“Pastor, can you help me?”
Those were the last words that Pastor Umar Melinde, a thirty-seven-year old former Muslim turned pastor/evangelist, heard before he felt the sting of acid striking his face. Then, another bucket on his back. He screamed and ran back towards the church for help as his assailants cried out, “Allah Akbar! Allah Akbar!”
I was able to sit down with Pastor Melinde in Tel Hashomer hospital recently. He is here in Israel recovering from this attack that was intended to take his life. It wasn’t the first time Muslims have tried to kill him. Since he converted from Islam he has been shot at, had stones thrown at him and once, a man came at him with a sword.
“I take the gospel to the Muslim community because I was born a Muslim. Most of the ministers in our congregation are ex-Muslims. Our issue is not hating Islam, but speaking the truth.”
Pastor Mulinde grew up in a staunch Muslim family. He was the 52nd child born to his father, who had several wives and served as the local Imam. He himself was a sheikh (Islamic teacher) before he found the truth, that salvation is found in Yeshua alone. When he came to faith, his family drove him away with clubs and machetes.
“Mulinde is known for debates locally and internationally in which he often challenges Muslims regarding their religion. His extensive knowledge and quotation of the Quran in his preaching has won him enemies and friends. Often criticizing Islam, he has relied on police protection during revival campaigns throughout Uganda.
“‘Mulinde poses a big threat to those who cannot take the challenge as he engages the Muslims in debate,’ said Dr. Joseph Serwadda, an area church leader.” (Compass New Direct)
HANGING OVER THE LAKE OF FIRE
Twenty years ago Umar heard a man preaching out of the Koran and the Bible. This man did not have a Muslim background, but an angle came to him every night and taught him the Koran in Arabic so he could defend the faith to Muslims. He told the people that Yeshua is more glorious than Mohamed. Umar was convicted by the message but he was afraid to change because of so much pressure in Muslim homes never to leave Islam. For many years he believed that Christianity was the truth, but fear kept him bound.
One night Umar had a dream where his hands and legs were tied with chains and he was hanging over the Lake of Fire. “The pain was from everywhere. And then, a man stood on my right hand outside the fire. He was shining—I could not see his face. He said, ‘Islam is leading you to this torture. Be born again and you shall survive.’” He recognized many of the people who were suffering from his mosque.
This same dream came to Umar a number of times. He had been taught in Islam when you have a bad dream, you are to pray a specific prayer against it. “I was running to Allah to help me avoid this bad dream.” However each time he went back to sleep, the dream returned. Allah could not help him.
The dream continued to return. “I heard a preacher saying I can pray in the name of Yeshua and something will happen. This time I did not pray the Muslim prayer against bad dreams. This time I knelt down and I said, ‘God if you are there and you are the one who wants me to be born again, I pray that this dream does not come back tonight.’ That night I slept like a baby.” Umar, despite his bandaged face, laughs out loud with joy and says, “The dream did not come back!”
The next morning just happened to be Easter Sunday. He went to the church that this man who preached to Muslims led, even though if he was discovered this would cause an outrage within his family. “I gave my life to Yeshua and was born-again.”
As he went forward people were shocked because they knew he was a Muslim sheik teacher). “As I left the church, I saw three friends. When they saw they me, they went and told the Imam and then they came to my house to beat me.” They confronted him next to a bar and as they were about to beat him, but a bunch of drunks came out of the bar and defended him saying, “It is his choice (to leave Islam).”
After this he was excommunicated from his family and had to go into hiding. They declared him dead. In fact, if he had entered his home after that they could legally kill him under Islamic law, because is was already dead. Fortunately the church took care of him and he was discipled.
Umar sought discipleship as he was hungry to grow in his new faith. He went to Bible school and was ordained for ministry. He began to serve an evangelist winning thousands to Messiah. They would hold mass campaigns and tens of thousands of people would come to stadiums to hear him preach the gospel. After much success in evangelistic work, he birthed a church in Kampala, the largest city in Uganda.
In his words, “After I converted, I got threats. Once I went into ministry, the threats increased, when I became a pastor, the threats increased [even more]!”
From the time that Pastor Umar became a follower of the Messiah, he faced heavy criticism. Islam does not allow for conversion and in some countries leaving Islam for Christianity is punishable by death. Just like the pastor in Iran who is facing the death sentence for leaving Islam, Umar was a marked man.
Many times the Muslims have tried to attack and kill Pastor Mulinde, but without success. When he ministers publicly he always needs police protection. However on this occasion, he was in a place where he felt completely safe—his own church.
On December 23rd they saw 300 people receive Yeshua. Pastor Umar felt they should throw a huge party for these 300 because, as he explained it to me, “The Bible says that when one confesses there is a celebration in heaven.”
On Christmas Eve he was at his church, Gospel Life International, helping with the preparations for the party. “I went to my car to drive home. It was late…about 10PM. As I was opening the door to my car, somebody pretended as if he wanted my help. ‘Pastor can you help me?’”
“My mind wanted to help the man, but my heart refused.”
He had a check in his spirit that something wasn’t right. He quickly opened his car door. At that point the man threw a bucket of acid on him, burning half his face. Had he turned toward the man to help him, the terrorist would have been able to throw the acid upon him directly, and the damage would have been far worse, possibly blinding or even killing him. He was driving a large four-wheel drive and thus the doors are higher than a normal sized vehicle. Because of this, when by sheer instinct, he was able to open the large door, his body was protected from much of the acid. “It could have finished me,” pastor Mulinde lamented, “I could have been worse than what I am.” However a second attacker threw acid on him as they both yelled praise to Allah.
