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Friend comes back home to Alabamacomment (0)

June 19, 2003

By Johnie Sentell

God has blessed us in Alabama by bringing special people here from all around the world.

In the 1970s, Nagi Kheir came to Alabama from Egypt. A remarkable person who combined dignity, humility and humor, Nagi was a member of Dawson Memorial Baptist Church in Homewood.

He and his lovely wife, Sonia, were members of one of the “Dawson dutch” dinner groups, which usually had four to six couples in each group. Meeting in one another’s homes every month, we brought covered dishes and enjoyed wholesome Christian fellowship.

Nagi (it sounds like “naggy”) was very much a practical joker.

On one occasion at the Kheirs’ home, Nagi quietly told me I should go to Sonia and tell her something that sounded like “Anna bamoot feeki.” I always like to try to pronounce foreign phrases, so I did as he suggested. When I spoke those words, Sonia turned as red as a radish, laughed and said, “Nagi told you to say that, didn’t he?” I had to admit that he had. She said that it roughly means in Arabic, “I am wild about you!” We all had a good laugh.

Another evening, when the dinner group was at our house, Nagi commented on how much he liked our sterling silver pattern. We thanked him, of course.

As he left that night, one of our forks was prominently poked into his front pocket. He tried to look surprised when we called his attention to it. After that practical joke, every time he left our home, I would ask him to check his pockets to make sure he was “clean.”

Dawson folks were sad when the Kheirs and their three young children moved from Birmingham about 17 or 18 years ago. After living in Chicago, they moved to the Wash­ington, D.C., area and settled there. Now and then they would be in Birmingham and visit at Dawson.

Advocate for powerless

Nagi always glorified God. He was an advocate for the poor and the powerless, especially Christians living in Muslim-dominated countries.

This year Nagi came back to Birmingham to wait for a liver transplant. He had suffered with hepatitis about 25 years. During the weeks of waiting Nagi endeared himself to Dawson folks who had not known him during his years as a member.

Finally a donated liver became available, and the transplant was made. It seemed successful, but after a few days Nagi took a turn for the worse and was in agonizing pain. Sonia said she was just praying that God’s will would be done.

Nagi died last month. At the funeral at Dawson, he was remembered as a gentle, helpful and humorous man and a model friend. Although the Kheirs had been away for years, burial was in a ­­­Bir­mingham cemetery. Sonia said Birmingham felt like home.

One hundred paces from Nagi’s grave is the grave of another Baptist who very much enjoyed humor — Dr. Hudson Baggett, editor of The Alabama Baptist, 1966-1994. The marker only identifies him as an army private in World War II who  was awarded the Purple Heart.

Almost every year Dr. Baggett wrote an editorial about the attack on Pearl Harbor. He didn’t want people to forget that we must be prepared.

At The Alabama Baptist our aim is to help Baptists stay inspired and prepared for Christian service. Furn­ishing the paper to the families of your church is an important part of maintaining a healthy congregation.

We hope your church is preparing to emphasize the ministry of the paper on “Read The Alabama Baptist Day,” the last Sunday in July. This year it is on July 27, one day after Dr. Baggett’s birthday.

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