Abdul Messiah had completed his Bachelor of Dental Surgery and Master of Public Health, and was working at his second hospital at double his previous salary.
This day he went home early. At 7 p.m. the phone rang.
“Abdul!” the hospital director shouted his name. “These guys came in at 5 p.m. and said they would destroy the hospital if the son of K. K. Alavi continued to work here.”
India contains the world’s second-largest population of Muslims after Indonesia. More Muslims live in India than in all the Middle East. The hospital was located on India’s Malabar Coast in Kerala. The state is 60% Muslim; the Malabar Coast is 80% Muslim. They are descendants of the Arabs who settled there in the time of Mohammad. And Abdul’s father, K. K. Alavi, was the foremost proponent of Christianity among Muslims in that region.
Abdul knew his work at the hospital was done. What was God’s plan now? He realized he had been running from the call of God. Quietly, he yielded his life to serve Christ, whatever it took.
A painful beginning
K. K. Alavi was born into a Muslim family in 1948. His father was a Mullah (Muslim pastor) and highly respected for his integrity, piety, and strict observances of religious rites and ceremonies. Every evening K. K. would sit on his father’s lap and listen to his Qur’anic recitations and prayers.
When K. K. was in 7th grade, he picked up a well-known Gospel booklet, The Heart of Pak, on his way home from school. In the book, Pak began to see the difference between the impersonal, arbitrary dealings of Allah, and the personal, compassionate ways of Jesus. The story awakened in K. K. the yearning to know Jesus.
When his father found out, he tied K. K. to a pillar of the house and beat him with a stick until he couldn’t stand. “These books are haram (forbidden),” his father shouted. “Our community will reject us and it will bring a curse upon Islam.”
Reluctantly, K. K. tore up the booklet and burned it. But he could not forget Isa (the Arabic name of Jesus). He learned that Isa had a very important place in the Qur’an and the Hadhith (Muslim tradition). The Qur’an speaks of Jesus’ miraculous birth and his life of miracles. It says that the Tawrat (Old Testament) and Injil (New Testament) are “guidance and light” and calls Christians “people of the book.”
One day someone gave K. K. a New Testament. Afraid to bring it into the house, he put it in a plastic bag and hid it in the forest, where he could read it secretly. He was impressed with Jesus’ words, “You believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1).
When his father learned of it, he rubbed ground hot chili pepper on K. K.’s face and beat him nearly to death. His father threw him to the ground so hard it injured his back, and he has walked with a limp since that time. His schoolmates used to say, “There goes the cursed one.”
A third time his father beat him and bound him in chains for six weeks, until a cousin secretly set him free. Finally, at age 17 and realizing he had no future in his home, he told his mother he was going to take a bath in the pond, walked out the door, and never returned.
The mustard seed grew
He found work on shipping docks and construction projects. A Lutheran missionary helped him seal his relationship with Christ in 1970, followed with a Bible correspondence course. He served short stints with Every Home Crusade and Operation Mobilization, and went on to obtain a Bachelor of Theology from a Lutheran seminary and a Bachelor of Religious Education from Serampore University. In 1976 he married Jasmine, a 16-year-old girl of Muslim-background. Her father, once imam of the central mosque in Punjab, also had come to Christ.
He began pastoring a Lutheran church, but he longed to reach out to Muslims. In 1980, his overseer said he could go to the Muslim town of Manjeri. “If you can produce six Muslim-background believers in six months, I will let you stay there,” he said. After six months, K. K. had 22 families from Muslim background worshiping with him.
Thus began Markaz ul Bishara (Good News Center). K. K. received credentials in 1985 that allowed him to receive funds from abroad, and by 1997 it had 21 mission stations throughout Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra states manned by 120 missionaries. They started a literature and correspondence ministry that had more than 600,000 Muslims on their mailing list, while some 900 Muslim-background believers gathered in house churches. But a backlash soon followed.
Muslims planted moles within the organization, and people whom K. K. trusted ferreted out secret information, which they used to bring 13 false charges against him. Mullahs issued a fatwa against him, and K. K. escaped several assassination attempts only because the police learned of them and warned him. Finally, his main foreign support agency considered him the chief provocateur and ordered him to resign. Reluctantly, he moved to Calicut and started New Hope Mission Society, while he fought the lawsuits in court four years before clearing himself.
In his absence, his appointed successor nearly stripped the mission of its land and resources. Only because the land was in K. K.’s personal name they were not able to sell the property. All work came to a standstill. Finally, local believers begged K. K. to come back and take over the ministry again.
The events brought a drastic change to the ministry. Instead of a centralized administration, the ministry broke into a dozen smaller segments, each one responsible for its own ministry. So, comprehensive or comparative statistics cannot be provided, yet Abdul says they have 1,530,000 Muslim contacts. Estimates suggest the overall outreach is double what it was before—with a much lower public profile. K. K.’s work is still the fuel that keeps the engine running.
Abdul’s taking control of the administration and oversight of the ministry releases his father to do what he does best: reach and teach the Muslims who Jesus is. Good News Center has published 42 books, including two in English. The best years may be before them.
“Be still my soul:
thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways
leads to a joyful end.”
—Katharina von Shlegel / Tr. Jane L. Borthwick
K. K. Alavi’s book, End of a Search, gives not only his personal testimony but clear documentation of the high estimation of Jesus in the Qur’an. It makes clear the difference in character between Allah and Jesus. Over a million copies in various editions have been distributed in 32 languages worldwide.