Teenager Eli’s life was a mess — stumbling from bad decision to bad decision, with no direction and little clear motivation.
Sure, he was coming to the church youth group in the Middle Eastern city where he lived, but he wasn’t engaging with the gospel.
His life was spent going to illicit parties where alcohol was often available, trying to find new girlfriends and, perhaps hardest of all, keeping all this a secret from his parents and wider family.
But that was when he met John, a young Serving In Mission worker who came to the church to lead the youth group and had been through similar experiences to Eli.
John explained: “I first met Eli when he was 15. He was one of the regulars at the youth group but he had lot of issues in his personal life that needed sorting out.
“He had this second life that his parents and family had no idea about and, because of his culture, he couldn’t ask anyone for help.
“As I prayerfully entered into a friendship with Eli, I felt again and again a strong prompting to talk about specific issues I had faced in the past - sharing some of those hurts and pains.
“Over the course of a few months, Eli opened up more and more to me about things that were eating him up inside and we were able to bring them to God together.”
Slowly, Eli and John built up a close friendship. As they talked more, Eli realised he couldn’t carry on living as he had been. He knew he had to give his life to Christ.
John said: “I was talking to Eli one evening at my kitchen table and just said: ‘You know you can’t go on like this, right?’. He looked up at me and said: ‘I know, but I’m not sure how to change.’
“I told him: ‘Well, the first step to changing is confessing your sin to God, and asking Jesus to change you from the inside. Once you have the Holy Spirit in you, it will all make more sense. God makes it clear that we can’t stop sinning by ourselves, but it’s his Spirit in us that gives us the strength.’ Eli looked at me and said: ‘I’d really like that.’
“So together we prayed a prayer of repentance, asking God to strip away the old Eli and replace it with a new one.
“As we finished, and with both of us in tears, Eli and I looked at each other and embraced as brothers.”
Since that night many things have changed for Eli. He has moved on from the patterns of life and sin he used to be caught up in.
He now helps John at the youth group and is growing in leading worship and music. He is more diligent in prayer and in reading the Bible. His life has truly turned around.
John said: “His relationship with Jesus is obvious to everyone and he has matured in the way he acts, speaks and thinks.
“He is even considering moving into ministry full-time.
“God truly does use people to bring about his will, and it’s an unspeakably beautiful process to be a part of.”
If you’d like to be part of what God is doing in the Middle East then please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and advice.
For Eli to continue his walk with God and grow in his knowledge of, and love for, the Lord Jesus.
For John as he disciples Eli, that he will lead by example and keep walking with Jesus and that by doing so, more people will come to know the one true Lord.
For Christians in the Middle East, that they can be distinctive in their lifestyles and so prompt others to want to know more about the hope they have.