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Hamas leader's son says only gospel can transform
Mark Kelly, Baptist Press
August 11, 2008
7 MIN READ TIME

Hamas leader’s son says only gospel can transform

Hamas leader's son says only gospel can transform
Mark Kelly, Baptist Press
August 11, 2008

LA JOLLA, Calif. — When a volunteer from the United Kingdom met a

young Middle Eastern man in Jerusalem’s old city and invited him to a

Bible study, he had no idea he was talking to the son of a key figure

in the Hamas terrorist organization.

And

while the volunteer surely hoped Masab Yousef would hear the gospel and

accept Christ, he had no clue how that invitation — and Yousef’s

decision for Christ four years later — would eventually reverberate

throughout the Middle East and perhaps even the world.

“These

guys were just going out and asking people to come for the Bible

study,” Yousef told Baptist Press. “I didn’t even understand his

English. He was talking to me by signals, and I understood the

invitation from his signals.”

But in 2000, Yousef, who now

prefers to be known as “Joseph,” was an open-minded 22-year-old Muslim,

clean-shaven and dressed in jeans instead of the traditional garb of

Palestinian Arabs. Despite his preference for Western ways, Joseph was

the eldest son of Hassan Yousef, a prominent lawmaker in the

Palestinian parliament, and as such the heir-apparent to his father’s

position of influence in Palestinian circles.

That simple,

almost anonymous invitation to visit a Bible study eventually

transformed Joseph’s life, and now he is sending shock waves throughout

the Middle East as he publicly declares his faith in Christ. He may be

the best-known Muslim to ever publicly announce his decision to follow

Jesus.

“Sometimes we don’t know the importance when we go out to

invite people to come to Bible study,” Joseph said. “Sometimes we think

this is wasting time. This guy had no idea who I was.

“They

studied the Bible with me and figured out who I was only five months

later,” Joseph said. “They got to know me and even got to know my

father. He invited them to our house, and they had no idea that he was

one of the top leaders of the Hamas organization.”

Joseph said he agreed to attend the Bible study because he was curious.

“I

didn’t have enough knowledge about Christianity. I was open-minded,” he

said. “I never had in my mind in that moment that I would go this far,

to become a believer. I had studied history and thought this would be a

good chance to study, to meet new international people and see what

they are saying. It was definitely not about Christianity.”

Joseph’s

story is a powerful reminder that followers of Jesus Christ should

share the gospel freely and never miss an opportunity to invite a

stranger to church, said Matt Smith, the pastor of Barabbas Road Church

in La Jolla, Calif., which is hosting Joseph as he announces his faith

in Christ to the world.

“He was invited to a Bible study — to

me this is profound,” Smith said. “Some guy didn’t know who Joseph was.

This guy was just a normal Christian. He wasn’t an apologist. He wasn’t

a specialist. He was just a normal Christian who invited someone to a

Bible study.

“In the Bible study, they didn’t try to argue,”

Smith said. “They just shared the love of Christ, and he went home and

read his Bible. This is such a testimony to all us Christians that we

need to present everyone with the simple gospel. This is a call for

everyone to stand out.”

Smith, 29, leads a young congregation in

one of the most affluent and highly educated cities in the United

States. Smith said the church, which launched in February 2008 and now

draws about 75 people to weekend services, knows that the truth of the gospel and the power of loving service to others can penetrate even the

hardest, most skeptical heart.

“When he was exposed to the word of God, the Holy Spirit did a work on him and look what happened,” Smith said.

Joseph

came to the United States because his decision to follow Jesus meant

losing his life in Ramallah on the West Bank. As the son of a senior

Hamas leader, he has been unable to find work in America and depends on

the generosity of Barabbas Road members to get by.

“Just to stop

and think for a minute about announcing your Christianity; you feel

sick immediately because it’s crazy,” Joseph said. “You’re not just

saying goodbye to a religion, to a tradition. You are saying goodbye to

a culture, to a civilization, if you can call it that. Even the process

of taking your skin off your bones might be easier than saying goodbye

to your mother and to everybody, especially when you are a well-known

figure in your society and everybody has high expectations that one day

in the future you will be one of the leaders.

“Suddenly you are

starting from scratch and canceling everything you have in society,”

Joseph said. “But when it started, I was ready for any

circumstances. I thought about the worst conditions that could happen

as consequences after my announcement. But — and I tell you this is a

miracle, this is how God works — you carry the cross and rely on Him

completely and He takes care of everything.

“This may be the

first case that a well-known Muslim just goes to the public and says,

‘I am a Christian,'” Joseph said. “Many Muslim sheiks, many Muslim

imams may be converted to Christianity but they keep that a secret.

They didn’t announce it because it is very embarrassing for them and

for their families. They were afraid for their lives.

“But I

decided to declare Jesus in front of the world, so He declares me in

front of the Father,” Joseph said. “That was the main reason. I am

going to be just worshiping God in a very special way by doing this.

“When Jesus says ‘carry your cross and follow me,’ it wasn’t to put a cross on your shirt and keep walking the street.”

The

power that transformed his heart and gives him the courage to publicly

declare his faith in Jesus is the only hope for an end to the violence

that plagues the Middle East, Joseph said.

“I have met

politicians. I have met presidents and prime ministers. I have met all

the leaders of that region,” Joseph said. “None of them have a magical

solution for this issue. They are leading people but they don’t know

where they are going.

“Even if they have a way out of this

endless circle of violence between the two nations, none of them have

the courage to do it,” he added. “Both sides have many parties and

every party has its own agenda. There are no strong leaders in that

region who can make brave decisions.”

The real path to peace in

the Middle East, Joseph said, is the same path — the only path — a

human heart can follow to find deep, lasting peace.

“Jesus is

not going to give them a political solution, but He has changed me, and

He can change those people to a better people. He can teach them how to

forgive, how to love,” Joseph said. “Everybody on both sides is hurt —

not only Israelis, not only Palestinians. If we can teach them how to

forgive and move on and love their enemies, for the next two

generations, we can build a new leadership for both sides to be able to

live together.

“Now, as it is, there is no hope for them but Jesus. It’s that simple.”