The power of one changed life: John Dickey’s Moonlight in Lalibela
This novel illuminates John Dickey’s real-life experience befriending a random gentleman in Greece, who said he was a local poet, but in fact was the Prime Minister (in exile) of Sudan.
Although the book is fictionalized for dramatic purposes, Dickey and his wife Darlene did, in fact, reach out to and share their Christian faith with the Prime Minister just before he attended the Arab Summit. That led to a lot of complicated discussions surrounding Western culture and religion, world power relationships and imbalances, and prejudices and misunderstandings on all sides. Everyone ended up with food for thought after this transformative encounter.
Please share what you can about the fascinating and powerful story behind this book!
I’ll try not to share too many details that are in the book.
In short, started when Darlene, my wife, and I both became Christians at almost the same time but at opposite ends of the US. About a year later, we met in Puerto Rico and after getting married, decided to follow the Lord’s leading to Europe. Our motivation was to share the Gospel and we did so in Spain, France, Italy, Germany and in Greece. We worked in translations which paid very little so to make ends meet, I sang in coffee shops and outdoor cafes.
One night in Athens, as we were returning home, we met Abdul and his ‘associates’, just as in the story and immediately became friends. He shared his story with us gradually — again, just as in Moonlight. He had such a hunger for sincere love and answers to many questions that tugged at his heart. Over several months, as we got closer, he slowed on his sharing about Islam and began to ask us more and more about what we thought and what the Bible had to say.
He pondered carefully what we shared each time and eventually, he only wanted to know about Christ.
Four to five months after we met, he missed our regular time of fellowship and one of his security team let slip that he was at the Arab Summit. Now, up to that time, he had only told us that he was a well-known writer and poet, so we were surprised to learn that he was also the Prime Minister (in exile but still recognized by the Arab world) of the Sudan.
When he returned to Athens, he explained his turbulent history and rise to power (as in Moonlight) and was anxious to tell us that he had stood up at the Summit and told all the heads of state that Ghadafi (who’d just finished ranting) was wrong about the West and Christianity and that he had met people who gave him great clarity concerning the same. This, of course, shocked everyone but he was absolutely enthusiastic.
A few weeks later, he had a series of poignant dreams about us and then about Christ which ultimately led him to get saved. It was a tremendous transformation and he was indeed, a ‘new creature’.
A month or so later, the Sudanese government declared an amnesty and invited him to return which he did and was reunited with his wife and children. In a short time, however, he was dead. We suspected foul-play.
Why do you think there has been so much religious conflict in the world? Is there a solution to create a more peaceful society?
It is sad that so much conflict is fueled by religious bigotry and hatred. The religious elite of Judah hated the new Christians and severely persecuted them. Mohammed instituted the death or conversion approached not long after the Jews spurned his initial attempts to persuade them and Islam was spread by the sword. The misguided Christian kings and pontiffs of the Crusades era returned to the Middle East and Spain with angry revenge. On and on it goes now. All that though is only what we ‘see with the eye’.
What drives this, however, is the on-going conflict in the ‘unseen’ world. You see, evil is very real, not just a ‘psychological construct.’ The Devil and his kind are real, not simply Hollywood fantasies. And it is his ambition to oppose and destroy anyone and anything tied to Christ. Fundamentally, he seeks to destroy mankind. For him, stirring up religious strife is simply a means to an end.
Of course, people are very accountable. It is too easy for some to justify hate and violence based on their twisted perceptions of God and others. Christians are especially accountable because we know what Christ lived and taught. Jesus was adamant that He was the only way to have a relationship with God, but He never forced that truth on anyone, and He demonstrated love and forgiveness to everyone.
As long as Satan exists together with his deceptions and violence, there will be no true or lasting peace in this world — not even with one world religion and/or one world government. My book, Fire Eyes describes what Christ has said He will do to bring true peace. Meanwhile, each person can and should pursue peace with God through Christ and with each other in the same way. The more we manifest the loving and forgiving nature of our Lord, the more peace we will witness.
Do you think that religion is driving the conflicts in the Middle East, or is it more over secular reasons such as conflict over resources?
I’d say it is clearly both. It is the nature of religion to bring bias and condescension. In addition, the Middle East is flush with energy resources and hard-pressed for water and as a result, food. Wealth distribution is also very narrow while poverty abounds. This helps make the area a powder keg.
Why did you choose to fictionalize this story?
Simply to make it engaging and suspenseful. I have dramatized it to amplify Abdul’s work with the Arab League, the UN and the EU to create an interest-grabbing first part of a trilogy encompassing the rise to power of a masterful leader of the world-dominating, greatly expanded EU/Arab League coalition. The second and third parts will focus on a military invasion of Israel by an overwhelming coalition of forces and then the formation and enforcement of a world unifying spiritual movement.
Who’s your intended audience and what do you hope people take away from your book?
I’m hoping that those who are interested in thrilling, well researched stories focused on world events will enjoy it.
If their take-away is appreciating the effect a single Christ-changed life can have on our world, I will be satisfied.