As a pediatrician, you witnessed and treated the aftermath of some heinous sexual abuse crimes performed against children. What was this like for you as a doctor and mom and what was the final straw that led you to become an advocate to abolish sexual abuse and bullying?
Witnessing any form of trauma or abuse in a child is heartbreaking. As a mother, it stings even more: as I see my children safe and sound, I cannot fathom who would have the heart to harm little children. The turning point happened when I had an eight-year-old patient admitted into the children’s hospital with an eating disorder. She was the youngest daughter and had seven brothers, and her father was very disconcerted that she was born a girl. The rejection and abandonment issues she had were sad to see. One evening, I had a night shift at the hospital. I used to bring Mickey Mouse comics to read to those kids who have to spend the night at the hospital without their parents. I Just wanted to bring some cheer and laughter in those kids’ lives and alleviate their fears. All the kids were laughing enjoying the Mickey Mouse stories, except that one little girl. She sat on her bed with a somber and detached look on her face. As days went by, I discovered that her seven older brothers were sexually abusing her. No wonder she had an eating disorder! Being an entrepreneur at heart, I decided I needed to do something to stop abuse from happening to any child. I did not know where to start. I asked God to give me the plan, and He did.
I’ve heard your story about the process of your non-profit, Not Guilty, Inc. being laid into your hands by our Heavenly Father. Since not all those reading this blog entry know the weaving together that took place, will you share with us the story of how this came about and when you knew you were to say yes?
I became a Christian at the age of 16, and since then I never looked back. For me, all the roads lead to Jesus. I was working as a pediatrician and as the medical director for Conoco oil for 20 years. My antennas are always up waiting for a chance to speak to whoever I meet about Jesus. I pray with many of my patients. So when God started talking to me about going into full-time ministry, I was surprised and somewhat reluctant.
But I obeyed, and God opened the opportunity for me to have a Christian youth TV show that was watched by 40 million weekly all over the Middle East and North Africa, as well as in the USA and Canada for Arabic speakers.
Because of the show, we started Bible studies, then youth camps. Many youths came to know Jesus as their personal Savior. At every youth camp, I noticed teens having issues like drugs, pornography, multiple sex partners, homosexuality, cutting, depression and many other things. Then they would tell me their secret: that they have been sexually abused at one point in their lives. I made a deal with God that I will not work in sexual abuse (Beware what you tell God you won’t do:) At one camp, two girls accepted Christ. One of them told me about her secret of being sexually abused at the age of 9. She asked me to counsel her. “Why?” I asked. “Because when I told you about my secret, you didn’t judge me; you didn’t change the way you treat me.”
Since I had that ‘deal’ with God, I wanted a back door. So I informed her that I travel a lot and that the first time I travel, I will send her to someone else for counseling.
Six weeks later, we had to leave for South Africa for a Christian businessmen conference with Crown Financial Ministries. I sent her to another counselor.
At the conference, they said, “Everyone, introduce yourself in 30 seconds.” I said, “I am Laila, I am a pediatrician who went into full-time ministry. I have a Christian youth TV show called, ‘We Will Live Our Lives Well.’”
A South African man whom I’ve never met before approached me, “You need to have the card of my wife.” He told me. I looked at the card, and it said: prevention of sexual abuse for parents, teachers, and grandparents. “Why are you giving me this card?” I asked. “The Lord told me to give it to you.” He said.
I started crying hysterically. “God, we had a ‘deal.’” and God spoke to me saying, “I never signed on that deal. I want you to work with the sexually abused”. I went back to Cairo, and started a three-year diploma in pastoral care for the sexually abused, started my own non-profit and a campaign that has reached tens of thousands. The non-profit is founded on the scripture from Isaiah 61:3-4
“to grant to those who mourn
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations”
That’s a beautiful scripture and one God used to speak clearly to me of my mission to bring help, hope, and healing to single again women and their children. You were a practicing pediatrician and gave up your practice to begin this movement? How has knowing and living out your life purpose changed you?
Living out your life purpose is a daily choice. It takes courage and resilience. You need to make friends with failure because you will face many frustrations over time and on many occasions, especially with such a taboo subject. Knowing that I am in the center of God’s will makes me wake up excited and ready to go every single day. Some days are more draining than others, listening to all the horror stories of abuse, or not seeing the change or the recovery as quickly as I would like. Other times some patients relapse before they recover and this is hard. Yet, I always tell my patients, “I cannot solve your problem on my own. What I can do is to put your hand in the hands of Jesus, and He can complete your recovery. He is the Ultimate Healer.” But, whether days are draining, happy, successful or seemingly a failure, I pray I bring God’s Kingdom and God’s Presence in every place and every situation. I pray that my patients will experience the Shalom of God and not of man. I guess what changed in me when I went into full-time ministry is the fact that I am learning total surrender to God’s plans and purposes. And every time I think I achieved it, something happens and I realize I still have a long road to complete surrender. I just need to keep on holding to my Heavenly Father’s hand.
I know from the stories from your earlier work, The Silver Box, that God has undoubtedly answered your prayers and brought healing to many. I am so thankful that you listened to the call of God and acted in faith. That is sometimes hard to do, especially when there are others to consider. Who has been most affected by your choice to change direction from pediatrics to advocating, teaching and speaking?
I guess my family was the most affected. My husband of 33 years has been my biggest supporter all through. My two sons were a little bit surprised that I would leave medicine for full-time ministry. They felt that what I was doing was not as important as being a pediatrician. I guess as time went by and they became more aware of the dimension of the problem they too started supporting me.
I can imagine how difficult following your call would be without the support of a family. I for one am thankful to God, Wahid, and your children for their support. Who are the people that will benefit most by hearing the message and teachings that you have to share?
I use a three-pronged approach to close the cycle on the predator: I train children from age 3-18 using what I call the
Keep private parts private.
It’s not your fault.
The second prong is the parents and caregivers of children: I raise their awareness on how to spot a predator, how to see the signs of abuse, how to protect their children and what to do if a case is reported. The third prong is teachers in schools, nurseries and children’s ministry.
As an overcomer through Christ of this very crime as a child, teen, and adult, I will be sharing your book with everyone I know. My prayer is that your book will climb to the top and be the best selling book on Amazon!! God knows we all need this information to protect our children.
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