Naji, a keen sportsman, lay motionless in his hospital bed, consumed with depression.
He’d made several attempts on his life, even eating broken glass. But to no avail.
He looked down, heart sinking. His legs were gone.
His mind wandered back to the accident. He’d boarded a train at Karachi, and had seen his brother and a friend on another. He’d jumped off his own train to join them. But as he stepped out, it began to move. He slipped, tumbling beneath the train onto the tracks. His legs were caught.
His brother and friend had rushed to help. Arriving at hospital and close to death, Naji was given the ultimatum: his legs or his life.
He couldn’t bear living anymore.
But that would change.
I am the true vine
One night, fast asleep, he heard a whisper: ‘I am the true vine.’ He awoke believing it was God’s voice. But he swiftly dismissed the idea. Though nominally Christian, Naji, from Pakistan, had never held any interest in God.
Still, the whisper ruffled him.
His morning routine involved a bath, some tea, and a read of the paper. But this morning, he wanted to find a Bible.
He flipped the book open, and his eyes fell on John 15:1 - I am the true vine. He shivered.
For several years, Naji - convinced it was all coincidence - told no one what had happened.
Then a woman named Monica, a committed Christian, began to visit him. Naji quickly explained to Monica that he didn't know God.
Feeling it best not to argue, she prayed for Naji when she arrived home. She continued to visit him, and she never argued – indeed, never spoke of God, only of ordinary things. She was kind, and faithful in her visits. He began to call her his godmother.
After some time, she asked Naji if he’d ever heard God’s voice. ‘No,’ he said. This time, she persisted. He told her the truth – adding that he didn’t believe in it. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘let’s forget about all that, and see what God has to show you today.’ She took a Bible, opened it. And those words stared up at Naji once more: I am the true vine.
‘That broke me,’ he says. ‘On that day, I accepted the Lord.’
Years on, Naji heard a Christian radio programme on Feba. It touched him. He wrote to the producer, and received an intriguing response: ‘Anyone can weep or sing, but not everyone can write a letter like yours.’
He was asked to script a new show. Naji was wary, but - encouraged by his Christian friends and his pastor - agreed.
He was asked to write about miracles in the gospel. He wrote a script, and awaited the inevitable reply that the poor producer had needed to check every line and change the whole thing. Years later, Naji is still amazed by the producer’s actual response - he wanted him to keep writing.
And so he did, in earnest. But he knew he wasn't getting it right – he just couldn’t find the words. It took Naji some time to realise he hadn't prayed into it. So he sought God’s guidance. And the words flowed freely.
The result? An invitation to join the team.
But Naji was troubled - they didn’t yet know about his physical condition. And he’d have to move – hundreds of miles away from family and friends. What if the team decided they didn’t want him, after all?
He wrote to reject the offer. As he did, he heard a voice: ‘It is my decision. You will be in your heavenly Father's hands.’ And Naji knew not to be afraid.
A calling to serve
He made his journey and, over the years, his voice, scripts and faithful correspondence with listeners have become familiar to many.
Today, the first thing Naji does on rising is to read from his well-worn daily devotion book by C H Spurgeon. Then he reads his Bible. He opens the letters, and pens his replies.
The lesson learned through his friend Monica not to argue, remains integral to his gentle and prayerful approach with listeners. Some request literature, others seek advice or counselling. He responds to them all out of his own intimacy with God.
Naji remembers his dark moments in that hospital bed – life today looks very different: ‘I thank God for the health he gives me,’ he says. ‘Everywhere I go, people know and love me. I’m overwhelmed by all I’ve received from God. I know he will crown me in heaven, but I feel he has crowned me already.’