Always Smiling

Her name means, the one who is always smiling.

She rolled over on her cot and looked at me with huge eyes. I repeated my simple question, “What do you think about Jesus? Who do you think he is?”

We were alone in our room and I felt that the Spirit was prompting me to ask.

“I saw Jesus,” she replied. “Six years ago, he was in my dream.”

Now it was my eyes that grew in size as I sat up on my bed. As far as I knew, my roommate for this week-long camp in Central Asia was a Muslim. She had grown up in a closed country and her entire family, she had explained, was practicing this religion.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Ten years ago, I read the Bible.” Although she had enjoyed the words she read, she had put them aside. They only began to mean something to her later, four years later, when a visitor interrupted her dreams. “I saw him while I was sleeping,” she began. “In my dream I suddenly found myself in a big green field with green trees all around me. A man dressed in a white robe was standing there. He had this thing on his forehead like a crown with prickles – I had read about that in the Bible, so I knew it was him.”

I had goosebumps on my arms as I listened to her story.

“It was Jesus,” she continued. “He didn't speak to me, but he looked at me. Actually, he looked into me.” She smiled, placing her hand on her heart. “He gestured to me before he disappeared into the sky.” I was speechless.

“I went to the Imam,” she said, “to ask him about my dream. He got angry with me and refused to answer my questions. It hurt me. Afterward, I found it hard to read the Qur’an. Every time I tried, I would get headaches. I tried to pray like my family wanted me to, but I hated it.”

Then she turned to me and whispered, “I don't think I can be a Muslim.”

As she paused to reflect on what she had just shared with me, I asked her if she knew why Jesus had come to her in a dream. Did she know how much he loved her and wanted relationship with her? She listened as I walked her through the Gospel story, starting with creation. Tears streamed down her face as I explained the message I had heard so many times. For her, it was the very first time.

“Jesus is inviting you to follow him,” I said. “He wants you to be his daughter.”

"I know," she blurted out.

I asked her if she wanted to respond to this invitation, to surrender to the One who has always loved her. I had barely gotten the words out of my mouth when she bounced off her bed and sat down beside me. “Yes!” she said, “I love Jesus and I want to be a Christian. I love him!”

After we prayed together, she hugged me. "I am a Christian!" she exclaimed, as though she could barely believe the words. Tears were pouring down both our faces.

Then she turned to me abruptly and said, “I’m scared. I’m scared to tell my family, scared of what might happen.”

We asked God for his peace, and her countenance changed. She was already experiencing the comfort of the Holy Spirit in her life.

When our group gathered together the next morning to say our goodbyes, others noticed something new and different about my friend. She was smiling as usual, but there was a deeper joy evident in her that was completely new. It was difficult to say goodbye to this dear friend and new sister in Christ. I wanted to stay with her, to sit longer on our cots in that hotel room. I wanted to pray longer with her about her fears, her family, her situation. But I couldn’t. As I boarded the bus, I waved a final goodbye. I felt torn. I left her with a Bible and with the confidence that the same One who had been pursuing her for many years would continue to walk with her on the difficult road ahead. We will stay connected. I will do my best to help her find believers who speak her language and can come alongside her. I believe in the local church and I trust the Spirit to guide her.

Four days after I said goodbye to my dear sister, I received a text message from her. She wanted to tell me that she had just finished reading through the Gospel of John. She sent photos of herself with her new Bible. I could see her smiling. Always smiling.

By a worker in a restricted area