With war coming ever closer to their home in Syria, Revd Wael Haddad and his wife, Maram Nafe Tahhan, turned to God for guidance and began seeking to migrate to the Gulf. But every door they tried suddenly closed, until God intervened at the eleventh hour.
Wael and Maram told their story on a special edition of the SAT-7 ARABIC worship and testimony programme Keep on Singing. Normally filmed in Egypt, this episode gathered songs and encouraging messages from believers in the Gulf states of Oman and Dubai.
“When the war began, we had a difficult decision to make,” Wael told viewers. “Should we stay or leave? Both options were difficult for us, since we were travelling towards an unknown future. After praying to the Lord, we decided to leave. We knew the journey would be difficult, but the Word of God encouraged us, and we knew it was for our good.”
Maram added: “We made plans and knocked on many doors. We felt frustrated when our plans fell through and doors were closed. This taught us an unforgettable lesson that God’s solutions are not dependent on people.”
Maram shared how the couple had received a call to serve in the Arab Evangelical Church in Dubai. But one application after another for a resident’s visa was denied.
Finally, a friend from the church called Wael with the good news that their application had been successful. “We were so happy,” Maram said, “but that night a friend of ours in Syria sent us photos of our house, completely destroyed.
“We had built this house with our own hands, lived in it, served in it, and it was filled with memories,” she continued. “You can imagine the pain, the heartbreak, and the non-stop tears on that night. But I could feel and touch God’s hands. He showed us light, hope, and an open door.”
Before they witnessed the destruction, God had answered their prayer and opened a way for them: “I could feel God’s compassion, His support, and His care for us,” Maram added. “Sometimes we see an unclear future, but the Holy Spirit reminds me that God works in unexpected ways behind the scenes for our good.”
Learning from Habakkuk
Both Wael and Dr Rafik Ramez Rady, a church leader in Oman, chose the prophet Habbakuk as an example of someone who called out to God when he felt overwhelmed by the suffering and destruction around him. Eventually, God brought him through his frustration and impatience to a new level of expectation and trust in God’s timing.
“When you feel and express your frustration and fear of the circumstances, be like Habakkuk and remember that God keeps His covenant and mercy. God made an eternal covenant with us through Jesus Christ. This eternal covenant is for you and me,” Wael encouraged.
“Habakkuk did three things to pass through the valley and reach the top of the hill,” Dr Rady said. “We can do the same three things. Firstly, he prayed. His prayer was an answer to God’s word to Habakkuk. Secondly, He contemplated God’s great deeds for His people in the past to have faith that He will do great things in the future. Thirdly, despite all the negativity around him, Habakkuk looked up towards God and had faith. Faith isn’t ignoring the circumstances but choosing to see God’s greatness.”
Dr Hany Naguib, also from Oman, reinforced this message: “Have steadfast faith and be assured that God is good and wise. His promises for your life will happen in His time. The Lord says, ‘Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord.’
“There’s fear, death and scary numbers, insomnia, loss of jobs, but in all that say, ‘Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.’”
Wrapped around these inspiring words, Keep on Singing, naturally, lived up to its name. Worship came in a kaleidoscope of styles. Musicians from Oman performed in the format that we have come to know from so many performances screened simultaneously from different locations; it came from the choir at the Oman Arab Evangelical Church; and from solo worship leaders in Oman.
A boost for Christian communities
Previous series of Keep on Singing filmed before the current travel restrictions have taken its Egyptian film crew to Jordan and Lebanon, and brought singers and musicians from Sudan, the Holy Land and elsewhere. COVID-19 has meant that representing Christian communities across the Arab world is now having to be done in a different way. But producer Andrew Gamal believes it gives those communities a massive boost.
“This episode is part of a campaign where we produce Keep on Singing from everywhere [and enable] everyone to engage with us during this critical time,” he explained. “We are using this lockdown and inability to go to church to cooperate with churches in Oman and Dubai and other MENA countries. It makes them feel included and makes a difference for them.” Future episodes are planned to include worship from Yemen, Kuwait and Sudan.
Although identifying and bringing participants together and remote filming takes more time, the results are clearly worth it if the feedback from this episode alone is anything to go by:
“Amazing work! Praise the Lord for the talents and great work done,” said one viewer. “Wonderful praise time, testimonies and Bible passages from the living Word. God is good,” said another. And one viewer sent this message of unity across the churches of the region: “Special blessing and grace for the church of Dubai and all churches around the world.”