By Charles Gardner (Assist news)
Ali Pektash was on a pilramage to the famous shrine in Mecca when something happened that changed the whole course of his life.
One of ten children in a family of Kurds, Ali was rejected by his mother, which opened a deep wound in his life. He was taken in by his uncle, who later threw him out. At 14 he ran away to work in the construction industry before returning home four years later at the invitation of his father.
The communists were gaining influence in his region, but when he started to work as a shepherd Ali couldn't understand how people could curse God, whose beautiful creation he witnessed in the fields every day.
He met and married Zehra, but was a weak-willed man who succumbed to heavy drinking - which began to destroy his life. He would start to shake if he didn't have a drink, and things got so bad that he was beating his wife every day and struggled to breathe after a few steps.
Friends persuaded him to find work in Saudi Arabia, where he could escape alcohol because it is forbidden. But in fact Ali discovered there is plenty of it available there.
Perhaps visiting Mecca was the answer, they suggested, so he agreed to join a group on the Hajj (pilgrimage).
He said: "I knew I belonged to God somehow - He was my friend - but when I circled the Ka'ba (the cube-like building at the centre of the Great Mosque) seven times (one of the rites of the pilgrimage), and watched everybody kissing this black stone, I walked the other way. I believed in a living God, not a rock."
When they retreated to their tents for the night Ali chose to sleep under the stars because it was so hot. That's when Jesus came to him in a dream: "He put His finger on my forehead and His hand on my heart. He was smiling at me and said: 'Get up and leave this place.'
"I didn't really understand, but I knew I was changed. I became very afraid, and remembered reading how too much alcohol could affect your brain. I thought maybe I was going crazy; that my end had come.
"I told my friends what had happened, but they laughed it off, saying I had eaten too much. And they asked: 'What does Jesus have to do with Mohammed?'"
Ali couldn't explain it, but he couldn't deny what had happened to him. When he told his friends he couldn't finish the Hajj, they got upset and angry, but he was determined to obey Jesus.
"I took a shower before I left and saw in a mirror that the black hair on my chest had the white imprint of hand on one side. I tried to rub it off, thinking it might be dust, but heard Jesus' voice say, 'You're going to see a lot more things than this.'
"So I got down on my knees and said: 'Lord, whatever you want from me, I will do.'
"He told me that I should go directly back home to Turkey, so I immediately left."
He rang his wife to say he was coming home with Jesus, which naturally puzzled her. When he arrived, she looked around to see where his companion was. "He's inside me," He explained.
In accordance with tradition for those who return from the Hajj, the neighbours all turned out for a welcome home party. At the party, Ali obeyed Jesus' instruction to stand up and tell everyone that he had become a Christian. Some got upset and left the room.
And although he knew he was now a Christian and passionately shared his story with others, it was six long years before Ali could obtain a Bible in his own language. "It was the most precious gift I received in my entire life. I read it all before I ate or slept again," he said. "I memorised whole portions; this book changed my life. I kept reading it over and over, understanding more as I did so."
Through trusting the truth of the Bible, God brought healing to Ali's life, cured his addictions to drink and cigarettes, and stopped him beating his wife - who has also become a Christian. A year later, he met a Christian pastor in Istanbul, studied there, and became a pastor himself in Ankara, the capital.•
Used with kind permission from www.assistnews.net