By Mark Ellis
After a young Muslim woman named Samaa Habib came to Christ, she endured intense persecution from her family and the surrounding community, but even greater torment lay ahead when her thriving fellowship of Muslim converts to Christianity was bombed.
The four young men with “grim” expressions who visited one Sunday morning looked like many of the young men who fought in her country’s recent civil war. No matter their background, the young men were welcomed with love by the congregation.
“Come in, we are so happy to have you here among us. Jesus loves you,” said one of the greeters of the church, as recounted in Samaa Habib’s riveting book Face to Face with Jesus (Baker Publishing).
But these young men were on a malevolent mission, as they carefully studied how and when the followers of Jesus entered and departed the building, so the four bombs they were constructing could do the most damage.
The bombs were set to explode during the Sunday morning service, 15 minutes apart, in order to kill as many innocent and unsuspecting people as possible.
On that fateful Sunday morning, miraculously, two of the four bombs did not go off. But the two that did explode wreaked horrible damage.
Samaa was closest to one of the bombs that detonated. She was thrown 10 feet and her body slammed against an opposite wall. Her hair burned off, along with much of her flesh. Blood poured from open wounds on her head and body.
Her good friend Wafa, standing nearby Samaa, was decapitated instantly. When they found him, he was still clutching his Bible to his chest.
Samaa cried out silently in her intense agony and pain, “Jesus, help me.”
When her eyes closed and she lost consciousness, she had a very remarkable near-death experience in heaven.
“When I opened my eyes I saw brilliant white light illuminating Jesus,” she recounts in her book. “His face was brighter than the sun, and He was so glorious and transcending that I was blinded with unapproachable light. Everything around me was bathed in golden light.”
Overwhelmed by his glory, she fell face-down at His feet.
“Do not be afraid,” He told her. He reminded Samaa that His precious blood was shed for her and cleansed her, making her holy and pure enough to enter His presence — all because of His great love.
Samaa states that Jesus could read all the thoughts of her heart. “Welcome home,” He told her. She notes that His voice was “sweet and gentle, yet also powerful, like the sound of many waters.”
“His beautiful eyes were like blazing fires of consuming love that overwhelmed me. Like a magnet, His love drew me in, melting my heart and transforming me from the inside out. Embraced by love, I started to weep.”
Jesus asked her if she wanted to stay in heaven or go back. Then He showed Samaa her life, as if “seeing snapshots of a movie.” When she watched, she realized how much of her life she had lived for herself, following her own agenda.
As she caught a glimpse of her family grieving over her “death” — many of them still following Islam — Jesus revealed to her that one day they would be in heaven.
“He wanted me to go back for my family for their salvation, but also for the salvation of His family, which is multitudes,” she writes in her book.
Everything within her yearned to stay with Jesus. But she also wanted to answer His call of love, to be a witness for Jesus on earth.
Samaa believes she actually died as a result of the bomb blast, then the “same Spirit that resurrected Jesus, who is the resurrection and the life, raised me from death.” Whether it was a near-death experience or death and resurrection may be debated by some.
Return to earth
But when she regained consciousness, her broken body was in horrible torment. Surviving church members carried her outside. “It seemed as if a film was covering my eyes,” she relates. “I was going blind. My skin was burned, revealing my flesh like raw meat.” Blood poured from her wounds and her body was full of metal fragments.
Incredibly, she began to walk. She realized she was mostly naked, her once beautiful dress reduced to rags. As she walked, her failing, veiled eyesight, could still see a man with his right eye blown out, holding what was left of it to his face. She saw a woman weeping, with her leg blown off below the knee.
Ambulances had been called but never came, so she was placed in a church minibus. She began to quietly sing a worship song, because she knew the power of worship as warfare in the spiritual realm.
When she arrived at the hospital, she was stunned by the doctors’ and nurses’ indifference. “No one helped me. I realized that the medical staff presumed I was so close to death I would not survive.”
Samaa’s sister arrived at the hospital and persuaded doctors to clean her wounds and stitch her up as well as possible. As doctors worked on her, Samaa realized she was now completely blind. Most of the believers impacted by the bomb had gone deaf, but not Samaa. Apparently, a build-up of earwax protected her ears from more serious damage.
When Samaa’s mother arrived at the hospital and first saw her daughter, she collapsed on the floor in shock. “While being treated, my parents were taunted by the Muslim medical staff, who said what was happening was their own fault because their children were infidels,” she writes. Doctors informed the family that Samaa would not survive her injuries and suggested they prepare for her funeral.
But they could not appreciate the power of the Christian God, and His response to the prayers of His children. “That evening my friends prayed through the night for my life. As news of the bomb reached the outside world, others began to pray for our church.”
On the morning following the all-night prayer session, there was a breakthrough. As a nurse and doctor examined Samaa she said, “I’m hungry.”
When they heard her, their mouths dropped in amazement, wondering if they imagined it. “What would you like to eat?” the doctor asked.
“Kebab…strawberries and chocolate,” she replied. Because she was being fed intravenously, they couldn’t fulfill her request, but they realized she had turned a corner.
Some of the nurses treated Samaa badly. “Curse on you, you traitor. This is a judgment from Allah. You deserve this,” one said.
Samaa felt compelled to forgive the nurses who treated her rudely or with a callous disregard for her pain. “I had been to heaven! I had seen Jesus face to face!” she writes. “I couldn’t hold back on his love and forgiveness.”
Her physical and emotional recovery took more than a year. “One woman who was in the burn ward when I arrived noticed that my skin seemed to be recovering and that I didn’t have scars or need skin grafts,” she recounts.
The woman asked how it was possible for Samaa’s skin to heal without scars. “It is Jesus,” she replied. “He is my healer.” Also, Samaa’s eyesight was completely restored.
Ten of Samaa’s friends died instantly who had been near the bombs. “Nearly 200 people were injured; 50 of those had life-threatening injuries like me. No one understood why I survived, as I had been closest to the bomb.”
During her time in the hospital, Samaa was a bold witness to all the doctors, nurses, and patients around her. “I was transformed when I met Jesus,” she writes. “I had been to the most beautiful place imaginable with Jesus, and I wanted everyone on earth to experience it too.”
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