Our Director of Kurdish Ministry, Nihad, was recently ordained and in light of this achievement, we thought this would be a good time to highlight his incredible testimony. The following is Nihad’s testimony as translated by Fadi Salamoun.
My name is Nihad. I am Kurdish from the province of Aleppo in Syria. My town is called Afrin, located on the Syrian-Turkish border. Afrin is one of the three Kurdish provinces in Syria and 95% of its population is made up of Kurds who speak both Arabic and Kurmanji (Kurmanji is one of the Kurdish dialects in the Middle East).
I first heard about Christ over the radio when I joined the compulsory military service in Syria. In 2003, I came to Lebanon to work in order to support my family. My Lebanese neighbors kept inviting me to their church, but I never accepted the invitation until they gave me a little book entitled: How to Become a New Creation. I accepted their invitation and went with them to church. When I was in church they asked if there was anything they could pray for and I thought to pray for my brother because he had been missing for four years. I thought this would be the hardest thing to pray for. After that church visit, my family in Syria heard from my brother for the first time since four years. I returned to Syria and that is when I started believing that God hears. I went through some really difficult situations and I read often Psalm 91. I wanted God to save me like he saved David and I wanted Psalm 91 to be in my life.
From 2005-2006 I was in Iraq to get my brother and bring him back to Syria. I was in Kurdistan for a year. After going back to Syria, I went to Beirut in 2007 and I stayed 4-5 months attending church. Life in Lebanon was difficult at that period and I decided to go to Cyprus to look for work.
I tried to get to Cyprus by small boat. There were 29 people on that boat. As it began to sink due to overload and a faulty motor that stopped working in the middle of the sea. A brother and I started praying and immediately the motor started and we continued on. They caught me in Cyprus again as I was there illegally and returned me to Syria. I came to Lebanon and I worked and attended church for 4 months before again returning to Syria. Then we decided to try again to go to Cyprus but unlike in Aleppo, they caught me and accused me of starting a political movement against the Syrian regime. This is a very serious matter in Syria.
They took me immediately and put me in an individual prison cell that was 90 cm by 90 cm or 3ft by 3ft. At the edge of this 9ft square there was a toilet hole in the ground. My body would hurt so much that I would lie down and hang my legs into the toilet hole. Maybe in everyone’s view this is the worst place someone could possibly be. But in this 3ft x 3ft cell and until today, I believe this is the most beautiful place on earth. It was there I met Christ and saw Jesus. Jesus transformed that place from a bad prison to a beautiful memory because there I heard the voice of God and heard God’s promises. I feel when I entered there I was dead, and in that cell I came back to life. The 28 years that I lived before I came to that cell, I buried in that cell.
Because there was no room to move, my muscles and arms hurt so much. I had back pain as well. I was hearing the sound of the Kurds being tortured by the secret service and police. I heard God tell me I was in this cell so I could hear the sound of my people suffering. God told me that I only aimed for fun and happiness in my life and that I should change my heart and start looking at my people. I repented.
Sometime later that day I looked at the Lord and said, “Father my hands are hurting badly, but if I knock on the door, they’re going to come and beat me. But if I don’t knock on the door, I will continue in terrible pain. If You’re really there and it’s You I’m talking to and You’re yesterday, today, and forever, heal me.” After this I slept and dreamed and saw Jesus coming with a clay pot with oil in it. Jesus lifted my collar and dropped the oil down my body and as the oil covered my body, the pain disappeared with the oil. I woke up and there was no pain at all. I saw several dreams of Jesus and several visions after that.
I cried in that cell remembering my friends always made fun of me because I’m darker skinned than most Kurds and I’m ugly. My uncle, my father’s brother, was the person who hurt me the most. I was crying saying, “Father, if You love me, why did You put me in the world in this situation?” I cried and slept, and Jesus came to me again in a dream. Jesus showed me a map of Syria, pointing out Aleppo, and the village where I come from. Jesus said, “When I see you cry, I cry. When you hurt, I hurt. Nihad, I love you. I chose you to be mine. Out of all the people in these cities, I chose you to be mine. I chose you to work for me.” I woke up a totally different person.
There’s a 3rd experience. I saw everything burning around me except I was sitting in the middle of the fire without any burns. Trees and houses around me were burning, but I’m sitting there with no feeling of the fire. I felt the fear of the fire. Then God said, “Don’t be afraid, I’m with you.
