This past Sunday, as I pushed pasta around my plate with a fork in an air conditioned restaurant over conversation with friends after church, our discussion once again turned to Granam. This story I’ve told a number of times, and since it has come up many more times just since Sunday, I’ve decided to recapture it for God’s glory.
At the end of April in 2009, I traveled with a team of 10 to Damascus, Syria to support the local church and work with Iraqi refugees. On one particular day while I was there, I encountered a man who reflected the character of Christ more than anyone I may have ever met in my life. We began the morning with a few of us walking over to Anania’s house where we had a time of prayer. (Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord-Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here-has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." – Acts 9:17, NIV) Yes, Ananias, the same guy in the bible who prayed over Paul for the scales to drop from his eyes when he was Saul, and the same guy who took communion with Paul in his house. We were praying in that house – the same exact house. It was amazing. Just an hour later, God shook my world when I met Granam.
We had walked the quick 5 minutes back to the church to prepare for lunch. There was a man who had just arrived sitting in a chair with a crutch and his son, who appeared to be about 18 years old. I walked over and the man had started explaining to Fadi, our translator, what had happened. The man, Granam, officially renounced his Muslim faith that day (evidently). He has been living as a Christian, former Muslim (or MBB - Muslim background believer), so the official renouncing and giving his life to Christ is a huge deal. You see, Granam was living as a Christian, but had not been baptized. According to Sharia law (the Islamic faith), when a Muslim is baptized, he/she can never return to the Islamic faith and the consequences are death. Granam just arrived from Baghdad apparently days ago with his family. In Baghdad, he was going to an Assyrian church. Some Islamic extremists (terrorists) stormed the church, shot the priest, and his wife fled with the priest’s children and their own children. Granam was captured and tortured unbelievably. No, actually words may not even convey how horrible the torture Granam endured. You see, Granam was a hairdresser in Baghdad, that was how he earned a living. So, the terrorists cut off his fingers with scissors so he couldn’t earn a living anymore - but he still is adamant on wearing his wedding band (which is placed on just a mere nub of what used to be his finger). They cut open his leg and pulled his ligaments and tissue apart, so he walks with a crutch and a brace on his leg. They took a tool drill (close to what you would drill into a wall with, he said) and drilled a whole into the side of his head through his temple, on the right side. Then they took the drill and drilled into his chest. The terrorists told him that if he wants to live like Jesus Christ, they will treat him like Jesus Christ by putting holes into his body. At that point, I lost it. Couldn't stop crying, Fida, Fadi’s wife, even burst into tears, as did Joun's mother (the Pastor's wife). It made me think.....we are so incredibly selfish, and I am so unworthy to even pray for this man. I felt soooooo sick to my stomach just hearing what such evil has been done to him, simply because he professed his love for Jesus Christ, our sweet Savior.....and without even officially being baptized! Russell, one of our teammates, told him we would pray for him, and Granam’s response is one I will never forget for the rest of my life: "You do not have to pray for me, pray for everyone. Christ did not pray for himself, and I want to be like Christ. Please pray for the world, because that is what Christ did." What do you even say to that? I couldn't sit at lunch, so I walked into Pastor Samara's office. I couldn't stop crying so Joun prayed for the man who we had just met. This man, Granam, is our brother in Christ, and we are all one body - so whatever affects him, impacts us as well. It was very powerful, this man's story had a huge impact on all of our lives.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. – Romans 12:14, NIV
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you – Matthew 5:44, NIV
This man, Granam, lived out this character. He wanted….no, he craved, to bless those who persecuted him. He wanted to pray for the world, and those who almost sent him to his death simply because he loved Jesus Christ. I ask you this tough question, when people hurt us, spit on us, insult us, mock us, challenge us because of our faith, do we pray for them? Do we seek to love them as Christ calls us to? This is tough, but Christ also knew this was a trademark of His character.
By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. – John 13:35, NIV
We are called to love the unlovable, even those who do not love us back. People can feel love, even if they do not return it. Think of the mentally and physically handicapped orphan in Haiti, she is physically unable to give you a hug – to love you back for giving her a small gift or a smile. Is she any less worthy of love than the terrorist who persecutes us? No. They are both worthy of love, even if they are not able to return it. Loving people for Christ is a selfless act, it’s not about us, but about being His hands and feet to ALL nations. Jesus said:
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? – Matthew 5:46, NIV
Granam’s life, his faith, his unabashed thirst to live like Christ has changed and impacted my life forever. Sitting at the feet of this man while he shared his story, felt much like sitting at the feet of Christ himself. A week after our team left, Granam was baptized into the faith. I can’t wait to see Granam again, if not on this earth, than in heaven – where we will all speak the same language, no translator needed.
Praying for you!!
To Make Him Known,
**Granam's name was changed to protect his identity.