The Good Soldier: Running on the Road of Hope is the life story of author Elie Hasbani. Born in Lebanon, Elie, as the firstborn son, held a position of privilege and entitlement, dictated by the cultural tradition within which he was raised. He could do no wrong from his family’s perspective and was given anything he wanted. With the position of first son, however, also came responsibilities and expectations that Elie found difficult to fulfill. He wanted the privileges, but not always the responsibilities; and so, he began at a young age to run, not away, but through the questions with which he continually wrestled.
Elie’s protected world was turned upside down when war broke out in Lebanon. As a young man, he stepped in to defend his beloved Lebanon and became embroiled in the twists and turns of a complicated political and military situation. Within this chaos, God began to work in Elie’s life to answer some of the questions that plagued him; through what most would view as a tragic event, God would change Elie’s life forever.
On October 10, 1985, I received an order from the General Command to take my troops and go to enemy territory on a mission to destroy some rockets that were aimed at our position. So my friends and I took our guns and headed toward the area where the rockets were suspected to be. On our way there, I was supposed to be very cautious and ready for any surprise from the enemy. I had to be in constant contact with the General Command by way of walkie-talkie. Our mission was to find and disable the rockets before they could be launched against our positions or into some village of innocent civilians.
We got out of our vehicles and I gave instructions on how to reach the spot on Mount Abu Kamha, under the Mount of Hermon, where the rockets were suspected to be. Cautiously, we started hiking to reach the top of this mountain. Suddenly we found three rockets! As soon as I spotted them I contacted my leader and informed him that the first part of our mission was completed. Then he gave me the order to disable the rockets before they could be set off.
I looked at my friends, made the sign of the cross over my face, and stepped forward to accomplish the mission. The rockets were connected with wires to a stopwatch and were set to detonate in fifteen minutes. I had to act quickly, but carefully. I had to find the correct wire to cut in order to disable them. My friend handed me a pair of pliers that were rather blunt and difficult to use. I was so scared something would go wrong and that the rockets would explode. As the leader, though, I had to do it. I carefully considered which wire to cut. Fortunately, it was the one that disabled the rockets.
I stepped back and said to my friends, “I did it!” They were all sweating from exhaustion and fear. We were relieved, but still had one thing to do: change the direction of the rockets for more safety. So I asked my friends to keep watch, guarding while I changed their direction. I moved the first one, then the second, and finally the third. I was kneeling down at the time. As I stood up, the earth exploded under me. The force and power of the explosion lifted me high into the air and I landed on the ground on my back and hands. I lay there like a dirty, discarded, limp rag. I could not comprehend what had happened. I smelled something burning only to realize it was my own flesh. The taste of blood and dirt filled my mouth. I thought that one of the rockets had exploded or that the enemy had attacked. Then I felt the pain. A terrible pain wracked my whole body. Before looking in the direction of the pain, I started to lose it. I felt like I was torn to pieces. I tried to lift myself up to a standing position, but I couldn’t. Suddenly, the thought came to me that I was going to die. This time I was dying for real. I was so scared! What would happen when I died? I was sure I was going to hell. What could I do? I tried to hold my breath inside of me, thinking that my spirit was about to come out of me. I started to pray for the comfort of my parents and friends. Desperate and frightened, I lifted up my head and gazed into the sky. Up in the heavens I saw a small cloud. Then the thought occurred to me, “My only hope is Jesus.” Even though I believed in saints, I knew that they could not save me now. I shouted with all my strength, “Jesus, I know you are alive and I know you are true. Please save me and take me to heaven. I don’t want to go to hell. Forgive all my sins. I am a big sinner. I don’t want to die.” I was trying to hold onto life even though I had often wished for death. I realized at that moment how important and precious life is, at the very moment I was about to lose it. I continued to pray to Jesus, “If you save me and keep me alive, I will be yours forever. I will serve you and follow you and tell everyone about you.” As soon as I finished my prayer, I heard a voice like a wind coming from heaven. It came on me and I felt peaceful, happy both in my body and in my soul. A strange power filled me; I started to laugh and praise God out loud. What was happening to me? I had changed in a second! I tried to sit up and this time I did it very easily. I looked at my body, covered with blood. I saw my left leg completely burned and hanging on the skin. The bone had been completely broken and crushed. My other leg was bleeding and my calf was cut severely. I started yelling, “My leg is gone! My leg is gone! But I am still alive! Thank you, God. Thank you, Jesus.”
Elie Hasbani is the pastor to the nations at Eastbrook Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He has God’s vision for the Nations. His vision is based on the great commission in the Bible (Matthew 28:18-20, Revelation 7:9-12), and unity among all believers (John 17: 20-23). He and his wife, Luna, are raising their three boys with intentional participation in the international community found within the city of Milwaukee. Elie earned his doctorate in ministry from Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois; he is the founder of non-profit organization Running for Hope.