The stories begin

*Mari grew up in a Muslim family, but her father allowed her to attend a Christian school simply because it was the closest school to their home. She was told not participate in any activities other than class work. But Mari loved the Christian songs she heard her classmates singing. A teacher gave Mari a small Bible, and she secretly began to read it. One day, she committed her life to Christ. She didn’t tell her family out of fear of punishment. When Mari was not even 20 years old, she was forced to marry a Muslim man, and became his second wife. A few months into their marriage, Mari ran away.

In another country, *Haslan was raising her small children to be Muslim. Yet for quite some time, she had a reoccurring dream she could not understand. One evening, Haslan’s village was attacked, and she fled with other families. She was injured in the escape and needed medical care. Shortly after arriving in a refugee camp, Haslan gave birth to her youngest son. She continued to have the same dream.

In a large city, Sheerai grew up the oldest of six children in a strict Muslim family. She dreamed of being a musician, but her father forbid such an aspiration. She learned business skills by helping her Mom run a store in the bustling shopping district. In time, Sheerai started her own business and became a mom herself. Out of curiosity, she attended a Christian worship service one evening and heard the gospel. She surrendered her life to Christ and began looking for someone to teach her the Bible.

Mari, Haslan and Sheerai are three women who grew up in three different African nations. Mari and Sheerai came to Clarkston as immigrants, and Haslan came as a refugee. Their lives and stories collided in the baptismal waters of a local church in Clarkston.

Baptism and the importance of sharing

When Mari arrived in Clarkston a year ago, she was a new wife and mother of a young daughter. One Saturday evening in her apartment, she felt the urge to look up local churches online. The next morning, she attended a church and immediately shared with those who greeted her that she was a Christian but had never been baptized. She was ready if the church was. Two women met with Mari to hear her story and they talked through baptism with her. A few weeks later, Mari was baptized.

Haslan came to Clarkston two years ago with her young children and an injured leg. She continued to practice her Muslim faith but also continued to have that strange dream. Christians befriended her. They invited her to their worship service, and Haslan began to hear the truth of the gospel. Haslan asked to meet with the pastors one day and they answered her questions about the Bible. She surrendered to Christ in the living room of her apartment. When the pastors explained that she would probably wear a white robe for the baptism, she finally understood her dream. In her reoccurring dream, she was always wearing a white robe. Now she knew why.

Sheerai traveled between her African home and the United States working through the process of obtaining citizenship. She was eager to secure a new life for herself and for her daughter. Two months later, she was in Clarkston. As a new believer, Sheerai wanted to be baptized and learn from Christians who could teach her the Bible. She went to a church service and slipped into the back of the room as the sermon was concluding. The pastor announced baptisms would take place the following week. As people started to leave, Sheerai headed straight for the pastor. She was ready to be baptized. Women from the church met with Sheerai to answer her questions. With a smile on her face the following Sunday, Sheerai stepped into the waters in front of the church and professed her faith in Christ.

*Names changed.

  • Laura

    As a resident of Clarkston, this page is sad to the point of tragic to me. We have people from over 40 countries speaking more than 60 languages in a town of just over one square mile. Rather than offering respect and dignity to the cultures and peoples of our little town, these stories celebrate the refugees leaving their faiths of origin as being your success. We are a small tight knit town that tries to respect everyone. We have citywide celebrations of Christmas, Ramadan, Diwali and others. Your organization is about to tear down 120 year-old houses (some of our oldest and largest) to use us as a repository of “equipment and emergency supplies.” This is really showing itself to be an undesirable neighbor and putting a seriously unfortunate light on your faith.

  • warren hadlock

    For years the refugee resettlement agencies around Clarkston have sought to warn newly arrived refugees about proselytizing Christian groups. The coming presence of your organization in our town makes that task more important than ever. As a Christian who does not believe in the conversion craze, my job is now to confront such efforts right at your doorstep. I will be there for our new arrivals wherever you attempt to bring them into your net.