No one can say Tony Weedor doesn’t understand.
Not those who have faced violence and civil war. Not refugees driven by gunpoint from their homes who struggled to survive in refugee camps. Not those betrayed by neighbors simply because they belonged to the “wrong tribe.” Above all, those who forfeit everything to follow Jesus.
It’s part of his history as a former Muslim and refugee who fled for his life.
Looking back, Weedor, 49, believes God uses every hard happening to reach those who wonder about Jesus.
He recently joined the Missions Ministry team at Southeast Christian Church.
Two things convinced Weedor to leave a thriving ministry in Virginia: The 7,000 to 10,000 Muslims in Louisville and the chance to multiply ministry to Muslims by teaching mission partners around the world, pastors, teachers and believers how to reach their neighbors, friends and people they meet in the community.
His goal is to reach the few for the many, to teach those who will teach and disciple others.
“God is working among 1.6 billion Muslims,” Weedor said. “There is an underground church in every country. Many are asking, ‘Who is Jesus?’ I look at my life like a funnel. This is the time to pour out all the knowledge and understanding I’ve learned since growing up in a Muslim family, coming to know Jesus, studying the Bible, earning degrees, lecturing and writing.”
Louisville is home to 12 Islamic centers and two Islamic schools. Many Louisville Muslims are refugees from Bosnia, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Cultures vary. Beliefs are much the same.
Weedor believes the love of Jesus changes the conversation.
“We know that Muslims are waiting for the second coming of Jesus,” he said. “There is fear of the unknown. Muslims pray five times a day hoping to please God. The question is always, ‘What I can do for God to accept me?’ They hope to get to heaven by doing all these things.”
Looking back, Weedor believes God is using every piece of his story for others who have suffered and fear the future.
Weedor was training to be an imam in his hometown in Liberia when he began reading the Bible. Nothing about Muhammad inspired him to follow Islam. Everything about Jesus drew him to become a Christian no matter the cost.
Weedor’s family turned their backs on him. Though he hoped and prayed for reconciliation, his mother never saw her grandchildren.
Weedor’s wife, Beth, also left the Muslim faith of her family to follow Jesus.
The Weedors worked for Sudan Interior Mission until civil war rocked Liberia in 1989. They saw Christians turn on one another, and others returned to voodoo and drank human blood. Neighbors killed neighbors they had known for years. Men, women and children were slaughtered simply because they were from the wrong tribe.
When teen soldiers armed with AK-47s told the Weedors to leave their home on the mission compound, they grabbed a Bible, some clothes and study materials and fled. They were trying to get to safety when rebels ordered Tony to march down a trail to an open field where they began to slaughter prisoners. He dropped down into some mud, played dead all night and made his way back to Beth the next day.
Time and time again, the Weedors risked their lives to hide others.
They walked for a year over rough terrain to reach the Ivory Coast. A refugee camp became their home for the next three years. Weedor led a congregation of weary, discouraged refugees who wondered if God had forgotten them.
After a missionary visited the camp and heard Weedor preach, he helped arrange for the Weedors to move to the United States so Tony could attend Denver Seminary. He earned a master of divinity degree and began teaching Islamic history at the seminary.
For the next 26 years, the Weedors earned Bible degrees, served in Ethiopia, worked with Somalis in Kenya, joined the leadership team at Sudan Interior Mission and prepared missionaries to serve in Africa.
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Weedor was often invited to talk about Islam and the war on terror.
“Islamic terrorists exported fear from one culture to another,” Weedor said. “It was almost everywhere you looked after Sept. 11.”
His goal has always been to get people excited about missions, to share the love of Jesus and not to be content with a comfortable life in church.
He hopes to do the same at Southeast.
“Islam is the problem,” Weedor said. “The church is the solution.”
In 2004, Tony returned to Liberia hoping to reconcile with his mother, which became the genesis for his memoir “The Reason For Tears.” It is available in The Living Word bookstore or at www.amazon.com.