The Middle Eastern man could be 18 or 30 from a distance. He smiles shyly, politely shakes my hand, shows me where to park, and escorts me into the small coffee shop called the Salaam Center. The shop, located in a busy area directly across from the Baltimore Resettlement Center on Conkling Street in Baltimore, offers guests coffee, snacks, and more importantly–friendship and assistance for those, especially, who are newly arrived into our country.
I discovered my young escort, Fadi Narouz, is a mature 17-year-old, ready to graduate high school and head to Wake Forest University, N.C., where he’ll study political science and philosophy. He introduces me to his parents, Reda and Nadia, both with shining dark eyes and big, friendly smiles. The couple directs the Salaam Center and gives their lives daily helping refugees from around the world. “Salaam” means “peace” in Arabic. As I’m sure they welcome all of their guests with hospitality, Reda heats a large piece of incredible baklava and pours me a cup of coffee.
Refugees from over a dozen countries enter the center seeking help and friendship. They want to learn English, and they need help with their mail, in making appointments, or arranging transportation. Children and teens need homework assistance. Mostly, they all need friends who love them and love their children.
“When you immigrate from one country to another, you can barely speak their language,” Fadi explains. “You’re disoriented and need whatever help you can get.”
The little shop exudes life. Two women in hijabs are on each side of the room quietly going over English words with Pat Roush, Pauline Meeker, and Lynne Billups, members of Calvary Baptist Church, Bel Air, who volunteer weekly at the center. A two-year-old girl with a huge smile and curly brown hair, waves to me then digs through the little toy area, finds a treasure and slides in again next to her mother, who hugs her. The girl’s mother has five children with another on the way. As she’s trying to learn English, she reveals that she needs a sofa.
A Middle Eastern man strolls in and jovially greets everyone. Nadia is prepared. She smiles and gives the gentlemen two loaves of bread. Reda walks him out the door to chat.
In addition to sharing love in action, the family shares the source of their love, gently, as the Holy Spirit leads. “Our goal is to give people a choice to accept or reject Christ,” Reda says. And they do that through building relationships with the community of refugees. In a friendly conversation, one refugee asked about Christmas and Reda happily explained the story of Jesus and redemption. Reda says the Holy Spirit softens hearts and allows them to hear the Good News.
The Narouz family came to the United States from Jordan when their 10-year-old daughter, Vicky, needed treatment for an inoperable brain tumor. They continue to trust God to heal her and to sustain them. Reda had evangelized with Campus Crusade for 22 years. When the family came to the United States, he saw many refugees, and though weighed down with concern for his daughter, he felt led to continue his ministry.
The center is supported by Pleasant View Baptist Church, Port Deposit, Md.; Calvary Baptist Church, Bel Air, Md.; the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware; and the North American Mission Board; though there is a great need for both financial and volunteer help.
Reda and Nadia have four children, Fadi, 15-year-old David, 10-year-old Vicky and 7-year-old Grace. The family lives frugally in a Baltimore row home with two bedrooms and one bathroom. Fadi is preparing to leave for college on a scholarship. David will help fill the translation gap.
Regardless of the cost, they’re committed to the Great Commission. Jesus said to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, but God is sending the world here, Reda exclaims. Currently, only one church helps with ESL classes for one day weekly. Reda said they desperately need more people to lend a hand.
Time passes quickly, Reda says. People are hungry for Jesus. “If the church turns a blind eye, who else will love them? Who else will reach them with the love of Jesus?”
Salaam Center Needs
- Financial support for Reda and Nadia
- Sources for supplying material needs for clients
- Small gifts and gift bags to offer clients
- Food (rice, flour, sugar, lentils, oil, dry beans, tea, unsalted nuts); Please, no canned goods
- Volunteers to teach English (training provided)
- Help with simple language skills
- Helping children with homework
- Moving furniture when the need arises
- Teams of volunteers to do children’s activities
Contact: (443) 860-2525, Alnajy71@hotmail.com