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They come to him from all over Egypt, seeking baptism.

Krystafer, an Orthodox Church leader, longed to reach Muslims for Christ even before he became a priest in 2006. He prayed that he would be like Paul, reaching the nations.

“I was praying for Muslims in Egypt, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria,” he said. “I didn’t choose this ministry because I hate Islam. I love Muslims; I want them to know Jesus, especially those in Egypt.”

Egyptian Orthodox (Coptic) Christians trace their lineage to the first-century ministry of Mark, well predating the founding of Islam. Composing roughly 10% of Egypt’s population today, Copts face intense discrimination from majority Muslims. Coptic Christian girls are routinely kidnapped, then forced to marry a Muslim and convert to Islam. Occasionally, Islamists attack churches or kill groups of Christians.

In this oppressive environment, most Copts keep to their own communities. Few share the Gospel with Muslims, and fewer still are willing to baptise them when they seek it out of obedience to following Christ. Yet such baptisms are taking place. “What brings joy to my heart is when I baptise a former Muslim and he is excited to be able to bring his family or friends to be baptised,” Krystafer said.

MUSLIMS NEED JESUS

Baptising former Muslims is not something most Coptic priests do, but Krystafer sees his work as fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission. This has resulted in pressure and threats from the national security police and Muslim extremists.

Krystafer is not deterred, however, and continues to baptise any new believer who asks. Other Christian leaders across Egypt who have led Muslims to Christ but are afraid to baptise them know where to send them. “Krystafer is in a small circle of those willing to baptise Muslim converts to Christianity,” a VOM worker said. “After baptism [by Krystafer], they go back to another group of people who will take care of them spiritually.”

Once when a fanatical Muslim came looking for Krystafer, other church leaders protected him by directing them elsewhere. “They are not able to do what I am doing,” Krystafer explained, “but they are very happy to let me be full-time for this ministry because they believe in the ministry, though they are afraid to do it.”

About 15 other believers work with Krystafer to reach Muslims for Christ. “We are serving those who want to know more about [Jesus], and those who already know about Him and want to come and be discipled and baptised,” Krystafer said.

“This is the main task and role for the church.”

It isn’t an easy task. Spies from the national security office monitor everything said during church services. Blasphemy against Islam, the Prophet Mohammed or the Koran is punishable by up to five years in prison. Government-provided security guards watch who enters the churches, often checking their IDs, which identify each individual’s religion at birth. The police are also watching and sometimes raiding church services in hope of catching any Muslims who attend so they can punish both the Muslims and church leaders.

A FANATICAL CHRISTIAN

Krystafer is frequently summoned to the national security police headquarters, where a top official once told him that he could not promise the priest protection from fanatics. “I don’t listen,” Krystafer said. “I don’t get afraid.”

Believers who come to him for baptism also face consequences. After Krystafer baptised a young mother and her two children recently, police spent five hours trying to persuade the woman to return to Islam, and they also tried to get her to incriminate Krystafer.

“Krystafer is a very fanatical Christian,” they told her. “I’m sure he insulted Islam when he was talking to you, and that is what made you decide to become a Christian.” To the authorities’ surprise, however, she told them that she had asked Krystafer to baptise her. The woman is now required to attend five hours of Islamic instruction from an imam each week. Recently, a policeman told her that if she does not renounce her Christian faith, her children will be given to her ex-husband and she will never see them again.

Krystafer and his family spent the last three months of 2020 in hiding, after learning that Muslim extremists were looking for him. He said it was difficult for his wife and two teenage children but that his wife also has a heart to reach Muslims. As for his teenagers, “They got bored,” he said. “But in the end, they are convinced that this is what the Lord wants us to do.”

Krystafer approaches his ministry work with care, but not fear. “Jesus has given me this ministry,” he said.

“He gives me the courage. He gives me the peace to do it. He gives me the capability to do it. When He gives us a ministry in our life, we are responsible for what it costs us.”

As he continues to baptise about a dozen new believers each month, Krystafer asks for prayer that he will remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit, he knows, gives discernment and prepares the hearts of those seeking obedience to Christ through baptism. No matter how many come to him, Krystafer is ready to make disciples, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.