Samia* could not read. Having never been to school, the 23-year-old Algerian woman had no way to decipher the words in any of the books in her family’s home. What she did know were the teachings of Islam, which had been impressed on her since birth.
While praying, Samia regularly spent a few minutes talking directly to God after she finished the traditional Islamic recitations. During that time, Samia sensed a connection to something beyond herself. Eventually, she skipped her memorised prayers and moved directly to expressing her heart’s cry: “God, please lead me to the straight way.”
One night, while she was sleeping, Samia saw Jesus in a dream. He told her: “Go to your brother’s bookshelf. There is a book there. Take it and read it.”
“Jesus, I cannot read,” she responded.
In the dream, Jesus repeated His command. Again, she told Him: “I cannot read.”
After Jesus addressed her a third time in the dream, Samia decided to get up and go to the bookshelf to find the book Jesus had indicated: a New Testament that her brother had placed amongst his literature collection. Then Samia opened the Bible and started reading.
Miraculously, Samia understood what she was reading, and she began to cry. Her family, awakened by the noise, gathered around her. Samia began to read out loud, explaining the text to her family members.
“When I was reading, I felt something invading my being, and I felt lighter,” Samia recalled later, during a phone conversation with OM team members.
Because of Samia’s miraculous ability to read the Gospel, her whole family came to faith, the OM team in Algeria reported. They also said that many of Samia’s friends, who knew she was illiterate, also decided to follow Jesus when they heard her story.
Calls come in every day from people like Samia, said Mustafa*, who leads OM’s work in Algeria. These phone conversations allow his team to connect new believers to other Jesus followers in the area where they live for follow up and discipleship.
“Discipleship aims at grounding new believers on the Word of God. It is the process through which new believers learn how to read the Bible, how to pray and what the basic biblical doctrines are,” explained Amine*, a member of the OM leadership team.
As new believers move from belief in Jesus based on powerful signs and miracles to a true understanding of salvation through His finished work on the cross, they are invited to join a local church and be baptised.
God is building His Church in the North African nation, and “we believe that nobody will stop the gospel,” Mustafa and his leadership team affirmed.
“When I pray, I always tell God: ‘Working with you is an honour.’ Because the work is going to be done, with or without us,” Mustafa said.
But working with God comes at a cost. For his own role in spreading the gospel, Mustafa has been jailed, arraigned in court, had property seized and been forced to leave the city where he lived. The government shut down a church he was pastoring, which led to a wave of ‘planned persecution’ that, according to Algerian believers, continues to this day.
Across the country, church doors have been sealed, gatherings prohibited and believers imprisoned. One Algerian believer is currently serving the second year of a five-year prison sentence for blaspheming. Others have been sentenced to two months in prison because they refused to leave the building when the police came to close the church.
“The government has decided to eradicate Christianity from Algeria,” said Amine. “But we believe that God has already started His work, and the Church is being built, and we believe that He is behind what’s going on. So we give them the liberty to do what they want, and we are doing our job.”
In some ways, this pressure has led the Church back to its roots: “Before the Church was recognised by the government as an independent entity, we used to meet in houses. And now, the church is closed, and naturally, and spontaneously, we came back to houses,” explained Amine.
“Jesus’ heart is the Church, and Jesus’ heart was poured in my heart,” Mustafa shared. “I want to see in every village, in every city, in every area, a church in Algeria.” By spreading God’s Word online and in-person, discipling new believers, training leaders and starting new house churches, he and the OM team are working alongside other Jesus followers to see this vision accomplished.
And, as evidenced not only by the number of phone calls coming in but also by the increasing number of groups gathering in homes to study God’s Word, worship and pray for their country, the Church is, indeed, growing. “We are witnessing many people coming to faith — imams, leaders, students, lay people, people from all walks of life,” Amine said. “So this is what is giving us confidence: that behind this work, there is a great God who is doing a great job in our nation.”
Please pray that Algerian believers will have boldness so that the Church can face persecution and multiply. Pray for more workers to reach the areas in the country where there are no known believers. Pray for the national church to be salt and light and a beacon of hope for both the country and the seekers.