From Beirut to Boston!
Born and raised in Beirut Lebanon until the age of 15, I was raised in a very strict Catholic family and attended both Catholic elementary and high schools. As a result, I had a deep religious conviction based on my self-righteousness (pleasing God by my works). I was heavily involved in worshipping the saints and Mary and yes I served as an altar boy. During the civil war that raged Lebanon from the years 1975 to 1978, many young teens like myself were heavily involved in the fighting. Many teens lost all respect to authority either parental or governmental which resulted in a high immoral behavior that spread throughout Lebanon. Even though I was in the midst of this corruption, I maintained my religious righteousness to the point that neighbors and friends used to tell my mother how lucky she was to have me as a son! My religious zeal increased throughout the civil war.
In June of 1978, during one of the heaviest rounds of war between the christian militias (which I belonged to) and the Syrian troops, I got trapped in my apartment complex under extreme heavy bombardment. The Syrian troops were about 350 feet away from my hide out. They were using heavy rocket launchers to bomb the christian sectors of Beirut (I lived right on the combat zone). The launchers were so close that I could hear them firing in the same time I can hear and feel the rockets hitting most of the buildings around my hide out. My younger two brothers, my sister, my mom, and I spent the next 3 or 4 hours waiting for our death. We were waiting for that moment when a rocket will hit our hide out. These were the scariest moments of my life. Naturally, when someone is in this situation, prayers are prevalent. I started to pray and cry out to God to save me and my family. I remembered that I made a promise to God: to do whatever He wanted me to do if he preserves my life and my family’s.
After hours of waiting which seemed like eternity, the bombing suddenly stopped. We rushed to get out of our hide out. We knew that we needed to get out and run away because we expected the soldiers to storm after bombing. We ran to my uncle’s house which was not too far from where we were. His home was located at the lowest floor of a building which was safer to hide in. Many other people were hiding in his house for the same reason. I happen to take a seat near an elderly lady. She was reading a small Arabic pamphlet with Bible verses. She then shared them with me and gave me that booklet. That was the seed for my salvation, Praise His name. I still have that booklet with her name written on it. A month later, God arranged a distant relative of mine who was a Presbyterian to water that seed by sharing with me the good news of Christ. It was right before I was leaving Lebanon to the USA.
Another chapter of my life started in August 1, 1978. We arrived at the US with barely our clothes on and some personal items. All our belongings and our house got burned down in that same round of fighting. It took me a year to achieve a withdrawal from the horrors of the civil war and to assimilate in the American culture. I was sixteen then and my religious life was deteriorating. The pleasure of the world and the lusts of the flesh were certainly abundant in this country and I was lured. Although I was successful in school and able to gain some income through a part time job, yet I felt empty inside and miserable and I knew it was my spiritual life. God’s hands were certainly heavy on me. A year later as a senior in high school I met 2 students. One of them used to come to the class with a white Bible in her hand. One day, I dared to ask her if I can read her Bible (since she was attractive) to prove to her that I am religious too. She got very excited and invited me to a Bible study which was being held on the premises of the school (a Boston public school) led by a teacher. I started to attend, and I was challenged by the message of the Bible. I never understood what Christ did for me on the cross. It took me a couple of months before I fully realized that I am a sinner who deserves to die. It was a discussion that I had with that same girl (Linda) that I finally understood that Christ died on the cross for me. He took my place, and gave me eternal life. It was by grace not works that I have been saved. Praise the Lord for His everlasting love.
I don’t know when exactly I was born again but I started to go to the same church that these two girls went. It was a young charismatic church which met in a boys club house. Soon I became an active member with them. In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Praise His Holy name. Amen.