Here’s a little story to make you laugh. I was sitting there in the cell with my hands behind my head and I told God, “When I get out of this prison, I’m going to tell my mother to prepare for me some soup filled with meat and I will drink it straight from the bowl.” The next afternoon, the guard who brings the food, knocked and opened the door and gave me a cup of soup full of meat. I said, “God I’m thankful You fulfilled my request, but I asked to have it outside, not inside the prison. (laughter)
Then they transferred me from Aleppo to Damascus. They put me in the regular prison and separated me. I was in a cell with Al Qaeda and Islamic extremists. But the guards loved me. They allowed me to go out and they gave me the responsibility of distributing food to the prisoners. They told me they were forced to put me with those people because there was someone coming to check on the prison and the law said that the prisoners should be mixed – those accused of extremism and those accused of theft or other crimes. There should be a mixture of everything so that the prisoners of the same criminal background wouldn’t be able to form groups.
One day in my cell the Islamists put me in a corner and gathered around me. They said, “We’ve heard that you’ve left Islam and gone to Christianity. Because you left Islam we can’t eat with you, sleep with you or drink with you because you’re considered unclean. Or you can repent and come back to Islam and we will treat you as one of us.” They started giving me Islamic lessons and trying to bring me back to Islam.
I told them, “I want to tell you a story. I was in a yacht and it broke down in the middle of the sea. So I got hold of a piece of wood and began to swim. I saw a ship passing by and I swam toward the ship. I was trying to knock on the ship and screamed for help, but no one answered. As I was waiting for someone to answer from the ship. Then, I saw a person coming with a light and he was checking to see if anyone was around who needed help. If you were in my place would you go with this man who was coming with this light to help you or would you stay knocking on the ship waiting for someone to pick you up?” They said, “No, we would definitely go with that man.” I said, “Exactly. This is what we Kurdish people have been doing for 1,400 years, knocking on the ship of Mohammad waiting for him to help us and no one was answering us. But Jesus answered and he is picking us up one after the other. He is in heaven and He’s coming back someday to save us all for sure. And I’m on his boat now and I’m staying with him.” So they gave me the worst corner in the prison. When I came out of prison I read about Daniel and the lions’ den and then I understood that I was with actual lions when I was with these Islamic extremists.
God promised me He is going to take me to places I’ve always dreamed about. In 2011 God sent me to South Africa. As I was in the plane I saw Jesus and He told me, “Nihad, you never thought of going to South Africa. Now I’m taking you there.” I woke up from my sleep and thanked God that He keeps His promises.
After 6 months in the prison, I witnessed and spoke about Jesus in many ways. I sat with one of the officers and told him about Jesus. When this officer would get his breakfast in the morning, he would share half of it with me. There was a supernatural glory and blessing for me in that prison. In the prison I promised Jesus I was going to study and get baptized and spread the gospel to my people, the Kurds. After 6 months I came out of the prison. As normal in Syria, the officials said they were sorry because there was a mix up in names, and it wasn’t I they were looking for. They were looking for someone else.
I stayed for a while with my parents. I borrowed some money to come to Beirut and work. I arrived with 9,000 Lebanon pounds, about $6. Someone offered me to stay with them. I worked for a while and then I wanted to go back to Syria. I went to a wedding in Syria and on my way back to Lebanon I was stopped at the Syrian border and they banned me from leaving Syria again for 5 years. So I came across the mountains to Beirut. So I crossed the border illegally. It was July. I said, “God, I’m going to pass many checkpoints.” I walked about 10 kilometers. I said, “God, going to Lebanon is my only chance to study the Bible and know You and help my parents.” He told God, “I heard the story in the Bible about someone who prayed and a small cloud created a flood.” So I prayed to God that it would rain on the way so that the police at the checkpoints would move inside for shelter, and I could pass without their stopping me. I told God, “I don’t want to do anything against Your will, but my goal of going there is to study the Bible.”
An old man helped me and drove me a few kilometers and showed me where the cars that would transport me to Beirut gather. About 200 meters before the first checkpoint, it started raining. I crossed the 1st and 2nd checkpoints. At the 3rd checkpoint I felt someone tapping me on the shoulder saying, “Don’t be afraid, I’m with you.” I looked behind me and there was nobody. I literally heard someone saying these words, “You are the apple of my eye. Whoever touches you, touches the apple of My eye.” I reached Beirut safely and after a while my parents heard that I was attending church.
