Hearts and Minds: Abdu Murray
Posted by Abdu Murray, on July 13, 2017
Topic: News Magazine
I love bookends. When I was graduated from law school, my wife, Nicole—who I was just dating at the time—gave me a set of marble bookends with justice scales on them. There’s something about the way they seem to stand sentry over the knowledge and inspiration in my ever-growing collection of books. Maybe that’s why I use figurative bookends through parallelism in my writing and speaking. I try to end with the point or illustration with which I began.
What I love even more, however, are the divinely placed bookends that poetically parallel life. Earlier this year, I witnessed God supporting the ministry with just such divinely placed bookends.
In February, Ravi and I had the privilege of speaking at two major universities, the University of Michigan (U-M) and Michigan State University (MSU), on consecutive nights. At U-M, 3,500 students filled every seat at Hill Auditorium. The next day an even larger crowd of 9,500 filled much of MSU’s Breslin arena. At both events, non-Christians came in droves and asked nearly every question at the microphone during Q&A.
We’ve done many university forums, but these were particularly emotional for me. You see, U-M is my alma mater. During my school years, I had been to U-M’s Hill Auditorium many, many times as a spectator. But on that night last February, God placed me on Hill’s stage, presenting the gospel to an audience of students where I was once a student.
And the parallel bookends continue: I first met Ravi in person at the University of Michigan in 2003, just a few years after I was graduated from the law school. Ravi’s speaking and writing ministry figured prominently in my conversion to Christ from my background as a Muslim. That night in 2003, I lined up at the microphone with the other students to ask Ravi a question that, despite my conversion, was still gnawing at me. I urged non-Christians to get ahead of me in line so that Ravi could minister to them directly. Because I wanted skeptics to have priority, I was moving farther and farther back in the line. When I was but one person away from the microphone, the Q&A ended and I didn’t get a chance to ask my question.
Or so I thought. As the event closed, I strode up to Ravi to ask my question. He first asked me where I was from. “Lebanon,” I said. “I’ve been to that beautiful country many times,” Ravi began, and then asked me if I knew of various Lebanese ministers there. After connecting with me personally, Ravi answered my question thoughtfully and thoroughly.
Afterwards, Nicole, a friend, and I went to a coffee shop in Ann Arbor before heading back. There was a tremor in my spirit. Up to that point, I was only considering part-time ministry as I pursued making partner at a major law firm. That night, however, a call to more pervasive ministry grew louder. “If I ever have a chance to speak and answer questions at a university,” I told them, “I want to do it with the same heart Ravi had tonight.”
Fourteen years after that first encounter at U-M, I found myself at the very same university standing on stage next to Ravi, presenting the gospel and answering questions. I get nervous before every speaking engagement no matter how big. Then the nerves die down the very moment I’m introduced. But not that night. The butterflies seemed to have drunk a healthy amount of coffee because they stayed with me all night. As I reflected on that night, I understood why. God had just bookended my life in a significant way. The call to greater ministry for me was first inked in my heart fourteen years ago at the University of Michigan. That night, the poem of that call was fully written. My soul’s natural response to such a moment was to tingle at the parallels. What I thought were nerves was actually awe.
The awe continued into the next night at MSU—my wife Nicole’s alma mater! In fact, Nicole used to work at the Breslin Center where Ravi and I were speaking. Bookends inside of bookends. God’s poetry is indeed amazing.
Just a week later, Ravi and I were at Indiana University before thousands. We encountered so many that night who were considering Christ afresh.
The Lord blessed these events, empowering Ravi and me to answer the tough questions in a way that touched minds and hearts. One skeptic thanked us for thoughtful presentations. The president of the Secular Student Alliance told us that he’d brought the entire SSA group. At MSU, I stayed at the venue answering questions until they forced us to leave. And since those two nights, I’ve had follow up calls and meetings with students and even faculty whose minds and hearts were touched. Some have come to faith. Some are sincerely considering Christianity for the first time. Some were convicted to impact the world with the gospel.
Something similar happened those fourteen years ago when God placed that first bookend in my life at U-M. A second bookend was placed in my life in February. And like you, I have an entire shelf for God to place more bookends. May we all recognize them and stand back in awe.