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Blind Faith
Disfigured by a brutal suicide bombing in Lebanon, how would the woman find the strength to carry on?

Roueida Salame has no memory of the deafening explosion or the feel of the street shattering beneath her. She doesn't even remember being trapped inside the burning car. But she does remember waking up in a hospital bed in an intensive-care unit in Beirut, Lebanon, where she would remain for the next three months.

Life-Changing blast

It was precisely 2 p.m. on the afternoon of February 6, 1983. Civil war was raging in Lebanon. Roueida had finished classes for the day at Beirut University College (now Lebanese American University). Outgoing and charming, the beautiful 22-year-old was majoring in fine arts with a minor in interior design and advertising. She was three months shy of marrying her fiancé. Life couldn't possibly get any better.

Roueida had recently purchased a new car and was driving down a residential street in Beirut when she slowed behind a car stopped in front of two 14-storey buildings. Roueida remembers hearing a woman tell some Lebanese soldiers in one of the buildings that she had to enter to get a doctor's prescription for her sick baby.

Without warning, Roueida's world shattered. The parked car was packed with explosives and the two buildings had bombs planted on every floor. The young mother activated them all, killing both herself and her baby. Over 1,200 pounds of explosives detonated in one horrific moment, engulfing Roueida in flames and flying glass.

The blast left Roueida completely blind. The bones in her face shattered, her nose was blown off and the only solid part that remained was her teeth. Roueida had taken the brunt of the blast.

"The doctors were very sceptical of my chances of survival and estimated I had an hour to live, maybe two if I was lucky," Roueida says. "They couldn't believe I was still alive three months later, still in intensive care undergoing operation after operation."

Blind, bedridden and disfigured, Roueida faced a bleak future. "I would have spent the rest of my life as a beggar," she reflects. "Either that, or I would have been shut away and forgotten." Her fiancé never once visited her in the hospital, and old friends melted away.

Yet, rather than see her life as coming to an end, Roueida saw the blast as a rebirth. "February 6 is my birthday in Christ!" Roueida declares. For that very morning, she had given herself up to Jesus.

Seeing the light

Five years before the accident, Roueida had heard the message of salvation from a close friend. "I was awed that she was so loving and humble and continually put Jesus first in her life. I wanted to know how I could do that," remembers Roueida. Her friend told her that she needed to ask Christ to come into her life. "I prayed," she continues, "but not with my heart. Five years passed and I never once opened a Bible."

At 6 a.m. on February 6, 1983, Roueida was sitting on her bed. "I suddenly saw all the sins I had committed and I heard a voice ask: 'If you die today, what would happen to you? You have to be prepared.' " she recalls. "At that moment, I realized I was a sinner and repented with all my heart. I immediately felt changed. I was so filled with joy that I had gotten rid of the heavy load off my back." That same afternoon, the explosion ripped her life apart.

Giving her life to God that morning enabled Roueida to survive the ordeal. "I prayed every day, thanking God," she says about the time she spent in intensive care. When the doctors prepared to remove the bandages from her eyes, they warned her that if she couldn't see, it meant she was permanently blind. "At that moment," says Roueida, "I saw a light in front of me. Jesus was standing there, His arms wide open. He told me: 'Come to Me and I will comfort you.' So I put all my trust in Him."

Working miracles

Because she needed extensive surgery requiring expertise the hospitals in Lebanon could not provide, Roueida was airlifted out of the country to Houston, Texas, where she stayed for a year and a half. After that, she moved to Canada, where she was granted residency status for her and her family.

Roueida believes God allowed this to happen to her for the better. "I would never have left if the accident hadn't happened," she says. "God helped me escape the civil war in Lebanon and gave me a better life, for me and my family."

Now 44, Roueida continues to undergo operations every year and still succeeds in bewildering doctors. Amazingly, they still find pieces of glass in her face from 20 years ago. "Don't ask me why you're living," her doctor tells her. "There's nothing scientific that proves you should still be alive. It's a miracle."

"I can do things now that I didn't know how to do before when I was able to see," Roueida says. She helps out at Val Royal Baptist Church in St. Laurent, Quebec, by recording and copying sermons on tape. "I don't feel handicapped at all," she smiles. Roueida goes out, attends church, takes piano lessons, knits and uses the computer. She even sculpts like she used to do in university. "God has been working miracles in my life and I reflect His light wherever I go."

"It was not the will of God, it was not God who did this," says Fadi Nouneh, the pastor at Roueida's church. "God is always good. What happened that day was the result of the sins of man and the devil. But God transformed that explosion for good. Rouieda knows now that when she dies, the first person she will see in Heaven is Jesus!"

Originally published in Faith & Friends, January, 2007.




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