By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
NASHVILLE — Reaching out to its neighborhood has brought internationals to this south Nashville church — in a big way.
Tusculum Hills Baptist Church here recently hosted the largest gathering of Arabic speakers in Nashville ever to be held. During the meeting the gospel was presented, about 150 people made spiritual commitments, and millions in dozens of nations worldwide participated via TV broadcast so probably many others made spiritual commitments.
The church was hosting an Egyptian/Arabic language revival which drew about 800 people including 200 children. Though many were Christian, some were Muslim or had no faith, reported Paul Gunn, pastor.
The services were broadcast to about 22 million viewers in 52 nations in the Middle East by AlKarmaTV or The Vine TV, an Arabic language channel based in California.
One of the keys to the success of the event was the international acclaim of the speaker from Egypt, Zechariah Estouro, who is known as the Billy Graham of Egypt, said Raouf Ghattas, coordinator of the event. Another attraction was the Christian singer, Ayman Kafrouny, who came to participate from Jordan. The revival was provided by seven Arabic language Christian churches in Middle Tennessee coordinated by Ghattas, a native of Egypt who is pastor of the Evangelical Arabic Baptist Church, Murfreesboro, and a retired representative of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“I’ve never experienced anything like it in my whole life,” said Gunn, unless it was revivals he experienced as a child at Southside Baptist Church, Gallatin.
“We never expected that number to attend,” said Ghattas, though the leaders of the revival promoted it through advertising. Of course, the promotion was done in the Arabic language.
“It was just a festival,” Ghattas added. “Praise the Lord. It was really exciting.”
Gunn noted that he was interested in the possible differences in theology between Egypt and America. He couldn’t find any, he said. Gunn and other English-speaking people attending the service heard a translated version of the messages and music into English through headphones.
One of Estouro’s messages, which was on the second coming, “was one of the best I’ve ever heard on the subject,” said Gunn. The sermons, even the music, had exactly the same doctrinal content as he believes, he noted.
“The truth in Egypt and Jordan is the same truth I would preach here on this side of the world,” said Gunn. He was glad that many people, especially members of Tusculum Hills, experienced that as they joined with revival participants for the Sunday evening service.
Ghattas explained that he knew of Estouro, having read many of his books and taught them in schools. He holds “good theology,” Ghattas said.
On the numbers who attended, Ghattas said many refugees from Syria have recently been relocated here.
Gunn reported it is estimated that 10,000 Arabic speakers live in the Antioch area of Nashville, which is near the church, and 30,000 live in Middle Tennessee. The church recently held an International Music School involving 117 students from 10 countries including some who were Muslim and Hindu.
So it may seem logical for Tusculum Hills to host the revival but the church is a small congregation in number of members, Gunn explained.
When they learned that revival leaders needed their help in caring for the children who would come and predicted they would number about 140, Gunn and fellow minister of the church Bill Highsmith knew they couldn’t meet the need but they didn’t imagine that number was possible. They were wrong, said Gunn. They had many more children than that with 200 the last night.
Thankfully, most members of Tusculum Hills came out to participate as well as many volunteers from other churches. Of course, members of Tusculum Hills also came to operate the sound system, and be parking lot attendants, ushers, and clean up workers.
As Gunn and Tusculum Hills members realized the need for childcare, Gunn asked for help via Facebook and e-mail to friends.
Amazingly, Baptists and others, including Catholics and Nazarenes, came to help. Baptists came to help from First Baptist Church, Nashville; Long Hollow Baptist Church, Hendersonville; Friendship Baptist Church, Mount Juliet; Green Hill Baptist Church, Mount Juliet; The People’s Church, Franklin; Brentwood Baptist Church, Brentwood; and Forest Hills Baptist Church, Nashville.
Gunn said he is glad his church was receptive to the event though it involved a different language and culture.
“I can’t imagine any pastor being more proud of a congregation than I am of them.”
Ghattas said he hopes the event “will open doors in an amazing way all over the city and area for Arabic speakers and the gospel.”