Sammy Khalife grew up in Lebanon and was raised as a Muslim. When he was 14 years old, he moved to the United States.
"I was always nosy. I always wanted to know more," said Khalife. "In high school, I got a scholarship to learn English in Texas. "
He spent a year at the University of North Texas before moving to Michigan to study business management.
"After I graduated I didn't want to go back to Lebanon. I didn't have a visa to stay in the States, and September 11 happened, so they were kicking everyone out," Sammy explained.
Sammy managed to land a job at a bank in Canada, but after just two years, the bank shut down, leaving him back at square one. Khalife decided it was time for a career change.
"I went to school for nursing. I wanted to work with people and help people," said Khalife. " The first semester, my life changed. I loved nursing so much."
After graduating from nursing school, Sammy decided to look for a job. He came across a posting in Swift Current, Saskatchewan.
"I was sure I was not going to like it. I decided to sign only a year-long contract," said Sammy
When he arrived in Swift Current, Sammy says it was a complete culture shock.
"The people were very nice, but I couldn't wait for my year to be over," said Sammy.
However, it was an experience at work that changed his life forever.
"One time, one of my co-workers told me I should volunteer with the refugee committee," Sammy explained.
He said yes and quickly became a translator for the committee.
"We'd meet every week. I would start with a prayer for the family and then see what their needs were," Sammy explained.
He says he was shocked seeing these people pray for someone they didn't know.
"I felt so much love. Everything is about love," said Sammy. "I heard the word grace and love a lot," Khalife explained.
This drew Sammy to want to learn more, and eventually, he gave his life to the Lord.
The transformation in him was unbelievable, and Sammy couldn’t keep quiet. As a result, many family members turned their backs on him. He lost his inheritance, and he started receiving aggressive messages; death threats and harassing messages about how God was going to destroy him for converting from the Muslim faith. Sammy couldn’t be deterred, though.
In 2018, Sammy’s life changed again when he was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy—a heart disease that causes the heart to grow bigger than it should. Sammy had already lost his mother, sister and brother to the disease. He was initially told he might need a transplant in the future and was put on medication. But his condition quickly deteriorated and the need for a transplant became imminent. He was airlifted to Edmonton in 2019 to have a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) inserted. Sammy now is kept alive by this mechanical heart, which pumps his blood and is connected to exterior controls and batteries.
During the surgery, Sammy suffered a stroke which completely paralyzed the right side of his body and took away his ability to speak. He has gained his movement back through physiotherapy, and his speech has come a long way.
Sammy says it's thanks to his faith, that he has managed to find comfort and peace throughout this ordeal.
On Thursday, July 14, 2022, just a week after we aired his interview, Sammy passed away.
A celebration of life service will take place on Friday, July 22, 2022, at 2:00 pm at East Side Church of God in Swift Current, Saskatchewan.
Written by Colleen Houde with files from the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada.