Recently we walked through a dark valley with Erdem*—a friend of ours who has been a follower of Jesus for over a year. From the beginning, he has been bold and vocal with his family about his new faith in Christ, despite being from an unreached people group (UPG) with very few other believers.
Last year, after his father died, Erdem became the elder of his extended family. This means the family honor and respect are in his hands. He can now even more strongly lead his family by example in addition to sharing his faith.
Erdem began to make decisions to correct wrongs that had weighed his family down for generations. For years there was enmity with another family that included revenge, betrayals and feuds, considering one another sworn enemies. Erdem decided to obey Christ’s command to forgive his enemies and, as head of his family, to bring reconciliation.
In order to do this, Erdem went to his enemy’s home, knelt, and asked forgiveness for all the evil exchanges between the families. Erdem’s brother was furious, believing this action brought shame upon their father and grandfather. He retaliated by shooting Erdem four times with a pistol, and then fleeing. The family that had once been his worst enemy drove Erdem to the hospital.
The next day, Erdem’s son told me his father was in a coma in the hospital’s intensive care unit. The doctor reported that the next 48 hours would determine whether Erdem would live or die.
For those 48 hours, we walked the dark valley. Our community of believers responded with prayer and fasting. Together we rebuked death and believed for life and healing. I prayed for recovery, but also began to pray about my next actions.
If Erdem lost his life, I would go to the funeral. We knew that funeral protocols had been changed because of COVID, but my presence there would be important. We began to count the cost, knowing that Erdem’s brother was still out there and may also be very angry at me for leading his brother to Christ. My wife and I prayed and felt peace to go visit the family.
Amidst all this, I also struggled with the level of forgiveness Erdem displayed. My own heart felt heavy from the grievances and petty pains I have stored up there. I felt convicted and poured out prayers for those I felt better than, different from, or had pushed away.
I didn’t sleep much, staying in constant communication with Erdem’s son. He began to ask me detailed questions about his father’s faith, and how he could be such a forgiving person. I shared about the character of Jesus, and that Erdem had made his choices in order to obey the commands of Christ. Erdem’s son then explained that the police were waiting for a statement, and he wanted to honor his father by sharing about his faith.
But before Erdem’s son gave the statement, Jesus showed up and a miracle happened—Erdem woke up from his coma. Erdem informed police that he would give the statement on his newly arrested brother, telling them that he forgave his brother.
The doctor interrupted, pleading with the police that Erdem was not psychologically stable and didn’t know what he was saying.
“Your brother tried to kill you, shooting you four times!” the doctor exclaimed. “Yet somehow you are alive!”
“I have been resurrected like my Savior,” Erdem responded. “My brother tried to kill me. I died, but now I am alive again. What else can my brother do to me? I forgive him.”
We are blessed to be part of Erdem’s life. He walks with new boldness. His family, his community, hospital personnel, police, and his former enemies are now very close to the Kingdom of God.
*Name has been changed for security.