Pastor Umar ran back towards the church screaming. Church members and a nearby neighbor rushed him to the hospital. After the attack he lay in a hospital bed in unbearable pain. Sleep was nearly impossible.
After several days it became clear he would need medical attention beyond the capabilities in Uganda. “The burn caused by the acid is so severe that there is an urgent need for specialized treatment,” said area Christian Musa Baluku Symutsangira. “I suggest that he be flown outside the country as soon as possible; otherwise Mulinde might lose both of his eyes, coupled with the spread of the burns. The burns seemed to spread and go very deep.” (Compass Direct News)
He wanted to come to Israel where he knew the medical care would be much better. However because there is no Israeli embassy in Uganda, he could not quickly get a visa. The other option was traveling to Nairobi, Kenya where there is an embassy—but that would take four days. His needs were too urgent.
Within a day he received a visa to India, which was the next best option. However he still felt he was supposed to go to Israel. In New Dehli, threw a series of miracles that our outlined the adjoining/connected??? article by Shira Sorko-Ram, he was able to quickly get a visa to Israel. “What you see here is that the Jews opened their hearts to help me—otherwise it could have been a lot worse.”
His condition in India was so bad that he could not talk or walk and his right eye was not functioning properly. “I had pain all over.”
Once in Israel they cleaned his wounds and gave him pain medication. They sought to save his eye, which had caused him much pain. As of this writing, it is not looking good. Sheba Hospital outside of Tel Aviv is giving him free medical treatment. I met him just a few days after he arrived and despite the attack, he was in great spirits.
Umar believes there are three reasons that the Muslims targeted him:
- Because he left Islam and became a believer in Yeshua.
- Because he preaches the good news of Yeshua to Muslims—with great success.
- Because he boldly challenges the people of Uganda to support Israel.
“I teach my congregation to support Israel. There is a lot biased information against Israel. For instance, if there is a rocket from Gaza to Israel, that is not news. An [Israeli] school is bombed—that is not news. But when Israel seeks to defend herself—that is very big news,” opines Pastor Mulinde. “It is as if somebody is sitting somewhere and approves the death of the Jews, but if the Jews want to do anything to defend themselves, everyone is against it. We are Christians and must tell the people the truth about Israel.”
“I once read in the news that Israel was a racist nation,” he continued. “It is not true! I came to Israel in 2008. You have to understand that because I was born into a Muslim family I hated Israel for no good reason. I could not tell you where Israel was on a map, but I hated them. So when I came here, our first taxi driver was an Arab. I saw that the workers in the hotel were Arabs. I saw that the Arabs were free in Tel Aviv and free in Jerusalem. This is different from I had been taught about Israel.”
Pastor Mulinde assumed that Israeli Arabs were battered and abused—like prisoners within the Jewish nation. He had no idea that we have Arabs serving in the Knesset (Parliament) as well as police officers and judges all over the country.
After this he began to study about God’s people—the Jews “and realized that Islam had lied to him, and that there was a plan for Israel in the Bible. This year he sponsored a conference with 5,000 pastors in the Kampala stadium, speaking about Israel. He also organized a petition in Uganda of 360,000, which successfully stopped the establishment of Islamic courts in Uganda. The Muslims issued a Fatwa (death sentence) against him.” (Revive Israel Email Update)
Pastor Mulinde obtained short films that showed all the good that Israel was doing in the world. He began to show them at his large campaigns to tens of thousands of Ugandans. Every Monday he meets with people at his church after work for three hours to pray for Israel and learn what the bible says about her. This infuriated the Muslims and clearly was connected to his attack.
When I met him I was taken aback. He looks like a mummy with his entire face bandaged and one eye surgically closed for its own protection. I was deeply impressed, however, by the boldness and authority in which he spoke to me. It was not what I expected. Thanks to Israeli doctors, they are anticipating that he will receive his full sight in that eye.
I asked him point blank if he plans to change or tone down his support for Israel or efforts to reach Muslims. “I cannot quit because of this. I will continue doing the work of the Lord. This was not the first attack—the other attacks were not successful.” He then quoted John 16:2, ‘The time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.’
Pastor Mulinde says that his attack has become a national issue in Uganda because it was a clear terrorist attack. He believes God will use this for His kingdom. “Whenever [the news] reports they say, ‘This is because he converted from Islam and he is preaching in support of Israel.’ Somebody will be touched by this.” The report of the attack is simply news, but that fact that he converted speaks volumes to other Muslims who are afraid to leave Islam. He reminds me of Paul who said that his chains “actually served to advance the gospel.”
I am looking forward to visiting Pastor Mulinde’s church in Kampala in the future and bringing the word of the Lord from Jerusalem to these ex-Muslim believers who love us so much. Please keep this family in your prayers.
How would you feel knowing that you physical appearance has been irreversibly marred for life? Your face is discolored, your eye is struggling to regain its site and your lips have been ripped open. Mulinde sees these scars as sign that he has given his life for the gospel. Shortly after the attack he told a reporter “I have bore the marks of Jesus.”
Just a few weeks ago we invited Pastor Umar and to come and share with our congregation. In the middle of his message he pulled of his hood revealing a terribly disfigured face and blinded eye. It was hard to watch. He said, “I was a beautiful African man and my face was disfigured. My right eye was blinded. Not because I am a thief—not because I am a criminal—but because of my love for Yeshua and because when I became a Christian I began to promote the support of Israel in my country.
His wife Evelyn, an accomplished gospel singer in Uganda, is with him here in Israel. They have six children in Uganda.