Some churches are having a difficult time filling the pews, but that’s not the case at Crestline Baptist Church on the South Hill.
The Rev. Randy Myers is sharing the church with several other congregations, so each Sunday the place is bustling from early morning to late evening.
“We host four churches here,” Myers said.
The latest addition is the Church of Salvation, a Christian congregation that reaches out to Arabic-speaking people and Muslims.
The congregation is part of the ministry of Salvation for Muslims, founded and led by evangelist Michael Paul, who was born in Baghdad and speaks both Arabic and English. Raised in a Muslim family, Paul said he became a Christian when he was 23 years old, in 1993.
“It was very offensive to my family and my tribe what I did,” said Paul, who now lives in Coeur d’Alene. “They were ashamed.”
He said his family tried to make him repent, telling him he was young and clueless, but Paul stuck with Christianity.
He was baptized by a chaplain on an American base, where he worked as a cultural adviser and interpreter for American forces in Iraq from 2007 to 2010.
“Those were the three most beautiful years of my life,” Paul said.
As the war in Iraq ended, Paul continued to travel and preach his faith in Christ in the Middle East.
He said he was kidnapped and tortured several times, including on a trip to Syria.
“After the war ended, that was when I started being persecuted,” Paul said, adding that he returned to the base where he worked as an interpreter. “My American boss helped me get my papers straightened out so I could come here.”
Paul said he believes Muslims who have recently immigrated to the United States would integrate better if they became Christians.
“I am against any radical form of life,” Paul said. “My force is the love of Jesus Christ.”
Myers said Crestline Baptist Church is working with the Church of Salvation.
“We don’t just provide space for them, we are prayer partners, too,” Myers said.
A Slavic Russian-speaking congregation also meets at the church.
“We are a pretty small congregation, we are old and we are conservative, we are old-fashioned,” Myers said. “I feel like the Lord has blessed us with the opportunities to host other congregations – I like seeing the building busy all the time.”