If prison couldn’t shake Jeremiah’s sense of calling, then nothing could.
He had faced persecution before. As a long-term field worker bringing the Good News to Muslims, Jeremiah had been questioned by suspicious authorities more times than he could count. He had even faced death threats in his last country—a place where he had witnessed new fellowships of Muslim-born believers grow and multiply into a movement of faith.
Now, sitting on a thin mattress in his bare prison cell, Jeremiah faced the sobering reality that he might be here more than just a few days.
“Oh, Jesus!” he cried out. “You know I can’t survive here without You!”
He recalled 2 Timothy 3:12 where Paul warns, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” It was a verse he had prayed through with a mentor years earlier when he first began his journey to the field. From the start, Jeremiah knew that he might someday end up in this very situation if he obeyed the call to preach the Gospel to those who had no witness for Christ.
Jeremiah first heard about God’s heart for the nations as a teenager. A missionary visited his church and shared photos from Africa. When Jeremiah saw the pictures of the people living there, he realized for the very first time that there were men and women in parts of the world who had never heard the Gospel. In that moment, Jeremiah knew that God was calling him to share the hope of Christ with those who would otherwise have no opportunity to hear it.
After college, Jeremiah spent a summer in a hospital run by missionaries in Africa. “Serving the people medically was good,” Jeremiah recalls, “but I felt discouraged that I wasn’t helping them spiritually, too.” If God’s global work was limited to tending to people’s physical needs—while so many still had no chance to hear the Gospel—then it wasn’t for him. Even though Jeremiah didn’t yet have the terminology, what he really wanted was to go to unengaged people groups and start the work of planting churches among them.
Soon after, Jeremiah had the opportunity to attend a missions conference. He went, determined to give overseas work another shot. “Lord, if you want me to serve on the field, would You give me clear direction?” he prayed. “Otherwise, I’ll start pursuing my career.”
Over one hundred organizations were present at the conference, each with dozens of opportunities to serve internationally. But not one caught his interest.
Then, on the final evening, the speaker stood up and spoke words that arrested Jeremiah’s heart: “God is going to call some of you overseas to plant churches in places where there is no church.” Immediately, Jeremiah’s heart began pounding so loudly in his ears that it blocked out the rest of the speaker’s talk that night. He wanted to stand up and say, “Yes, Lord, send me!”
Within months, Jeremiah joined an international ministry and went to sub-Saharan Africa for a year. From the start, he learned to preach the Word and saw many individuals respond to his message.
One time, his team was sent to a Muslim village. Jeremiah stood up to preach, then asked who wanted to follow Jesus the Messiah. No one responded. Jeremiah assumed they didn’t understand him, so he shared the Gospel message a second time, then a third. The villagers simply stared at him in silence.
Humiliated, Jeremiah walked away. He couldn’t understand what he had done wrong. Everywhere else he had preached, people responded to his message.
He returned about an hour later to find many of the villagers in heated discussion, some of them weeping. “Any one of us who decides to follow Jesus,” a villager explained, “could be kicked out of the village, or killed!”
The villagers had understood his message, but it wasn’t one that gave them hope. What the villagers knew that Jeremiah hadn’t accounted for was that one Muslim’s decision to follow Christ would disrupt the social fabric of the entire village. Jeremiah needed a better understanding of the culture and worldview if he was going to be an effective messenger of the Gospel to Muslims.
He finished his year on the field, then returned home and enrolled in Bible school to study church planting and learn about Muslims. Meanwhile, a couple Jeremiah often prayed with told him about a ministry called Frontiers that had teams reaching Muslims in places where there were no other witnesses for Christ.
Jeremiah joined Frontiers, went through training, and started a team to reach an unengaged Muslim people group in Africa. On the field, his team quickly learned the local language. Within four months, they were studying the Bible with Muslims and discipling new believers.
One of their first believers was a man in his twenties named Omar. Jeremiah was walking down the street one day when the young man stopped and asked him, “Where is the book that you are going to give me?”
“What book?” Jeremiah asked the stranger. Omar explained that he had been waiting for this moment since childhood. As a young boy, he had had a dream in which a man, closely resembling Jeremiah brought him a special book. He woke up believing that someday, this man would bring him the book that contained the truth.
Jeremiah offered Omar a copy of the Gospels, saying, “If you’re seeking truth, this is the book you must read.” Omar took it and within a couple of weeks, he had fully embraced the truth and declared Jesus Christ as King.
More Muslims entered the Kingdom after Omar, and the local church grew as the Frontiers team trained local leaders and discipled new believers. When church fellowships started multiplying, Jeremiah felt God calling him to pass leadership over to the local believers and move to a different Muslim country to broaden the work.
Just as before, Jeremiah saw many Muslims choose to follow Christ in his new location.
Then, unexpectedly, he was arrested on unknown charges and thrown into prison.
Even though his imprisonment came suddenly, Jeremiah wasn’t surprised by these new circumstances. He knew that bringing the Gospel to Muslims would result in persecution and that he could still bring glory to Jesus from inside a prison cell. This was part of his call to “endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10).
It was several months before he was released. But the Lord used those months to strengthen Jeremiah’s sense of calling.
“It’s one thing to have a theory about suffering,” he says, “and another thing to actually go through it. In the book of Acts, I read that the victories are real. But so are persecutions, challenges, threats, beatings, and even martyrdom. Experiencing suffering helped me trust the Lord with my calling and understand that my life is in His hands.”
Jeremiah now lives in one of Frontiers’ strategic regions where he continues planting churches among Muslims. He is also mentoring a new generation of Frontiers leaders and equipping believers to help start movements of faith, in which new fellowships of believers grow and multiply rapidly.
In everything he does, Jeremiah holds onto the promise that one day, the name of Christ will be honored and exalted among every nation, tribe, language, and people (Revelation 7:9-10).
“Until then,” he says, “we must remember that fruit and persecution often go hand in hand. We must expect to see both as we bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Muslims.”
This account comes from a long-term worker. Names, locations, and images have been changed for security.