At the early age of 11, Sam was living a pious Muslim life in the Philippine village of Tawi-Tawi. He prayed at mosques on Fridays and fasted during Ramadan. Ninth among 12 Sama children, Sam was the only one sent to school, where he excelled both in classroom and sports. He was everybody’s favorite, popular and well-loved.
But everything changed one afternoon. Sam’s grandfather was a Christian and after school that day, Sam passed by his house. He saw a maroon book with “Kitab Injil” (The Gospel) written on the cover. He opened it and started reading. “I was drawn to Jesus because his teachings were so different… Help the needy, obey and respect parents, do not be a false witness… they were not taught in Islam. Before that, I only knew to repay evil with evil.”
Sam committed his life to follow Jesus and His teachings in the Bible. Although he was the only Christian in his family, Sam’s parents and siblings respected his new faith. But outside his home, among his friends, it was a different story.
“Sam, I saw you enter a Christian church, what are you doing there?”
“I am a Christian. I follow Isa Almasih (Jesus Christ).”
“But you’re a Muslim. Why did you join those kafirs (infidels)?”
“We are not kafirs; we are followers of God.”
“No, you’re a kafir! You are not my friend anymore.”
It was very painful for Sam to be deserted by his friends. The next day, friends in his fifth grade class kept a good distance from him. Some mocked him, calling him kafir. There were times during classes when kids would throw their shoes at him. They bullied him by writing things on his uniform, filling his bag with sand, and even punching him.
One day, a friend-turned-enemy yelled at him. “You Christians are filthy! Christians are garbage!” Sam cried and trudged back home, refusing to return to school the next day. After much prodding from his teachers, Sam decided to go back. There were times when he was tempted to fight back, but he remembered the words of Jesus to love his enemies, to bless and not curse. In his heart, he prayed for those who bullied him and repaid them with a kind smile instead.
By the age of 17, Sam had endured physical harassments, insults, and discrimination from friends and schoolmates for boldly telling them that he was a Christian. He and his family left their home in Tawi-tawi when a violent conflict broke out between two feuding families. “It saddened me to leave, not only because of my friends and the school, but also because there won’t be a church there anymore,” Sam said.
In 2008, Sam joined the Timothy Training, an Open Doors discipleship program for the MBB (A Christian from a Muslim background who comes to Christ.) youths. He has become bolder, seizing every opportunity to share his faith in Jesus. Sam knows that doing so might cost him his life some day. Even though he no longer lives in the village where he first met Christ, he still thought of his old friends from time to time. In the balcony of his new home, Sam sat and prayed for them on most nights.
“When I remember my old friends, my heart breaks. I lost them, and though they turned out to be my enemies, I don’t hate them. Instead, I pray for them that one day they will meet my Lord Jesus and be changed.”