My Friend Abdul

  • Randy Karlberg

There are many stories that do not need to be told.  But in this life, each of us knows stories that really do need to be told.  I am convinced that the life of my friend Abdul really should be told.  Please enjoy the life of a man who had a huge impact on the people who knew him. 

I first met Abdul when he came to our church one Sunday morning.  As a matter of fact, our Pastor brought him to our church.  This was a bold, new step for Abdul.  And this was the coming clear for a man who was desperately seeking God.  Our pastor had met Abdul at a service he preached at the Anchorage Gospel Rescue Mission in Alaska.  When our pastor would preach, he would give an invitation for people to accept Jesus as their Savior.  He also would give an invitation for them to come to his church on Sunday.  He accompanied that invitation with an offer to come pick them up wherever they were and give them a ride to church.  It also was our pastor’s practice to take them out for lunch after the service.  

When Abdul came to church that Sunday morning, I was a little taken aback by him.  He had a very raspy voice, he walked with a significant limp and had a huge dent on the side of his head by his temple.  Abdul was very friendly and was not afraid to ask any question, and I pretty much mean Any Question.  This could have made it very uncomfortable to be with Abdul, but that is the exact opposite of people’s reaction to Abdul.  He was very endearing and made others he met feel very special.  

Through the 30+ years that I had the privilege of calling Abdul my friend I learned of this man’s incredible life.  Abdul was not his name given at birth.  His birth name was Al.  Al was born in Mississippi in the late 1940’s.  He lived a very eventful life.  One of the stories Al told me was when he was a young teenager, he and his buddies were hopping onboard moving trains to hitch a ride.  On one of these occasions his feet slipped as he was jumping on to the train.  He fell to the ground with one of his legs still on the train tracks and the locomotive ran over his leg severing it.  He had a prosthetic leg from that time on, hence the significant limp he possessed.  

Al also shared a bit about his family.  His older brother was one of the leaders of the Black Panther Party in Chicago in the late 1960’s.  One night in 1969 law enforcement broke into his apartment and opened fire killing Al’s brother and another man.  Years later, along with a civil lawsuit, these were shown to be unjustified killings.  This kind of racism and violence is the upbringing that Al grew up in.  He ended up becoming a Muslim and had his named changed.  

After Al had moved to Alaska, one day he was ambushed and someone hit him from behind in the side of his head with a crowbar.  Al was in the hospital unconscious for many months.  The resulting dent in his head remained with him for the rest of his life.  He shared that even though he was in an unconscious state he was aware of those people who came and spent time with him in his hospital room.  He does not remember any of his Muslim bothers coming and spending time with him in the hospital.  He very much remembered one woman who came several times per week and read to him from the Bible.  He remembered this so well that when he regained consciousness, he decided he needed to go a learn more about this God of the Bible.

He remained friends with the woman who read to him for the rest of his life.  And he ended up coming to a service at the Anchorage Gospel Rescue Mission and heard the Gospel message along with an invitation to come to church and hear more.  

Once he showed up at our church, he never left.  He accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior at that church in Anchorage.  He remained a faithful member of our church for over 34 years.  Al was often seen at the door welcoming people to his church with the charm that made him so endearing.  He was interested in everyone’s life and family.  It was not unusual for Al to be invited to family gatherings of many of the church members.  Al was family to everyone!  

Many times I have reminisced about Al’s remarkable life.  I am continually reminded of the similarities of the unlikely conversion of the Apostle Paul.  A life marked by religion and violence.  A life that contained many hardships and struggles.  A heritage made up of Christian believers who became his family.  A life that remained totally transformed and committed to serving Jesus Christ even to his final days.   And in Al, a life that accepted me as a brother in Christ with no guile.  I know that my life, and the life of my family, has forever been impacted by my exuberant friend Al, who was always sharing the true Joy he had in Jesus.   

Thank you, Jesus for the remarkable transformed life of Al.