“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Matthew 8:35
Christians are to be erased if they do not convert to Islam. Muslims like ISIS hold fast to this scenario. Pauline knows that all too well.
Pauline and Rami felt called to the ministry. Not knowing what that might look like, they committed together to live completely for God, no matter what was asked of them. Neither one knew it at the time, but what was asked of them, was life itself.
Pauline sits with us and her three children as she recounts the days leading up to, and the day of, her husband Rami’s death. He was a hero of the faith, who did not run away in fear or back down in the face of danger. He chose to stay, to serve God wholeheartedly and face the threats head on. It cost him his life. His story, their story, will inspire you, encourage you and help you maybe even face your own fears.
After a deep breath, Pauline starts, “I got to know Rami in church, but at the time he was working in a bank. The Lord put in my heart (as well as Rami’s) to go to into the ministry, and at first both Rami and I did not know what that would look like. One day in 2005 the Lord opened the door for us to run the Bible society shop in Gaza. I remember the day Suhad (Pastor Hanna Massad’s wife) asked us to join so clearly. I felt scared at first, then the feeling got stronger – I felt terrified! But not Rami. Rami felt at peace. We started to work at the Bible Society in May 2005.”
“Despite all the threats, Rami’s desire more than anything was to keep the Bible Society open, to stand firm in the face of adversity and hold fast to his faith in the Lord. A month before he was murdered, he shared with me a story of a certain Muslim Sheikh who asked him to convert to Islam. Rami shared his response with me, again making me feel terrified even though he was joyful! He told the man, ‘I can make you become a Christian, but you can’t make me become a Muslim. The ultimate thing you can do is kill me, and then I would be martyred for Christ.’ These threats and others came on the heels of his kidnapping.
The week began like any other, but by Thursday things started to take a very different turn. On Thursday 4 October 2007, a car followed Rami home as he left the Bible Society. The taxi driver was alerted to someone following them and told Rami, ‘there is a car following us.’ The taxi reached our house, but Rami waited in the car for a minute. They did not leave. As Rami left the taxi, he made eye contact with the men who would soon to be his captors. Beards covered three of their faces, they all were wearing terrifying expressions, which Rami clearly described to me when he walked inside.”
Rami kept watching them from inside his home, they eventually took off only to return again. Rami did not share this with anyone, only his brother and Pauline. He did not want others to be in fear. Not for him or themselves. By Friday of that week he received a threatening phone call. But he did not waiver in his faith, and on Saturday got up and went to the Bible Society to work. On his way home, that Saturday, he was taken.
“I called Rami that day to make sure he was ok, knowing he should be coming home soon for lunch, but he responded that he needed to go somewhere, and would be back. I knew at the time he needed to come home to eat so he could attend a meeting, so I quickly called his brother. I knew something was terribly wrong. Rami told his brother he was with a particular group of men, then the phone went dead. Then we realized he had been kidnapped. We called the police. I heard from my husband for the last time at 6pm that Saturday. After I asked him where he was, he said to me, it will be a long time until I see you, I am far away. I did not understand his message, so I waited all night for him to come back. 6am the next morning after searching all night, the police called his brother and they said they found a body matching Rami’s description. When they found him, he was already dead.”
At the time, Pauline was pregnant with their third child, Sama. Rami did not even know whether Sama was to be a boy or girl. George was two and a half and, Wissam was ten months old. A tear spilled out of the corner of Pauline’s left eye, as she continues to reflect on such a trying time in her life.
“At that time, I was arguing with God, why did you do this to me, your daughter whom you love, why did you do this? Romans 8.28 (“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”) was the verse God gave me. I asked God – how will that kind of goodness come out of all this? At that time I was in deep depression and I hated the person who murdered Rami, and If I saw him at that moment I could have killed him! But the brother that was with me at that time, told me let our revenge be that the person comes to the Lord. The only thing I could do at the time was reject that idea and hate the man who took Rami from me, from his family, from his children! I am a daughter of the Lord, is what I heard constantly, I needed to forgive is what well-meaning people said to me. We have a proverb in Arabic that says, ‘if someone has their hand in the water it is not like their hand in the midst of fire.’ I felt bitterness and exhausted, so tired from all the bitterness and hatred.”
“I started to pray saying, Lord I am your daughter, I have to forgive but I am not able to, help me. I want to have genuine forgiveness, to the point when my children ask, I do not even remember the person who murdered their father. That year the Lord started to show me things from a different perspective. Ecclesiastics really spoke to me, that in life there is a specific time for things. During that time, God showed me there was a war between the Lord and Satan, the Lord won. Rami was murdered without denying his faith. I finally started to forgive, seeing the person only as a channel for Rami’s path to his ultimate destination, heaven. But this forgiveness was only a start, I knew something was still not right.
In 2012 our church held a conference on forgiveness! The speaker asked us to close our eyes and see to whom we need to forgive. The conference was during the last days of Ramadan, around the same time Rami was murdered. I had a lot of emotions at that time. I closed my eyes and asked the Lord ‘whom do you want me to forgive?’ and I heard the Lord say, ‘the person who murdered Rami.’ I rejected the idea. I started to laugh at the thought that the Lord really wanted me to forgive the person who murdered my husband. At that time, I was not ready to forgive. That night I again went to listen, and when the pastor called people forward, I heard a voice saying to me ‘Go!’. From the first minute I felt the Holy Spirit and I started to cry, and the pastor, not knowing what happened to me, said I baptize you with the baptism of Love. I wept in that moment under His wings of love. The last day of the conference, the pastor said let us release the people who hurt us, and I closed my eyes and started to the pray with the pastor. It was like a film running in front of my eyes from the first day of Rami’s murder until now. When I opened my eyes, I felt like a new person.”
Pauline became a new person, praying with power and freedom, on a whole different level in her relationship with the Lord. When she learned about forgiveness and that God wanted her to forgive, and that He expects us to forgive, she was able to experience His freedom and love for others. Pauline heard God say, “You have to be the widow who gives.” This I felt was beyond my reach but kept this close to her heart.
“Shortly after this my sister called and said she had sent me a photo of the man who murdered Rami, this was the first time his photo had appeared anywhere. I put the person who murdered Rami (photo) on Facebook, and I said I forgive this person. Sadness and other emotions started to flood back to me, and many people accused me of not caring about my husband. I felt I was in a fight with Satan, and the evil one kept putting thoughts in my mind about the person who murdered Rami, but every time I started to entertain these thoughts, I cast it out and started to pray for this person. The man was in prison, and I prayed he would remember the things Rami said to him while being held captive. He was a member of Hamas, who had orders to kill Rami, but after he murdered Rami, he left Hamas and became a spy for Israel. Israel requested of him to kill prisoner of war, which infuriated Hamas. After this, Hamas ordered his execution. One day before the execution the Lord put in my heart to write him a message, although my family forbid me to write anything about forgiveness. I chose to follow the Lord. I wrote what I felt God laid on my heart to write and through that others wrote they are closer to forgive this person as well now.
Pauline now has a ministry to the widows in her town. They meet every week. The group studies the Bible and what the Bible teaches about widows, and what He expects of them as well as what the Bible teaches about widows. “We get to know the Lord Jesus together and they all have received Christ now and are growing in Him” says Pauline as a smile covers her face and ads, it might have been beyond my reach, but nothing is beyond God’s reach!