Our father, Acar, met Mother in Sweden, where he was attending university. After falling in love, getting married, and having their first two sons, Ergun and Erdem, in Stockholm, Father and Mother moved to America, the land of opportunity. Emir was born after we arrived in Ohio.
The marriage was doomed from the beginning, a clash of cultures. Our mother was a single child, raised in Stockholm and educated all over Europe. By the time she was 20, she had attended the Sorbonne in Paris, and had traveled the world. Father was from heartier stock. As the youngest child in his family, he had earned everything he owned and was steeped in Islamic culture. Their assumptions about marriage clearly clashed.
The divorce, which was finalized in America, was painful. As in most divorces, the children became the human "ropes" in a tug-of-war, torn between parents. A pattern developed of weekend visits between Columbus and Gahanna, in central Ohio. Yet even the wrenching experience of divorce would not prepare us for our father's disavowal.
Entering high school, Ergun was a typical young man, except that he was a devout Muslim. Even through the divorce, our parents had maintained our rearing in the mosque. Each weekend, we would travel to Broad Street in Columbus, Ohio, where our father had helped found the Islamic Foundation. The mosque in Toledo was too far a drive, so the Foundation Center was established. Father did the call to prayer on occasion.
We did the rakats (daily prayers); we celebrated Ramadan. We read the Qur'an and Hadith regularly. In every way, we were devout, serious Muslims. But our devotion was not an act of love, but of fear. No Muslim has eternal security. Every Muslim fears the scales of justice, which weigh his good deeds against his bad deeds. We were taught that Christianity and Islam were antithetical, stemming from a centuries-old conflict dating back to the Crusades, when Muslims were slaughtered by the thousands.
This history, however, did not stop Jerry Tackett. Ergun's best friend in high school, Jerry was the son of a preacher, and an active member at Stelzer Road Baptist Church. Jerry didn't know all of the history. He simply told Ergun that Jesus loved him, and invited him to church for revival services. At Stelzer Road Baptist, the environment was so different from what Ergun had expected. People were warm. They didn't mock when he stumbled through the hymns. They loved him in spite of his reticence-they literally loved him to the Cross.
After hearing about the saving grace of Jesus Christ, it became evident to Ergun that Islam was wrong about one seminal thing: there was no way that Jesus could have been a prophet, as Islam taught. Jesus was arrested and imprisoned on a dual indictment-the Romans held Him for insurrection, the Jewish leaders convicted Him of blasphemy, that is, claiming to be God. Islam, in order to resolve the matter of the Resurrection, teaches that Judas, not Jesus, was crucified, allowing Jesus to appear three days later. Yet even that bit of misinformation doesn't confront the larger issue of Jesus' deity. Even extra-biblical history notes that Jesus claimed to be God, an act of blasphemy, which was a capital offense.
On that particular night in the revival services, the conviction of the Holy Spirit was palpable. On the next day, a Friday, Ergun returned to the Islamic center a new creature, freed from the scales of fear by grace and the atonement of Jesus. He assumed that other Muslims also wanted to be free of fear. That was not the case.
Ergun's brothers, however, listened. Erden accepted Christ in the basement of their home. Ergun then invited Emir to a revival service the following year. There, for the first time in his life, Emir heard that God loved him and desired to have a personal relationship with him. Though he had been to church before, this was the first time he could recall hearing a preacher speak openly and honestly about the exclusivity of the Gospel. Only through the blood of Jesus, spilt on the cross, can someone be saved. Yet the preacher also spoke compassionately about God's desire to save everyone. Although there was only one way, the path was open for all who would believe. On Nov. 4, 1982, Emir was born again.
In 1982, Ergun surrendered to the gospel ministry. It was the last time he saw our father for 17 years. Acar disowned his sons, although it could have been worse: according to Hadith 9.57, all three of us brothers should have been killed.
Tragedies and Commitments Seventeen years later, we Caner brothers were reunited with our father, four days before he died. His second wife had convinced him to see us, and we flew in from all over the country, hoping. By this time, Erden was married with a son, Anthony, was a successful stockbroker, and had remained active in his church. Emir had completed his Ph.D. and was teaching at Southeastern Seminary in North Carolina. Ergun had married Jill Morris in 1994, and had a four-month-old son, Braxton Paige. Ergun and Eir had pastured and preached, and completed their education, with Ergun's Ph.D. dissertation alone left to complete.
Yet as we three brothers entered our father's house, our minds returned to that long-ago day on the soccer field. We were the three sons of Acar Mehmet Caner, our hero. Inour culture, it is an important rite of passage to lay your son in your father's hands. As Ergun did so, tears filled his eyes. Seventeen years after expulsion, Ergun and his father met one last time.
All throughout the time together, we shared in small talk. Ergun was introduced to his two half-sister, whom we had never met. Other men from the mosque were in the home, some of whom had taught the brothers in their youth. We all avoided the inevitable and obvious: our father was dying; it was only a matter of time.
We would love to complete the story with a deathbed conversion, but that was not the case. Our mother made her profession of faith in 1991, and our grandmother did the same in 1995. But our father never accepted Christ as Lord. As far as we know, he entered a Christless eternity.
As these words are written, tears spring afresh.
If the events of Sept. 11 have spurred a national debate, some of the topics discussed are not new to us. Since 1982, we have preached and taught about Islam, sharing our hearts' desire for salvation among the 1.2 billion Muslim people who need Jesus. After allowing us to preach in their churches, pastors would graciously pat us on our backs and tell us how fascinating this world religion seems.
After thousands of people were incinerated in the World Trade Center bombings, peole began to listen.
But please do not assume this is a diatribe filled with invective against a world religion. We want Christians to understand Islam more clearly and to present Christ more effectively. We want the former because it is our history, and it is our past. We want the latter because we wish we'd had the opportunity to do so for our father.our hero.