We’re republishing this as part of our 25th anniversary series featuring favorite stories from our archives. This story by Victor Morris about a bold movement in Algeria appeared in ANM’s magazine in 2010. Enjoy!
Youssef Ourahmane is an indigenous missionary leader in the Muslim-dominated land of Algeria. That simple sentence may not at first impress you—but it should.
When writing about Christian leaders in Muslim countries, we usually can give few details without putting them at risk. This is not the case with Youssef and the church in Algeria. The reason for this is a fascinating story.
In 2006 the government of Algeria passed a law prohibiting the promotion of any religion other than Islam. Article 11 of this statute specifically states that if anyone “shakes the faith” of a Muslim he would be liable to a prison term. This could be something as overt as Christian evangelism, or as subtle as helping a sick Muslim friend.
If the actions of a Christian cause a Muslim to question his beliefs in any way, then the Christian has committed the crime of “shaking” the Muslim’s faith. This could place a Christian leader in prison for from one to five years—and face a fine of $12,000 to $13,000.
In 2008 Youssef himself was facing such charges. At the same time, many Algerian churches were under intense pressure from the government. Twenty-six churches were ordered to close. How did the Christian believers respond?
They emphatically declared, “We will not close. We will continue to worship and do the work God has called us to do.”
One Christian leader boldly told a government official: “If you are thinking of putting us in prison, you had better enlarge your prisons—because what you have today will not be enough for us.”
The tiny body of Christ in Algeria, numbering around 100,000, stood its ground, and no churches closed.
Actually, Youssef says that he is thankful for Article 11. It allows him and other Algerian Christians to witness to authorities when they are questioned for possible violations of this law.
Not only that, but in the aftermath of persecution of the past few years Youssef has witnessed an amazing phenomenon—God has delivered the Algerian church from a spirit of fear. Youssef is now a man without fear, and the Algerian Christians are a people without fear. As Youssef says, “When you overcome fear, the enemy does not have much to frighten or threaten you with!”
That is why we can openly and boldly tell you the story of Youssef.
Youssef Ourahmane is a native Algerian raised in a conservative Muslim family. He first encountered the Gospel while traveling in Europe in 1977. In 1980 he was again challenged with the truth of the Christian message on another European trip. A group who focused on reaching foreign students led Youssef to the Lord.
A short time after this he became involved in Christian ministry. During this time of ministry and training for service he met his future wife, Hee Tee, an ethnic Chinese from Malaysia.
God blessed the ministry of the Ourahmane family from the beginning. Through the persecution and struggles of the past few years they have witnessed the church exploding across the land. It is now the norm for an average-size church to baptize 50–60 new converts a year. And many other congregations are seeing 100, 120, or even 150 baptisms each year. The largest local church in the country has over 1000 believers. The senior pastor reports that in the past two years they baptized about 370 new believers.
Youssef and Hee Tee minister through TV and radio, literature printing and distribution, sports ministry, and relief projects. Through Youssef’s Timothy Training School he trains workers for the Algerian churches.
Yet Youssef’s message is quite simple. It’s simply Jesus, as He alone can save. Youssef emphasizes very strongly that his ministry is not about attacking Islam, nor even defending Christianity; it’s simply presenting Jesus.
With a smile he told ANM staff about how often he has been “invited” to visit the local police station. He has “visited” there often enough to get to know some of the local police officials.
One official recently said to him, “Tell me. Why did you become a Christian?” Youssef grins as he says, “Ah, I love that question!”
He then recounts how he spent 45 minutes telling this policeman about who Jesus is. He says to the man, “Show me someone who is better than Jesus—before or after!”
“There is no one,” the policeman answers.
Suddenly the light turns on. “Mohammed came after—yet I cannot say he was better than Jesus.”
The man is silently perplexed. Youssef presses the issue. “If you cannot tell me of someone who is better than Jesus—then why not give your life to Jesus today?”
Youssef chuckles as he remembers the man’s reply: “Well, not today. Maybe the next time you come to visit.”
Accompanying the Youssef’s simple presentation of Jesus and His love is a powerful move of the Spirit of God. Indeed, we may justly compare the present experience of the church in Algeria with the early church in the book of Acts. The truth of the Gospel is being confirmed with signs, miracles, and wonders.
Miraculous times for missions in Algeria
Listen to one such story in Youssef’s own words:
“There was a man in Algerian who had never, ever heard about Jesus. He had never watched any Christian programs. Never met any Christians—absolutely nothing! His wife became sick. And he tried everything he could—doctors, specialists—and nothing worked.
In the end he tried sorcery to help his wife get better. Still nothing helped.
“One night this man had a dream. And in this dream he didn’t know who spoke to him—but afterwards, of course, he realized who spoke to him. Jesus said to him in this dream, ‘You have tried everything you can, but nothing has helped. I will give you a phone number, and this person can help you, and help your wife.’
“The Lord Jesus revealed the cell phone number of one our team leaders to this Muslim man in that dream. And Jesus said to him, ‘This is the man who can help.’
“When the man woke up in the morning, he was shocked; he was amazed! He called the number and told our friend about the dream. And he asked him, ‘Can you help me? Can you help my wife?’
“Our friend said to him, ‘I cannot help you. But the One who helped me, He can help you!’ And he shared with him about Jesus. Hallelujah! Can you believe it? God is working.”
Youssef’s vision is to reach all of Algeria with the simple message of Jesus Christ and His love. With a multitude of testimonies as to the miraculous power of God at work, and a boldness of witness that comes with being delivered from all fear, it is easy to believe that Youssef will see his vision fulfilled.
Twenty-five years after we started partnering with native ministries like this one to reach the unreached, the work continues, and we are closer than ever to seeing the Gospel proclaimed and lived out among every people group in the world. Thank you for your partnership in the Gospel!
There’s more to be done, and just $25 a month can equip another missionary.