Early on a Saturday morning, a missionary at Faith Lutheran Church in Troy, Michigan, called me and said that a former Muslim, Kamal Saleem*, a Lebanese American, was scheduled to speak at the First Arabic Church (FAC) in Dearborn Heights on Sunday afternoon.
“When I heard his testimony, he reminded me of you,” she said. “He was a terrorist, and became a follower of Jesus,” she added.
That Sunday, after attending church in Plymouth, I arrived late at the FAC, and sat on the last pew.
A muscular man wearing an Arabic cloak, Kufieh (a Palestinian head gear like that Yasser Arafat used to wear), and an Islamic white cap, arrived with that missionary who works with Troy.
I thought then that this guy, coming into the church, wearing a Muslim garb; must be just a performer, trying to put a show for Christian Americans. I could only see his back then, not his full face.
After Reverend Wagih Gerges (pastor of the FAC) introduced him, Saleem took the stage, and stood at the pulpit, I thought that his eyes and powerful chin were familiar. “Do I know this man from Lebanon,” I wondered. But he spoke with a perfect American accent, with nothing to show his Arabic origin. Also he was fair… maybe fairer than some Lebanese.
He said that he used to greet people with Assalamu Alaykum; the greeting of Islam that means Allah’s peace be with you, but now he greets people by saying: “Jesus’ peace be with you.”
Then the speaker pronounced the Arabic version of his name, (I cannot not reveal it for protection), and said that he was the cousin of Lebanon’s Mufti (the highest Muslim cleric)!!!!! Then, I immediately recognized him.
Like a flash back, it dawned on me. I recalled his whole family, his relatives who went with my late brother and I to Muslim militias’ training camps, and how I last saw him in Beirut, Lebanon, 30 years ago, in a back street, outside the American University Hospital, where I was treated for my broken legs.
Saleem told the congregation how he, in his childhood, dreamt of killing Christians and Jews for the sake of Allah. When he became a teenager, he added, his dream came true when he received the training he needed, and fought in the Lebanese Civil War, killing Christians (in Lebanon). Then, in the late 1970s, he traveled to Afghanistan in order to fight the “infidel” Russians. He said that he came to the United States of America to make use of the freedom here and transform the US into a Muslim nation: “a dream bigger than 9/11,” he asserted.
Saleem said that he did door-to-door Islamic “evangelism,” and was able to convert 500 Americans to Islam in a short period of time.
In 1985, Saleem had a terrible car accident. An eighteen-wheeler truck swept his convertible, and he landed on his head in the mud next to the highway. He opened his eyes aware that his neck was busted, and his left side was numb. A man stood above him; took off his shirt, and wiped the mud from Saleem’s face. “Do not worry,” the man said, “I will stay with you until this is over,” the stranger added.
Saleem woke up in a hospital room to see that man, with two other people helping him, one of them a doctor there, and they were calling each other with affection, by Christian names. “Is my destiny to fall into the hands of filthy and sissy Christians,” Saleem wondered in disgust!! However, for more than a month, they overwhelmed him with their kindness and love, and paid his hospital bills upon his discharge.
Saleem went back to his apartment, with excruciating pain in his neck, and a numb left side, he could not move much. “Am I going to be partially paralyzed for the rest of my life?” Saleem groaned. He knelt down for hours and cried to Allah in his agony, and asked Him to reveal to him why that calamity befell him, and asked Allah to heal him. “O Allah!! I served you all my life…please answer my prayers” Saleem added. But he had no answer. “Not a stinking word,” Saleem commented.
Saleem, then went to his closet in order to get his gun, a magnum revolver with hollow point bullets, full of venom. “A shot in the head, I thought, would kill me instantly,” Saleem contemplated.
Then a still voice came to him: “Muslims, Jews, and Christians pray to the God of father Abraham. Why don’t you give Him a try,” Saleem said.
He knelt down, reached up with his arms open to heavens, and cried: “God of father Abraham, if you are real speak to me.”
Saleem started to hear a voice talking to his heart: “Do not be troubled.”
“Who are you?” asked Saleem.
“I am that I am,” came the reply. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, and everything in between is mine,” the Lord said, “I have called you by name before the foundation of this earth. Before I formed you in your mother’s womb, I have known you.”
Then the Lord said: “Rise up. You are my warrior, not theirs.”
“Healing took place instantly. I did not ask for it, and knew that I am standing in front of the God of heavens and earth,” Saleem said.
“I am ready to die for you, Lord” Saleem deplored.
“It is not necessary…I died for you,” came the reply.
Saleem was filled with Holy Spirit, and ran out in the streets witnessing to people, without knowing one verse from the Bible, and shouted scaring them off: “I am a Christian…I am a Christian”
At a later time, Saleem visited Lebanon. Through his prayers, God healed his sister who suffered from a neck problem and abdominal hernia.
“God wrought out many miracles in my life through faith in Jesus Christ,” Saleem ended up his testimony.
I (Hicham) edged to the front pew, and as soon as Pastor Wagih wanted to wrap up the presentation, I walked up to the altar, and introduced myself to Saleem…He recognized me.
Saleem collapsed and wept. I held him, hugged him, and told the congregation who I was.
Saleem and I were Muslim militia comrades trained to kill Christians, but we meet, after thirty years, as servants of the Lord. The Holy Spirit is moving mightily, even in the Muslim world.
People broke into tears and applauded us.
Saleem added in tears that he had spoken in another church in the morning, and that a guy openly doubted his testimony, wondering if such a transformation from fanatic Islam to faith in Jesus Christ were possible.
“After witnessing 16 times in 6 days, in Michigan, I was so tired and discouraged, and thought of canceling this presentation at the FAC,” Saleem said.
“But God sent Hicham whom I have not seen for thirty years to verify my story,” Saleem added.
Yes…God is always in the business of miracles.
With God all things are possible.
Missionary, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Summer 2006