“Growing up in Palestine, with an Islamic background, I knew some Christians (and what they believed), but I thought they were wrong. The first time I knew there was another story (other than the Islamic story) was from a TV cartoon. The cartoon was made in the US and broadcast from a channel in Cyprus. We would get a weak signal where I lived in Palestine. I remember the cartoon telling the stories of the Old and New Testaments. The comic was well done for the ’80s…and it was fascinating. It made me realize there was a different book and faith than Islam.
After that, I clearly remember a radio station in Arabic. It was always on after the 10:20 pm news. It was about the teachings of Jesus. I listened to it as a teenager. I didn’t think it was the right way; it was just interesting.
Then I went to university and worked in the medical field. I associated with people of wealth and power. Then Islam stopped for me. I saw a schism between Islamic teaching and behavior. If Islam was the solution to people’s problems, why didn’t they live like that? I started to distance myself from it. It was Ramadan, but I wasn’t fasting. At the same time, an ultra-conservative Muslim movement was emerging, and I was considering leaving the country.
I came to Australia in 2007. I knew nothing about Australia except for a weird TV show called Neighbors. My diploma meant nothing here, so I started a master’s. At the same time, my brother in Palestine was having medical problems. He was born with congenital problems and was back in the hospital. I couldn’t see him. I felt very tense. I told my university teacher, and he said, “Would you like me to pray for you and your brother?”
It seemed great to me. I had started a whole new life 15,000 kilometers away. No one knew me here, and I was in a secular country where no one cared what anyone believed. And yet the first person I spoke to—someone in a very high position—offered to pray for my brother and me. I said yes.
Then I wanted to know more about Christianity. I had seen a Bible school near where I lived. I thought I couldn’t approach a new belief system without studying it, so I went in and asked if I could enroll in a short course.
The person in Bible college seemed surprised. He said that the people who studied there were normally practicing believers. Some of them were on their way to ordination. I said it was okay; I was just interested. He enrolled me in two courses: an introduction to the Old Testament and an introduction to the New Testament.
In the first two weeks that I was a student at that university, I saw how the students treated me and each other. I saw how they behaved. They lived what they preached. There was no schism. So I went back to my Christian university teacher and said, “I want to follow this faith.” Then I prayed with him and became a believer in Jesus. Less than a year later, I was baptized. I found a church where they met in a residential area and looked after refugees. I went on and did my master’s degree in theology.
Now I want to tell people… listen to the voice that keeps calling you. I was lucky. God has not forsaken me. He didn’t give up on me even when I moved 15,000 miles away. He put people in my life. And when you accept Jesus into your life, the change will come naturally. It comes from within. God help you. There is a verse in Matthew 11 where Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily laden, and I will give you rest” (v28). In my Arabic Bible, the verse says, “I will comfort you.” Jesus will take the heavy burdens upon Himself, and He will comfort us. That’s what God has done for me.”
Badawi’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, curated by Naomi Reed. Click here for more faith stories.