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From Jihad to Jesus

In the horror of 9/11, Charles H. Featherstone turned from Islam to Christianity. In an issue of Christianity Today he shared his story:

Although both of his parents were raised as Lutherans, his mother never had much use for religion, and his father lost his faith in God in the jungles of South Vietnam. When his father left the army, the family settled down in Southern California where Charles attended school. He writes:

I had been on the receiving end of my father’s intense but sporadic violence for years. I learned to both fear and hate him. School quickly became unsafe as well: I was bullied, terrorized, and abused regularly. There was no one to trust. I was frightened, incredibly alone, and increasingly angry. Would anyone ever love and value me?

Searching for something to do with his life he began studying journalism at San Francisco State University. Charles said: “That’s where I found Islam. A friend introduced me to the Qur’an, and I was entranced by its words. The Muslims who first taught me welcomed me as no one else had before.”

But Islam also provided religious and political fuel for his anger. At one mosque he fell in with a group of jihadis. They discussed the texts of revolutionary Islam. One brother went to fight in Bosnia, and Charles wanted to join him. But there was Jennifer, whom he’d met at San Francisco State. There would be no one to care for her. He said, “I belonged to her, and she to me. This was a turning point. The anger that had burned in my soul was beginning to burn itself out.”

He started a journalistic career which eventually took him to offices in Lower Manhattan, right across from the World Trade Center. He was there on the morning of September, 11, 2001.

In the chaos and terror of the streets below, as I looked up at the burning twin towers and watched people tumble to their deaths, life-changing words came to me—words I suddenly heard inside my head: “My love is all that matters, and this is who I am.” I knew then that everything I understood about God, about sin and redemption, about the whole human condition, had changed. What happened was the kind of divine intervention that drove Abraham to leave home, trusting in God’s promises. The kind of force that struck Saul blind on the road to Damascus.

Charles and Jennifer began attending a church in Virginia.

The people showed me that it was the risen Jesus Christ who had spoken to me. They taught me the gospel, proclaiming the forgiveness of sins for the entire world. This is who I had met that horrible day in September. It was Jesus Christ who, in the midst of terror and death, assured me that his love is all that matters.

I belong to Jesus. He saw me and told me to follow. I left everything and obeyed. So, I trust God. For the first time in my life, I know who I am. I know whose I am. And that is all that matters.

Editor’s Note: Charles H. Featherstone is the author of The Love That Matters: Meeting Jesus in the Midst of Terror and Death .

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