to claim his visa, Amir believed. “When I went with this believer to church on Christmas day, I was surprised by the large number of Christians who were there. I had not seen such a gathering before. After worship, I became acquainted with a few of these Christians and officials of the church. Nobody spoke about a visa or offered me money. For my part, I did not ask for anything. On the contrary, I continued to attend this church and to read the Bible. I started really thinking about God. I found answers to questions that I had about God. This changed my perception of things. Once, God brought fear in me. This is what I felt when I was reading the Quran. I observed Ramadan and Muslim prayers, but it did not give me peace. However, in reading the Bible, I discovered a God of love. I ended up accepting Christ into my life. I experienced real peace, and my soul felt full after this meeting with Jesus Christ,” said Amir.
“Some time after my conversion,” he continued, “I confessed to the pastor that I was actually seeking a visa for Europe when I came to the church for the first time. He explained to me that one cannot buy one’s salvation and relationship with God with money or a visa. Jesus Christ paid all to reconcile us to God,” said Amir. “Everything that has been reported in newspapers is false,” he added. “I was looking for a visa for Europe, but God gave me one for heaven.” Today, Amir is no longer looking to flee Algeria, but he wants to stay there to testify to his friends what Jesus Christ has done in his life.
Father, we stand in awe of Your work in Amir’s heart and mind. What the Devil has meant for deception and disrespect of Your Church, You used to draw Amir and many others to Yourself. Thank You that You have turned his desires for fortune and the easy life to serving Christ and His Kingdom purposes. We pray that You will continue to grow his knowledge of You and his faith. Grant him opportunities to share the gospel with his friends, and use the power of his testimony to bring the light of Christ to those living in spiritual darkness. Protect him from the dangers that can come with the life of a follower of Jesus in Algeria. Strengthen him to see Your presence in whatever circumstances You bring into his life and to serve You faithfully even in the hard times. In the name of Jesus, who has drawn each of us out of sin and darkness into Your glorious light, Amen