Hello, my name is Irfan Abdullatif. I am the director of Light of Life International, a ministry dedicated to reaching the Middle East by supporting and training indigenous church planters to build local churches.
As impossible as this sounds, we really do this!
The sensitive nature of our work in the Middle East prevents me from publicly telling you about our specific workers. It’s simply too dangerous. However, I can tell you about one of our most special workers: my father.
Discovering Jesus in the Quran
I was born in Iraq, a country that is almost completely Muslim. My father had come from a long line of strict Muslims. Like them, my father was very devout. He followed the five pillars of Islam and would often read the Quran, the holy book of Islam. Yet his intense study of the Quran and Islam stirred up a swelling curiosity about a figure he met in the Quran: Jesus Christ.
Jesus … is in the Quran?
You may not know this, but Jesus is mentioned in the Quran. My father read of His virgin birth and the many miracles He performed. Jesus seemed different than all the other prophets he read about.
Eventually, he stumbled upon a verse in the Quran which said, “And if thou (Muhammad) art in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto thee, then question those who read the Scripture (that was) before thee. Verily the Truth from thy Lord hath come unto thee. So be not thou of the waverers. And be not thou of those who deny the revelations of Allah, for then wert thou of the losers.” (Surah. 10:94-95)
Knowing that the Quran was referring to Christians and Jews, Dad went to his local mosque and asked for Jewish and Christian writings. He was told he could find them all in one book: the Bible. It seems so obvious to us Christians, but there are still people who have never heard of the Bible!
Upon studying the Scriptures, my father accepted Christ as Lord. But this decision came with a steep price: he was abandoned by his family, fired from his job, and imprisoned by his country.
Muslims in the Metro City
Eventually, my father escaped (details cannot be shared) to the Metro Detroit area in the United States. Detroit has a significant Arabic population, and my father was burdened by the need to reach them. He started planting churches in the area. He was mocked by his own people, labeled an “infidel”, and even spit upon by other Muslims.
“Missionaries are Beggars!”
However, the most discouraging thing I saw was what my father often faced from other Christians. One pastor said he avoided my father because he was a missionary, and all missionaries were beggars. That scarred me. I decided I would never go into ministry, let alone any kind of missionary work. No one would ever call me a beggar!
A Reluctant Adventurer
In 2011, my father passed away suddenly of a heart attack. I will never forget that early morning. With tears in her eyes, my mother asked me to go to the hospital and answer questions – she didn’t understand what they were saying.
I thought I was dreaming. I was in shock and disbelief. A few days later I gave my father’s eulogy – in front of hundreds of people. There were so many people that not everyone could fit into the building. Some stood outside and waited to pay their respects.
It was the first time in my life that I saw the fruit of his ministry and life.
Upon his death, I was approached about continuing his work. My answer was a flat no – I literally laughed at the idea!
I already had a plan for my life: complete my Master of Divinity Degree, pursue a PhD in apologetics, and teach in a Christian University. I had always known I wanted to serve Christ, but I wanted to do it on my own terms. Church planting – especially in the Middle East – was not on my agenda.
The One (Risky) Condition:
As most Christians do, however, I responded with the typical “I’ll pray about it.” After much back-and-forth, soul-searching, and wrestling with God, I decided to take on the mantle of the ministry on one condition:
Take the Bible back to the Middle East.
I wanted to plant churches in the same part of the world that had rejected my father, my family, and our faith.
Today that is what we do.
Our ministry trains and supports born-again Middle Easterners to plant churches. We also work with Refugees, sharing the Gospel and providing food. Finally, we help persecuted Christians by meeting their physical needs and also sending trained men to start Bible studies in Christian villages. These Bible studies are often the only opportunity these people have to hear the word of God taught to them.
Because of my background and my ethnicity, I am uniquely qualified to bridge the gap between missions initiatives from U.S. churches and church planting efforts on the ground in the Middle East.
We invite you to join us on this incredible mission.