Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Jonah Preaches the Word

I missed a couple of weeks with joyful news on ministry and I am late with this one! But I will make it up with some great joyful news! The first Iraqi minister in a Presbyterian Church was received into membership of Lake Huron Presbytery and will serve as one of the pastors of First Presbyterian in Bay City.

Check the story:

The Bible speaks of a prophet named Jonah who gets swallowed by a whale and taken to Nineveh to deliver God's word.

The Rev. Jonah Salim's story is somewhat different: It tells of an Iraqi Christian pastor from Nineveh, who travels by plane to the United States to spread a new message of hope and peace.

Salim, 33, a political refugee and missionary on staff at First Presbyterian Church in Bay City, made history on Tuesday by becoming the first Iraqi minister ever to be transferred into the membership records of the Presbyterian Church USA.

Presbyterian leaders from as far as Chicago were on hand at the Center for Ministry in Saginaw to witness the occasion.

"Today, your action confirms that we are all equals in God's eyes," Salim said, addressing a crowd of more than 100 representatives from the Presbytery of Lake Huron, gathered to vote on accepting a transfer of record of Salim's ordination from an Egyptian seminary.

Salim only needed a three-fourths majority vote, but the decision was made unanimously in his favor. The Presbytery of Lake Huron includes representatives of churches from Bay City, north to Tawas, south to Flint, west to Mount Pleasant and east to the Thumb.

The Presbyterian Church USA, to which Salim now belongs, has 2.3 million members and more than 14,000 ordained ministers at 10,000 congregations nationwide. Salim is the first minister to come from Iraq in the organization's more than 200-year history, its headquarters in Louisville confirmed.

The Rev. Doug Tracy, stated clerk for the Presbytery, said a special committee was formed to thoroughly examine Salim and his faith before accepting him. During the past year, Salim had to pass five ordination exams and prove his knowledge of the Bible and understanding of faith issues.

"He wrote a Biblical exegesis demonstrating his knowledge of Biblical languages, and part of the fun for those of us who got to read it was we saw interpretations of the text presented in English, in Hebrew, and in Aramaic," Tracy said.

Salim fled to the United States two years ago as a political and religious refugee, escaping what he feared would be persecution from Muslim extremists in his native Iraq. He landed in Bay City in late 2007 and was granted asylum to stay in the United States as a refugee last June.

The Rev. Jeffrey Weenink, head pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Bay City, invited Salim to come work under him.

"It's a momentous day - a fulfillment of a long envisioned sense of call," Weenink said of Salim's recognition on Tuesday. "This adds that certification and that level of legitimacy in the eyes of the denomination."

Michael Gage, an elder at First Presbyterian Church in Kinde, voted to accept Salim.

"This is a fabulous day," Gage said. "We're proud to have Jonah in our Presbytery and proud to have him in the United States."

Also there to share in the celebration on Tuesday was Salim's former partner in ministry, Mary Azat, who flew in from Cairo, Egypt, with her husband, Joseph. Salim and Azat, who is Catholic, spent two years ministering together to foreign prisoners in Egypt.

"This is my second time to attend a celebration for Jonah," Azat said, recalling Salim's ordination in Egypt. "I am happy to be with him in important times."

Congratulations Rev. Salim and welcome to the PC (U.S.A.)!

A joyful day indeed!

1 comment:

cam said...

Great story! Congratulation! I really liked this new version of Jonah.