After 28 years, a bullet from an AK-47 remains lodged in the back of a Lebanese student at Southwestern Seminary.
Born in 1968, Jay* was only 7 years old when civil war broke out in Lebanon as a result of tensions between the nation’s Muslim and Christian populations. Seven years later, he was caught in the crossfire of a Muslim gunman. A bullet pierced his shoulder and stopped just short of the spine, nearly leaving him crippled. Fortunately, after two years, it drifted from his spine and was eventually wrapped in the fat and muscle of his back. And there it remains today.
“When I came to know the Lord, I knew that God is sovereign. He has a purpose for my life,” Jay says. “I keep the bullet as a testimony to God’s faithfulness.”
It took years for Jay, a nominal Catholic, to recognize God’s faithfulness and purpose. In the meantime, Lebanon’s 15-year civil war carried on, and Jay lived in the anger and rashness that flow from war.
“In war, you live a reckless life,” he says. “Let’s eat and drink, because we’re going to die tomorrow. You don’t know when you’re going to die. So we were indulging ourselves in sin. Beirut was kind of a hell at some point, and I was living in it.”
One day, Jay’s younger brother left home with a friend and did not return. Perhaps, Jay feared, he had become another victim of war. But when his brother finally did return, Jay thought instead that he must have been drinking or using drugs. In any case, he had changed.
“There was something about his countenance. Something about him changed,” Jay recalls. “He was so excited, so joyful. He was different. I said that it was going to pass by so quickly. Give him 24 hours or 48 hours, and everything is going to come back to normal.
“But it didn’t change. I always saw the Gospel in his hand, and there was something about him: He quit smoking. He quit everything. He quit his friends. And it seems as if the miracle of having a new life was just unfolding before my eyes.”
Jay’s brother had witnessed an evangelical baptism, heard the Gospel, and committed his own life to Christ. As time passed, he told Jay about Christ and invited him to come to church with him. At first, Jay could not understand why his brother told him about Christ so often. After all, they were born Catholics. They were Christians, and they were even fighting for the faith. A few years later, however, Jay realized that he too needed a relationship with Christ.
“Everything from the outside,” Jay says, “looked as if I had it all,” including a serious girlfriend, a college degree, a good job and a house. “But, from the inside, I was suffocating. I was always having this pain, this void. It is just like looking for something, but you’re not able to find it.”
When Jay finally went to church with his brother, he “started to understand the changes (his) brother was going through.” As the congregation began to sing a hymn, Jay broke down, repented of his sins and committed his life to Christ.
“It was at this moment that something swept me off my feet,” Jay says. “It was a whole new thing for me. … From that moment on, I started to get more and more involved in the ministry. God started to work more and more in my life, but I was struggling. I felt like I had to leave that place.”
“At the right moment,” Jay says, his pastor gave him an application for Christ for the Nations in Dallas, Texas. He moved to Dallas in 1999 and attended the school for two years. Desiring to study at a school that reflected his theological leanings, however, he moved to Criswell College in 2001, where he earned a master’s degree in ministry.
At the same time, Jay felt God leading him to minister to Muslims, and he joined a small Arabic Baptist church in Richardson, Texas. He later served at an Arabic church in Fort Worth. Although Jay harbored bitterness toward Muslims through much of his life, God replaced his bitterness with love.
Today, Jay studies missions and Islamic studies in Southwestern Seminary’s Ph.D. program. He also serves as the executive director for Good News for the Crescent World, a ministry to Muslims based in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
“Muslim ministry is the toughest, roughest ministry on earth, but it is the most exciting at the same time,” Jay says. “You feel that God is there. You feel like you are just so close to the gates of hell, and you need a special anointing from God.”
But Jay has hope for the Muslim world and for those in countries like Lebanon who have lived in desperation, like he once did, because of war and spiritual emptiness: Christ, he says, is rescuing people at the gates of hell, and no one should underestimate His power.
“There is no hell-on-earth,” Jay says, “no wounds or ill emotions in any of us, where Christ cannot come in, touch, heal and transform.”
Both Jay and his wife, who had their first son last year, desire to reach Muslims around the world for the Gospel. They pray that God will open doors for their entrance into the Muslim world.
“I pray, and I hope that I’m not going to die in the United States,” Jay says. “I want to die on the mission field.”