“Gumby” is the unlikely name given to a man in Central Asia, known to many of us who have traveled and ministered in that area of the world.
Gumby was brought up as a devout Muslim in a nation closed to our faith. As a young man he was even chosen as a muezzin, the men who call out the hours of prayer each day from the mosques. Soon after he married, Gumby’s zeal for his religion led him to Cypress, where he and his wife threw themselves into the work of reclaiming Muslims who had converted to our faith. But then Jesus showed up in his life. A local pastor gave Gumby and his wife a Bible, and challenged them to read it alongside the Koran. As they did, the Holy Spirit stirred in their hearts and they gave their lives to the Lord. Just as in the apostle Paul’s life many centuries before, the man who had been a relentless enemy of the faith turned completely around and became instead a passionate follower of Jesus.
Gumby moved to yet a third Muslim nation and connected with some of our church’s partners. They spent time in discipling him and providing training for the next stage of his life’s journey. A short time later he and his family returned to his native country to begin the arduous work the Lord had prepared him for—planting house churches among a people adamantly opposed to our faith. His miraculous journey returned full circle: from the land of his birth to Cypress to a third nation for discipling then back to his native country for ministry.
For seven years Gumby carried on his work. Then the authorities caught up with him, imprisoning both him and his wife. Like so many other believers throughout the Muslim world, the two of them were persecuted and put in jail. It didn’t surprise anyone who knew them that they spent their time of incarceration in witnessing to fellow prisoners, prison guards, lawyers and judges. Our partners in the area worked ceaselessly—and many around the world prayed—toward their release. And the Lord answered their prayers. Gumby and his wife were released as refugees back to the nation where they had received their training.
My wife and I had the chance last spring to connect with Gumby and his wife in their apartment and enjoy lunch (his wife is an amazing cook–he married well) and a time of fellowship. What a wonderful and God-filled couple! We came away with a deep appreciation for this brother’s zeal for the Kingdom and his willingness to follow God’s will wherever it takes him.
And—here is where Gumby’s story really gets interesting—the next stage of Gumby and his family’s journey will be to my home church where our congregation will host them for a period of time as he prepares for yet another place of service.
It’s vitally important that we in local churches keep in mind the untold numbers of people across the world who don’t know Jesus—the lost multitudes being reached with the gospel as God raises up apostolic leaders like Gumby. And it’s also essential that we keep in prayer the multitudes of Christians in, especially, the Middle East and Central Asia who are suffering for their faith.
We live in urgent times, where there are so many opportunities to take the message of Jesus around the world. How exciting it is to be connected with people who are obedient and faithful to Jesus in holding onto a world-wide vision of the gospel!