Missionary Charif Haddad is befriending Middle Easternersand bringing them to Christ in Dearborn, Michigan
By Adam Miller
Imagine a Middle Eastern man breaking from his morning tea a few
steps ahead of the dawn call to prayer. He shuffles peacefully down a sidewalk
to join his friends and family.
Imagine the sound of the muezzin, that man with impressive lungs who
summons the Muslim community to five prayers daily toward Mecca.
In a Middle Eastern country he might stand on the minaret of the
mosque pronouncing from on high the dawn, midday, middle afternoon,
evening, and sundown prayers. In Dearborn, Michigan, the local muezzin
has access to a loudspeaker, and even from a mile away you can hear his
Imagine crowds of men and women in saris and scarves shuffling
toward the mosque past local shops advertising Halal meat. They file in. Kneel
This is not the Middle East, but Michigan—a place where you expect
hockey, industry, brutal winters, good ole hardworking mid-America. Middle
Easterners who’ve worked in the auto industry for decades fill many of the jobs
that move the Michigan economy. Over 800,000 live in Michigan.
Muslims along with Catholics and Christians from Middle Eastern
countries have settled the area bringing their religion and culture, but also a
strong desire to “be American,” saysNorth American Mission Board
missionary Charif Haddad, who’s been sharing the gospel with Middle Easterners
in Michigan the last five years. “They’ve come to America to be Americans.” The
church has an opportunity to help with that and to share Christ as
Now imagine that same Middle Eastern man staring up at the window of
his apartment. Only it’s not his apartment anymore. His Muslim landlord has
kicked him out. He is an infidel. He’s accepted Christ. For a time, maybe
forever, he’ll say goodbye to comforts he took for granted—like seeing his wife
and kids, talking to his parents, having a home.
“There is a price to pay for coming to Christ in Dearborn, Michigan,”
says Charif. “Many of them have basically said ‘look, it’s not that I don’t
want to become a Christian. It’s that if I do I will lose my life.’”
Charif knows Muslims who’ve been baptized three or more times and
remain Muslim, either because they don’t understand what they’ve done or they
know the price of becoming a true follower of Christ.
The work is very difficult. When Middle Easterners finally become
believers, they know what they’re giving up.
So what does it take to share Christ with this difficult community?
Charif says tea, sweets, time, and friendship.Sharing Christ
means sharing your life.
“We must reach out to them through friendship,” says Charif. “A man
asked me recently ‘are Americans stingy by nature?’ I was surprised and asked
him why. He said he had been in America for several years and had never been
invited by an American for a cup of tea.
“You have to go out of your way to be with people,” he says.
“Sometimes you have to be willing to put things on hold in your schedule. It’s
not going to happen over night.”
This is the message he hopes to help churches understand. This and the
reality that it’s going to take more than the professional ministers to reach
such a vast group of people. He wants to involve many churches and lay people
in the ministry as well. As Middle Eastern strategist for the State Convention
of Michigan, Charif is helping churches start churches and assisting
congregations in rolling up their sleeves and sharing their lives with their
Middle Eastern neighbors. This past summer Michigan Baptists started The Arab
Evangelical Church of Flint.
Last year he was called to the bedside of a Yemeni man. “He thought I
was a Muslim at first. When I told him I was a Christian he started quoting
from the Koran the story of Mary. I sat there for 20 minutes while he defended
Islam. When he was finished I simply told him ‘I just came by to see how you’re
doing.’ He turned to me and said ‘could you pray and ask God to heal me because
I believe God answers the prayers of the Nazarite.’”
Charif, a Palestinian refugee from Lebanon, has found boldness,
persistence, self-sacrifice, prayer, and a listening ear pay off in winning the
hearts of Middle Easterners. He tells the story of a Muslim man to whom he
ministered for more than a year.
“I was ready to throw in the towel as I walked to his house during
Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month.” Charif remembers hearing a reading from the
Koran blaring on tape from the man’s home, but God impressed him just to go,
and to be bold.
“Upon offering him a book on the infallibility of the Bible, the man
requested we meet and talk about the cross. We talked for three weeks,
sometimes until two in the morning. Then I left him for two weeks. When I saw
him again, he had a huge smile on his face. I knew something was
Charif asked the man, “If you were to die today, where would you
The man smiled and replied, “To heaven, because when I was asleep
someone appeared to me at the end of my bed and said, ‘I was crucified for
you!’ I know I will go to heaven because I believe in the Messiah and I gave it
all to Him.”
Adam Miller is associate editor of On Mission magazine. Kay
Adkins contributed to this article.
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC