For the 10th anniversary of my enrollment at CTSFW, I post an old article written in 2005, with some editing:
The Jesus’ Touch
“For me, the most thrilling ‘Jesus Touch’ of my life was when I was called to attend Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN,” said Hesham Shehab a missionary from Lebanon working here in the United States. “It was an emotional moment when I first walked Luther Drive, the road that goes from Luther’s bronze statue to Kramer Chapel on the Concordia Theological Seminary campus. There I was, a former Muslim, a descendent from Muhammad’s tribe, who studied at the most prestigious Muslim ‘Seminary’, Al Azhar University, walking Luther Drive to pursue my dream, to reach my highest goal in life; to learn the true Word of God, and become an ordained disciple of Jesus Christ.”
Hesham was born in Lebanon in 1960 to one of the largest Muslim families in the country who pride themselves on being direct descendants of the tribe of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. He was recruited into the Lebanese branch of the Muslim Brotherhood at the age of 13 and trained to be a militiaman, two years before civil war broke out in 1975. He was taken to a military training camp where he was taught to hate Christians. He was told, “If you want to shoot straight, imagine that there is a Christian in your sights.” (Hesham says, “A statement that puts in a nutshell all the hate we had for our Christian compatriots.”) He participated in some aspects of that war. “It was a terrible war,” says Hicham, “everyone lost somebody.”
In 1975 he was given a rifle with a powerful telescope and ordered to snipe at people in the Christian part of Beirut. It was a moment of truth for Hesham when he looked through his telescope and saw three people running for cover; an old woman and two boys. One who looked just like his cousin. The old woman reminded him of his grandmother, he could even see the wrinkles in her cheeks. He did not shoot. “My conscience told me that they were people just like me. I refused to follow orders and decided to quit. No causes are worth the bloodshed,” thought Hesham.
Hesham decided to focus on becoming a Muslim preacher so he started taking classes at Al Azhar University. Just days before he was to preach his first sermon, he had a car accident and broke both of his legs. He spent 50 days in the hospital and was bed-ridden for a year. This gave him time to reconsider what he was doing with his life. To pass the time he began reading English novels especially the Western novels by Louis L’ Amour – he read every one of his books and greatly improved his English.
But his hatred for the Christians only grew when his only sibling, his brother was killed by a Christian militia.
As he continued at the University he had to take a course in Cultural Studies which required that he read selections from the Bible and the Quran. He knew half of the Qur’an by heart, but the Bible was new to him. “I read the Sermon on the Mount at the climax of my hate and thirst for vengeance. Christ’s exhortation; ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven’ (Matthew 4:45) struck me with full force,” says Hesham. “I felt I heard the voice of God in stereo. I, who knew what is an enemy, and sought to kill my enemies, felt that Jesus exhortation was superhuman and cannot emanate from an ordinary human being, but from a divine source.”
“Even though I was taught by the Muslim clerics that the Bible was distorted by Rabbis and bishops, Christ’s words ‘Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor’ sounded authentically divine,” continues Hesham. “Even through the loss of my brother, I thought ‘There is another way, a way of forgiveness.’ I was touched by Jesus’ parables, especially the one about the Good Samaritan. I stopped my activities against the Christians and decided to reconsider things and see if it were possible to follow this Jesus.”
Hesham started sneaking into protestant churches to listen and learn all he could. As he learned more about Jesus he also began to dedicate his life to seeking peace between the Christians and Muslims of Lebanon. In 1990 when the international community and Syria imposed a cease-fire on Lebanon, Hesham vowed to work for peace and reconciliation. Together with the Muslim mayor of a Beirut suburb, he founded an NGO dedicated to Muslim-Christian dialogue and gradually recruited a hundred community leaders to participate.
In the year 2001 Hesham met a retired Lutheran pastor, Rev. Dr. Bernhard Lutz who was a missionary in Lebanon and they became close friends, working together. Trying to start a Lutheran church in Lebanon, Dr. Lutz learned that there is a law against planting new Protestant churches there. So Dr. Lutz encouraged Hesham to cometo in the United States.
“Above all,” says Hesham, “I am excited about going to Concordia Theological Seminary to study the Bible and become an ordained pastor.” Hesham has planted a new ministry to the Muslims in Chicagoland as he continues to attend classes at Concordia Theological Seminary.
At this beginning of our 161st academic year here at Concordia Theological Seminary God has given us the wonderful opportunity to be a part of the exciting ministry of preparing men like Hesham who have felt “Jesus Touch” in their lives as they are called to serve Him in the office of the Holy Ministry.
Hesham was ordained in 2010, and Salam Christian Fellowship in Chicagoland is a thriving ministry. Hesham’s dream is to establish an Arabic institute at one of the LCMS seminaries that could prepare Arab converts who do not speak English for the ministry.
Please consider a gift to Salam Christian Fellowship, earmarked to Concordia Theological Seminary TODAY to help Hesham continue his Ph. D in missiology at CTSFW. Hesham Your donation is critical at this time as the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Please partner with us as we prepare men whom God has set aside to do His work of caring nurturing His beloved children.
All donations payable to Salam are tax-deductible.
Salam Christian Fellowship
21W500 Butterfield Road, Lombard, IL 60148