When I was 3 years old, my father got sick due to excessive smoking and passed away in the hospital. My mother was left with my two older sisters and me. We were living in United Arab Emirates (UAE) and my mother did not work back then. However, she had to find a job after the bank where we had put our savings went bankrupt.
Due to the male dominant culture in UAE, my mother could not easily find a job there, so we had to move to Beirut, Lebanon. My mother is Lebanese and had family there who could help us. But Lebanon was not a safe country at that time, since it had just come out of a 15-year-civil war that ended only a few years before we moved in. I am blessed to have a mother who did anything to get my sisters and myself proper education. She also took us to Sunday school every Sunday. She is faithful and loving by all means, and never got remarried so she could focus on raising up her children well.
When I became a teenager, I wanted to compete in a national sports league, but was not allowed. My mother refused to let me participate in any national tournament for what seemed like no logical reason. It was such a confusing time for me and I wanted to know why. At the age of 14, the secret she had kept throughout my childhood was finally revealed: I learned that I am a refugee and my citizenship is of the occupied territories in Palestine. Basically, I am stateless. It was a depressing phase of my life when I recognized that the situation might not change soon. My mother cannot pass on her citizenship to me and neither am I eligible for one, no matter how long I stay in the Middle East.
A year later, my best friend died in a car accident. The grief and loss made my life even more miserable. I stopped going to church and picked up smoking and drugs. I became aggressive and addicted to pornography. My life no longer had a purpose. Despite all that I had learned in Sunday school, it was hard for me to see hope amid what was happening.
I came home every night either drunk or high on drugs. I even had nightmares and dreams of committing suicide. Moreover, I dropped out of school during that year and stayed home doing nothing. Since I was still living with my mother, I used to hear her praying for me, but I was numb and slept all day long and got addicted more and more to drugs and pornography.
At the age of 16, I got an opportunity to study accounting in a technical school. I enrolled in the program for the sake of getting a decent job. The first year went well for me, although I was still a drug addict.
In the second year, one of my colleagues invited me to play basketball with him and his friends. It turned out to be a church group he plays with every week. I went and played with them. It did not feel comfortable, though, because everybody was very welcoming. It felt like they were trying to win me over. I was swearing the whole game and during the half time, I even went out for a smoke. It was surprising that nobody of the church group was bothered or judgmental.
A few months later, I was invited to a young adults meeting there. I was very confident that they would try to tell me about Jesus, but still, I gave it a shot. I didn’t like it and found it awkward; nonetheless, it felt like a safe haven from a hateful world outside. Strangely, I kept going to the meetings and ended up being part of the group.
One day, the pastor of the church called to invite me to his office and gave me a book called The Purpose Driven Life. He suggested that I read it, so I did, and my perspective towards life started changing. I felt the need to be more positive, but did not know how. I started realizing that there is no purpose in continuing to blame God for everything wrong in my life.
One Sunday evening, I attended a worship night led by a former pop singer and a drug addict who quit fame and drugs to sing for the Lord. Listening to his testimony, I felt a burden on my heart to pray with him and open up to what God wants to do in my life. After that evening, I started getting uncomfortable with my life – smoking, cursing, drinking, watching porn, etc. I would not say my life changed a lot afterwards but I became aware of every wrong thing I did.
Then, the pastor talked to me one day and asked me if I made a decision to follow Jesus. I was not sure. I did not feel I have to. He offered to meet me often to read the Bible and answer any questions I have. One day, he asked me if I wanted to get baptized. I was still not sure, but agreed anyways.
On the day I was going to be baptized, we were all gathered at the church. Just a few minutes before I could walk down the steps to the pool where my pastor was, he was gripped in a sudden heart attack, collapsed in the baptism pool, and died in front of us all. Shocked and terrified, I froze in place, not believing what had happened. My body was cold, my knees got weak, and my face was drowned with tears. I started sobbing in God's presence and asking Him to keep my pastor alive. As I fell to my knees, I gave all my life to Jesus and asked Him to forgive me.
It was an overwhelming time; I felt I was responsible for my pastor’s death. I thought God did this to stop me from getting baptized because I had not been sure about it.
I kept praying and talking to God although I had not prayed in ages. It was a time of repentance and reconciliation with my Lord; He created something new inside of me – a new heart.
Even though my pastor did not survive that day, nor did I understand why God takes people from our lives so early, I understood that this life is not our final destination. I found my purpose in life and that is to give glory to God and go and make young people realize their purpose in life.
I realized my life did not matter anymore, whatever citizenship I have or whatever future lies ahead. I just know that Jesus is the point of life and I will forever serve him.
A few months after this incident, I decided to seek baptism again. Also, I started reading my Bible more and eventually quit smoking, doing drugs, and watching destructive movies. When I got to college, I started sensing God's blessings over my life and the way He is taking care of me. I was never financially in need and I always had God's word guiding every step of the way.
After that point, I invested all my time in ministry. First, I worked with youth at the Bouchrieh Church of the Nazarene and led sports camps for three years. Also, I started volunteering with Lebanon Youth For Christ where I worked with small youth groups. Later, I led young adults meetings in church and I was involved in planning for retreats and leadership training. Just around that time, I graduated with a business degree and I found a job at a humanitarian organization.
A year later, war in Syria broke out, and we started having Syrian refugees coming to Lebanon. So, I did visits to refugees on the weekends with the Nazarene Compassionate Ministries and helped with children at risk programs. I listened to many stories, and I started using media to tell people about God. I got interested in photography and started exploring more depth in the multimedia world. My passion to serve among the young generation and refugee communities goes beyond personal concerns. Currently, I enjoy managing the social media platforms of my church, which we use to go live with our weekly services. Moreover, I work with a team every year during Easter to air a TV program on MTV Lebanon.
My calling is to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the Arab world and to help deliver the good news through social media and TV stations. I thank God for this transformation in my life and the people who mentored me and lifted me up spiritually when I was at the beginning of my journey with God. His plans were and will ever be way better than my plans and His thoughts higher than mine.