This week’s White Horse Inn interview featuring Abdu Murray was recorded before the death of Ravi Zacharias, but Shane Rosenthal recently had another opportunity to catch up with Abdu and to talk with him about his long-time mentor and friend.
SR: So Abdu, how are things at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries now that Ravi has gone to be with the Lord?
AM: In some ways Ravi was prescient. In late 2019, he actually had Michael Ramsden installed as the new president of RZIM, and this is something he did even before he knew he was sick. And also, Ravi never wanted to be a one man show, he always wanted to build a team, and as a result we now have hundreds of speakers around the world. So our goal now is just to keep doing what we’ve been doing. Obviously there’s a huge gap, since you can never replace someone like Ravi, but there’s no shortage of speaking invitations at the present moment, which is great.
SR: What were some of your final days with Ravi like?
AM: You know, as we learned that Ravi was terminal and that he was not going to be able to be medically treated, we of course prayed for a miracle, but we also knew there was a strong possibility this would not be granted — which it wasn’t. And as I met with Ravi and shared some last moments with him, he made it clear to us that we should always “stay focused on the Gospel.” Even though he was barely audible, just above the level of a whisper, he kept insisting on this idea that we keep our focus on the the Gospel.
SR: What are some of your favorite Ravi Zacharias memories?
AM: Man I have so many great memories of Ravi. My favorite memory actually takes place over a span of 14 years. I first saw Ravi in person at a conference at the University of Michigan back in 2003, and afterwards I went up and asked him a question. When I told him my name he said, “Abdu? Isn’t that a Muslim name?” “Yes, it is,” I replied, and then I shared my story with him, including how he was instrumental in the process of my own conversion. Then fourteen years later, I found myself standing onstage with Ravi at the University of Michigan, and this time I was answering questions with him. And even though I felt like an amateur standing next to this wise and thoughtful man, afterwards he patted me on the back and said “That was marvelous, the Lord really used you tonight!” He was always gracious like that. Later that evening I remember just spending time with him joking and laughing afterwards as we talked about food and life. In fact, one of the very last things he said to me was, “Do you remember the food we had in Sri Lanka? Do you remember the kebabs?” And at that moment I thought, this is exactly our relationship!
SR: Those must have been some memorable Kebabs!
AM: Yeah, he just had a knack for weaving the sublime and the mundane together. Nobody but Ravi Zacharias could make kebabs poetic. Another fun memory that I had with Ravi is in Sri Lanka where we were filming a video version of our new book Seeing Jesus From the East. We were in this enormous marketplace, and Ravi was dealing with some back pain — we didn’t know at the time, but it was actually the cancer. Nevertheless, he came alive in this setting, and he was essentially bounding from store to store. And at one point he told me that he wanted to get a cap to cover his head between takes for this video project we were shooting, and as we were shopping he found a black hat with sliver stitching on it that said, “Think it over.” And so he put it on his head and said, “This is appropriate, right?” And I remember laughing because those words weren’t actually written to encourage people to think things over in the way that Ravi always encouraged people to do throughout the course of his ministry. The words on this hat were actually intended as a kind of warning that a tough guy might give to another at the onset of a fight. You know, one guy might say to the other, “Take a look at me and think it over.” That’s what the hat was really about. But Ravi, who was this gentle white haired man, chose to wear this hat intermittently throughout the remainder of our trip, which I just found totally hilarious. So that’s another fond memory that I have with Ravi. To me it’s a great example of both his mirth and his wisdom which were always on display at the same time.
SR: Abdu, thanks for taking the time to share your memories of Ravi with us.
AM: It was my pleasure.