As shovelfuls of dirt rained down around his head, Mr. B* knew he may not live through the night. His neighbors were intent on burying him alive.
Desperately clinging to the small bamboo pipe that was his only source of air, he began to pray.
Why was this happening now? It had been three years since his baptism. Why had his Muslim neighbors decided to attack him today?
More than ten years before, Mr. B had discovered AWR’s shortwave radio programs. He was a vegetable farmer, and was in the habit of bringing his radio to work.
“Many people in my village cannot read,” he says, “so we were happy to listen together as we worked.”
Mr. B was a committed Muslim, and at first he rejected what he was hearing about Christianity, although he liked the health and family programs. But little by little, he also became interested in presentations about the Bible. He began to compare what he was learning about the Bible with what he knew from the Quran, and spent more and more time studying.
The AWR presenters in this country know how to present Christianity in the context of their listeners’ culture and beliefs, so the messages won’t be immediately rejected. For example, in Islam, Isa (Jesus) is understood to be the penultimate prophet of God, so Mr. B was willing to listen to stories about the Christian Isa.
“To win people to Christ in this country is very hard,” says Pastor G, the local communication director. “You have to know the customs, the culture, the way people live and talk.”
Eventually, it was the Bible’s promise of salvation that changed Mr. B’s mind about Christianity. He contacted the AWR studio and was given an audio Bible, which helped him in his studies. “But the radio was not just for me,” he says. “Little by little, as my neighbors listened with me, some of them also came to believe.”
Sadly, his successful witnessing led to severe problems with his community. After his baptism, many people followed Mr. B to the Adventist church. But among them was a spy.
The local government leaders ordered Mr. B to appear before them for a hearing. Facing a panel of twenty-five people, he was questioned for hours about the gospel, biblical law, comparisons between the Bible and the Quran, and more.
“It was like facing the judgment,” he says. “But, like Paul, I told myself it was an opportunity to share the Bible.”
That interrogation wasn’t enough for the community, however. A group of neighbors—including Mr. B’s own brother and sister—decided to implement a Muslim tradition of “testing.” First, Mr. B was forced to fast for six days. Then came the burial. He was put in a box below ground, covered with dirt, and kept there from seven p.m. to five a.m., according to the schedule of Muslim calls to prayer. If he survived, his accusers would admit he was following the right way, and he would be allowed to attend church.
“That night, I fully surrendered to God,” Mr. B says. “I made a promise: If I am wrong, take me now. If I am right, give me a chance to witness to these people.”
God did indeed reward Mr. B’s faithfulness. After this harrowing experience, the Holy Spirit worked on his community. All six of his children have been baptized, along with other family members and neighbors—even the spy who reported him to the government! Together, about one hundred people are now meeting regularly.
“When I hear testimonies like this, I am humbled and thankful that someone has heard and appreciated our messages,” says Pastor J, the producer of the programs Mr. B heard. “We don’t always know each contact, but we do know that people are listening.”
* Names and location withheld for security.
Shelley Nolan Freesland is the Adventist World Radio Communication director at the General Conference world headquarters.