Mohammad Yamout barely escaped Beirut with his life, so why would he go back into the chaos of Lebanon embroiled in strife four years later and begin witnessing for Christ?
“There was a girl I was in love with. I could have gotten married to her and stayed in America. I could have taken these job offers,” Mohammad says on a Your Living Manna video. “But somehow I went back and when I went back in 1989 it was war in Lebanon.”
Mohammad’s dad was Palestinian involved in fighting Israel who took refuge in Lebanon and married Mohammad’s mother. When he disappeared, mom had to work two jobs to support the three kids, and Mohammad, lacking parental supervision, frequented the streets.
There was a nearby church that took in the local kids for Sunday school, and Mohammad, who was Muslim, attended for the entertainment and free food. At age 14, he was challenged to receive Jesus, but he waited until he got home in his bed to do it.
There on the plastic sheet he slept on, he asked Jesus into his heart at 3:00 a.m.
“Lord Jesus, please help me,” he prayed. “I am desperate. I’m helpless. I’m hopeless. I cannot take it anymore. I need you and with tears at that time and then within half an hour I slept, and I woke up in the morning excited. I took one of the many New Testaments from Sunday school and put it in my school bag and went to school and started telling people about my experience.”
He was thrilled that he had found the answers to his troubling questions, not where he expected in Islam, but in Christianity, and he boldly told everyone about Jesus. This turned more than a few heads.
“Everybody was wondering why this was happening?” he says. “I was on fire at that time and I couldn’t be quiet. I had to talk. I had to tell people what happened with me. I felt at rest, I felt at peace. All the answers came to the questions that made my life a dilemma and were traumatizing me because being raised without a father is traumatizing to you. God wanted to save me because God had a plan.”
His overly zealous evangelism earned the ire of his neighbors, who pressured his mother to do the Muslim thing: to kick him out. That was no problem for Mohammad. He began sleeping in the warehouse where he worked.
After extremists tried to kill him his pastor hid him for six months in his hometown. When he returned, he continued his bold witness for Christ. He joined an evangelical teacher in street evangelism in Beirut until the teacher got killed.
“You’re next,” his pastor warned him and made arrangements for him to travel to the United States with a student visa to get his undergraduate degree from Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina in 1986.
Mohammad graduated with an accounting degree in 1989 and was offered a job by Arthur Andersen to work in New York and another by Price Waterhouse in Cairo due to his fluency in Arabic. He was in love with a pretty girl too.
“But somehow the Lord did not let me take these jobs and did not let me stay in the U.S. I felt that I needed to go back.”
Lebanon was in the throes of armed conflict, and Mohammad’s old church was almost non-existent. The pastor had fled, as had most of the members. Only four older women still met together.
Undaunted, Mohammad began ministering in the streets and visiting the brethren of the church, encouraging them to regroup and the Lord brought the increase to 100 members in 1991 when the pastor returned and took charge. Out of the church, Mohammad married a Christian convert, one to whom he witnessed incessantly at Beirut’s American University.
But now that pastor had returned and took charge of the church, Mohammad felt the desire to prove himself in business. Today, he recognizes that this is the part of his history where he veered slightly off course because God was calling him to full time ministry.
“There was ambition and I wanted to pursue that dream, and I was trying to convince God of that dream,” he acknowledges. “Since the day he saved me, he called me into the ministry. I knew that he gave me the talent, he gave me the burden. He gave me the vision to reaching out to people, but I refused to answer God’s call. I wanted to do it my way.”
At age 25, he quickly accumulated half a million dollars in assets, including a factory and several stores. He bankrolled the church and helped needy people, but he felt he wasn’t at the center of God’s will for his life.
Then in 1995, “God got out the big stick,” Mohammad says.
From $500,000 he plummeted down to nothing. Faced with debts and lawsuits, he went bankrupt and to prison for six months.
“I came out and instead of answering God’s call and repenting and saying, ‘Lord, what I want to do is what you want me to do,’ I went back to business. I was hard-headed as an ox.”
One day he was jogging on the beach and God transported him back to his day of salvation. “It just clicked again, the same feelings, the same situation, when I got saved, I felt how stupid I was for neglecting God’s call, how foolish I was to relinquish serving the Lord for the world and for the profit.”
Returning from jogging, he told his wife to liquidate their wares.
“Did you flip? Are you crazy? We have five children,” she asked incredulously. How we’re gonna raise our children? How we’re gonna live? We have no income.”
“The Lord will provide,” he responded.
Mohammad returned to his first love of ministering in the streets.
They outreached in Tripoli, Beirut, and Byblos. When they got to Tyre, something special happened.
Mohammad fell in love with Tyre, which he calls the ‘devil’s den’ because of the danger of preaching in an environment of 95% Muslim.
“I fell in love with the place,” Mohammad says. “Jesus was here two thousand years ago. Paul, the Apostle, was in it. This is the land of the gospel in Upper Galilee. This is where Jesus was going around and telling people about the Good News.
“And there is no lighthouse, it’s spiritually dead, 95% Muslims or more,” he says, moved.
“I found the Lord telling me, ‘Go, reclaim the land from total darkness,’” Mohammad says. “The devil through Islam has controlled the whole area and we’re there to shine for Jesus and to release people from this bondage.”
Preaching Christ in “the Devil’s Den” was dangerous. Surveying Christianity’s missionary efforts for the last half decade, Mohammad concluded that the current crop of servants have come up short, preferring safety over evangelism. They are unwilling to risk their lives.
“Islam is violent. It promotes violence on different levels. But I do think that we have a weapon that is much greater than violence and can overcome violence, and that is love,” Mohammad says.” Who said that preaching the gospel is without a cost. Jesus said, ‘In the world, you shall have tribulation but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.’
“When my wife and I went down to Tyre, we counted the cost. She knew that we could die,” he says.” We both knew that our children could be in jeopardy, but we also knew that the God who called us and the God who sent us will take care of us.”
Mohammad didn’t hold back. Once he declared on national television the superiority of Christianity over Islam, and the authorities threw him in jail.
“I don’t want to compromise my stand. I don’t want to compromise the gospel to avoid persecution,” Mohammad says. “Many people, under the pretext of ‘wisdom,’ say, ‘You know you have to be wise.’ I don’t know how wise you can be. I don’t think we can be wiser than Jesus Christ. He came and he had to be persecuted and he had to die. There was no other way for the gospel to spread. We have to die for the Muslim people to know Christ. If we’re not ready to pay that cost, I don’t think anything’s gonna happen. By the blood of martyrs, Christianity has spread.”
So there he is in Tyre, showing love in a practical way to Muslims who have precious few reference points of authentic Christianity.
“I say to the churches in America: Stop being complacent and rise up to the challenge that God has placed in front of you today. Today, it’s open doors, Revelation chapter 3:8: ‘Behold I have set before you an open door which no man will shut.’ These people they need us. They need us to love them and love is intentional.
“The Muslim world is in despair; brothers are killing each other. Young people are helpless and hopeless, they are looking for an alternative. The alternative is not there because we are afraid. We need to go. We need to start invading the Middle East with love, not with cruise missiles.”
By Michael Ashcraft