On January 24, Essam Habib, a student at Middle East University (MEU), arrived safely in New York City. However, he did not go merely to see the sights of the United States’ largest city; he traveled there for a mission.
Currently, Essam is in New York City with an international group of Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) young adults representing each division within the global SDA church structure. The Youth Department of the General Conference provided the funds necessary to bring the group together.
Referred to as the NY13 One Year In Mission Team, the group of young adults is there to give Bible Studies, assist with evangelistic efforts and receive valuable training. They will then utilize what they learn when returning to their home regions after 6 months. Essam is there specifically to represent the Middle East and North Africa Union (MENAU).
Currently, the General Conference is focusing its evangelistic efforts specifically on urban areas. In particular the focus of this year is New York City. The NY13 One Year In Mission project is a part of this overall effort. Essam along with the team will be doing the groundwork for several upcoming evangelistic series.
After the New York experience concludes and Essam returns to Lebanon, he will then assist in training the youth here. In 2014, the project will progress further for MENAU as they plan to send 10 young adults to work in the urban area of Cairo, Egypt.
Originally, from Syria, Essam is a sophomore studying Theology. He first found out about the NY13 opportunity last July through Marshall McKenzie, MENAU Coordinator for Literature Ministries, Translation and Youth Liaison. Talking about his early interest in the program Essam says, “I was interested [in the program] because I believed it was a call from God and a good opportunity to get knowledge and experience.”
McKenzie first met Essam by attending a weekly Bible Study on MEU campus called Ignite. Essam was one of the members of the group who was also involved in a door-to-door ministry, visiting and witnessing to community members.
As he got to know Essam better, McKenzie also learned more about his story and how he traveled regularly back to Syria—even in the midst of civil war—to spiritually nurture a group of 12 families within his home village. He expressed to McKenzie that his dream is to again raise-up an Adventist church in that community.
In his role as the Youth Liason, McKenzie presented Essam to the Administration Committee of MENAU as a potential candidate to serve as part of the NY team. They voted to accept his name but it was still necessary to apply for the required visa through the US embassy.
Talking about the visa application process McKenzie says, “That was a miracle in and of itself!”
On the day that Essam first went to the embassy, he came out after a couple hours with his request denied. There had been several Syrians in front of him and none of them were granted visas that day.
Concerned, McKenzie spoke with a fellow MENAU workers wife who formerly worked at a US embassy in Yemen. She suggested that McKenzie write a letter explaining the program and its objectives. Proceeding to do so and sending it off with a prayer, the embassy called within a couple of hours. Unable to reach McKenzie, they called Essam directly and scheduled an interview with him.
During the interview, Essam was asked to explain the details of the program he would participate with and to clarify what was previously misunderstood. Soon after, he was granted the necessary visa.
Talking about his experience so far and what he has learned Eassam says “Never stop any call from God because God loves you and He know the best for everyone. He will take care of His children anytime and every time.”
Through the experience he says that, “I want to learn from this experience how to reach people in our culture, in the Middle East and to know how to encourage young people to do the same; [to be] young missionaries.”
MEU is proud to have students like Essam whose focus is to make a positive difference in our world. We are thankful that he has been granted this opportunity and look forward to seeing him utilize the experience and knowledge he will gain.
Written by Jason Lemon