A few days before I was baptized, I called home and my father said he had heard that I had become a Christian. He said he didn’t want me in the family anymore. He said, “You are not our son anymore.” After my father told me that, the friends I was living with threatened to throw me out. They said, “Before you used to drink and get drunk and have fun and now you’ve totally changed and left our religion, and we don’t want you here anymore.”
In the church I attended, they have a program called “Meeting with Jesus” which I attended. They would go for two days to an open area on a hillside and pray and get teaching about Jesus. During these few days I felt a lot of pressure on me. I went to God and said, “Father, from the day I’ve become a Christian the pressure has intensified. What do you want from me?” I was always asking God, “What am I for you?” There were about 30 people there and the people in charge were praying for all of us. The program and prayer was finished, but I was still there asking God this same question. “God, this 2 day program is finished, and I still didn’t get an answer from you.” It was on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day and someone came and told him, “Nihad, we’re all leaving. We’re getting into the buses and you have to pack and come with us. We have distributed gifts to everybody and this one is left because you didn’t come so it’s left for you. Here’s a card for you. Do you want to take it or not?” Because it was Valentine’s they were distributing cards about God’s love to everybody. On these cards there were verses from the Bible. I took the card and was going to my room to pack. I was still telling God, “God, you have not answered me.” I thought of opening the card. I opened the card and found this verse there. “You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” Then I found out I was the only one with this verse. I knew for sure this was God’s answer because this card was the only one left.
I finished two years of Bible study at the Center of Abundant Life Church. Several Orthodox and Maronite churches heard of me and starting asking me to come and give my testimony in their churches. In 2009 I prayed that God would give us a location and a place where the Christians from Islamic background could come and worship the Lord together and protect each other. When I prayed I wrote it down on the paper. On that paper I described how I want that place to be. I wrote that I wanted a hall with 3 rooms and an office; an office for running the place, a hall where we would pray, and 3 rooms so people could sleep there. I prayed for this continuously and after 5 months a Palestinian Christian called me and he told me, “Nihad, I have rented a place for us to use as a center for the Christians. In this place I’m planning to travel. When I travel, you will be in charge of this place, and I will give it to you. One night while they were furnishing and fixing the place, I was sleeping. God woke me up in the middle of the night and said, “Nihad, wake up! Didn’t you ask me for a hall and 3 rooms and an office?” I woke up, opened my eyes and saw myself in the hall, 3 rooms in front of me and the office on the side. I said, “Wow!”
There were no Kurds at that time. I told the Father, “My heart is to serve the Kurds and there are no Kurds. Now I’ve learned the Bible and taken 2 years of Bible study. Now I want to go back and serve my people.” At the same time many people were offering me the opportunity to go to Europe or the States. I was told they would take me in and give me protection because I’ve been in jail and was a Muslim now converted to Christianity. They said it would be very easy for me to change my life and go and live in Europe or the West somewhere. I said, “No, I’m not going to leave my people. I want to serve my people. God has asked me to be here and God has put me here and this is where I want to be.
I was praying because there were no Kurds, but then the war in Syria started and the Kurds came over. And then this church was full of Kurds because of the war in Syria. Last week I was praying for a Kurdish praise and worship group. I was praying for some time that God would provide a worship and praise group to help me with all these services I was conducting. I was crying urgently for that and as I was praying, God was telling me to pray for certain people because these are the ones He has chosen to help support me in my ministry. God spoke to me and reminded me, “You have cried for this matter in this corner and in that corner for that matter. You have asked me to give you people to help you, I’ve been there with you and what you have asked for is happening now.” Now I am serving with the Kurds and I’m happy and full of joy. I pray every day that the 60 million Kurds will go to heaven, even if that would cost me everything in my life.
If you have been encouraged by Nihad’s story and would like to support the Kurdish ministry, you can do so here!
Click on the “Give to” dropdown menu and scroll until you see MENA – Lebanon. Once you have selected that, write in the designation box, “Nihad’s Kurdish Ministry.” Follow the remaining instructions to complete your donation.