By Portia Williams
Christ’s Community Church (CCC), located at 25th and Thomas Ave. in Portsmouth, will welcome Ghassan Thomas, former Muslim converted to Christianity, who will share a riveting, personal account of how his life and the lives of members of his family have been in jeopardy with Islamic terrorists.
Rick Clark, Lead Pastor at CCC, said they became connected to Ghassan through a conference he attended in California.
“We partner with a mission group called World Help, and so we got connected with him because every year we go to World Help’s annual Missions Conference to hear about what they are doing throughout the world,” Clark said. “Ghassan was one of the speakers at the conference which was held in Palm Springs, California, so we got to hear his story for the first time.”
He said Thomas will speak at three different services at CCC this weekend.
“Ghassan will be here at Christ’s Community Church on Saturday, the 19th at 5 p,m. and then we are adding a service on Sunday morning, just to accommodate the people, we will have an 8:30 a.m. service and 10:30 a.m. service, and so he (Thomas) is going to speak at all three services,” he said.“After his session, I was so enamored by what he was sharing,” he said. “When you hear about the persecuted church, as Christians in America, we have the tendency to think that was back in the days of Jesus, but to know that it is happening right here, and right now is frustrating on a couple of levels, because you sit and you hear about the reports of ISIS and it is certainly not just happening in the Middle East, its happening in other areas.”
Ghassan Thomas was born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq. He graduated from Baghdad University with a degree in Drama. One of Thomas’s cousins witnessed to him about Jesus Christ while he was attending the university. However, at that time in his life, Thomas was not ready to accept Christ into his life. Later, during the Gulf War, a relief team from the Alliance Church in Lebanon came to Baghdad to disseminate medication and food.
The strong testimony shared by the Alliance made a tremendous impact upon Thomas, and he surrendered his life to Christ, and accepted Christ as his Savior. After his conversion to Christianity from the Islamic faith, Thomas returned to Iraq and established an underground church in his home in Baghdad, where he went on to help establish at least six other churches. Thomas and his family have experienced numerous death threats, which caused him and his family to flee Iraq.
He said hearing Thomas’s story was an overwhelming experience.
“After his session, I was so enamored by what he was sharing,” he said. “When you hear about the persecuted church, as Christians in America, we have the tendency to think that was back in the days of Jesus, but to know that it is happening right here, and right now is frustrating on a couple of levels, because you sit and you hear about the reports of ISIS and it is certainly not just happening in the Middle East, its happening in other areas.”
CCC wanted to help Thomas in his efforts of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“So, you still feel like there is more that we can do. So, we are bringing him so that he can inform us about the current state of the persecuted church in the Middle East, and about what he is doing to help equip Christians in the Middle East, and to hear about what he is doing to share the gospel with Muslims in the Middle East,” he said. He was a Muslim, and someone shared Christ with him. He came to Christ, and now he is passing it on at the risk of his life.”
He said he is hopeful that churches will come out to hear Thomas’s story, and offer support to his endeavors.
“My hope is that the church will respond by supporting what he is doing in his pastor training conferences and discipleship that he is doing there in the Middle East,” he said. “The way we’ll do that is, we have made a financial commitment that we’re going to present to him, and if he wants to utilize those funds to purchase Bibles, or provide any kind of humanitarian need among the refugees that he ministers to, then that will be at his discretion. He is a way that we can say, yes we can pray for you, but we want to do something.”
As is the custom at CCC, monetary support will be taken up on a voluntary basis.
“At our services, we don’t take up an offering, we just have buckets in the back, and anything that people put in will also go towards that,” he said. “He doesn’t come asking for money. He actually doesn’t make any type of requests or demands at all, which makes it even more compelling. He is a very humble man.”
Reach Portia Williams at 740-353-3101, ext. 1929, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.