It's not often that a former Islamic radical willingly walks into a Christian Protestant church.
But that's what will happen when Kamal Saleem, now a Christian convert and inspirational speaker, makes a scheduled appearance at Laura Street Baptist Church on Sunday, Jan 27.
Saleem is scheduled to speak at all three worship services, which take place at 8:15 a.m., 10:45 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Born to a large Sunni Muslim family in Lebanon, Saleem said he encountered various forms of bullying and violence as a youth until one day taking refuge in a mosque.
Eventually he was recruited by men affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, who offered to protect him and later sent Saleem to a Palestinian Liberation Organization training camp.
In the late 1970s, Saleem came to the United States on a mission to recruit young Americans interested in joining the radical Islamic cause.
Then his life took a drastic turn. He was the victim of a hit-and-run accident in 1984 and nearly killed.
While in the hospital, Saleem was cared for by several Christians.
After his release, one of them, a physician, took the young PLO militant into his home.
Afterward, Saleem began to disassociate himself from radical Islam as he grew closer to his new Christian friends. While attending a prayer group, he met his future wife, and the couple were married in 1990.
One of his daughters, Jennifer Saleem, said that her father realized he was called to Christian ministry after telling his family about his past.
Jennifer Saleem now works for her father's organization, Koome Ministries. The word "Koome" means arise.
"He became a Christian after the accident," Jennifer Saleem said.
"And he realized he had to be transparent with his family and what God was telling him to do."
She said that the first words out of her mother's mouth when Saleem told her about his youth were, "Our lives are going to be very different from now on."
Saleem became an ordained minister in 1998 and has since worked to share his adopted faith tradition, even in the face of threats from both Muslims and Christians that have forced him to sometimes travel with bodyguards.
"The souls that we have seen come to Christ are more than worth the troubles," Jennifer Saleem said.
The Rev. Paul McKim, Laura Street's pastor, said he believes Saleem's message is one that needs to be heard.
"This is a man who had a dramatically different life than what we know," McKim said. "And he came to Christ and has a good story to tell. He has testimony to share with us about God's grace and goodness. I'm excited to hear it."
While at Laura Street, Saleem is expected to share the story of his childhood, conversion to Christianity and spiritual journey since the near-fatal accident.
Page 2 of 2 - Laura Street Baptist Church is located at 120 S. Laura in Maryville.