My Husband Took My Baby

by Stacy Hajjar with Michelle L. Levigne

How do you comm
unicate with a one-year-old, when you're in Ohio and she's in Lebanon?

My husband went home to Lebanon and took Michaella, who was still nursing. My only way to communicate with her was to sing over the telephone the Barney song, "I love you, you love me." She sang it back. That was how we communicated. Barney was a universal language.

Before we married, friends told me to watch the movie, "Not Without my Daughter."

I never dreamed something like that would happen to me.

Looking back, signs were there. He became possessive and jealous during my pregnancy. He even threatened he would leave if I did anything wrong.

Still, it happened without warning.

Last year, when I came home from work on March 27th, and he and Michaella weren't there. It got late and they didn't return, so I called all the family. Nobody had seen or heard from them. By midnight, I called the police and filled out a missing person’s report.

For two weeks, I didn't know if they were dead or alive. Then I traced his work phone records to a travel agency. I told them, "I'm waiting for some tickets for my husband and my daughter." They said: "Those tickets have already been issued and used."

That's when I knew that they were in Lebanon. He had lived up to his threats.

I flew over to get her back, but he had already made her a Lebanese citizen. With dual citizenship, the signatures of both parents were required for Michaella to leave the country. There was absolutely no way to get her out of there.

For six weeks, I debated what to do. Should I go live in a country where I don't speak the language, where women have no rights? Or do I try to fight him and get her, somehow?

I decided to fight him and worked with every organization I could think of. I ransacked the Internet for information. Nothing worked. No one could help me.

I hired professionals. They promised they would return her. So I gave them $25,000 cash -- my last bit of money. The American embassy in Africa got bombed that very weekend, so because of security reasons, they couldn't get Michaella.

Then I did what I should have done from the start -- trust God. I learned that Man couldn't help me. I worked with the State Department. American Christian organizations. The National Center for Missing Children. The FBI. Strongsville Police. Nobody could help me. This only pointed me to God. And God was saying, "Trust me."

Why is God always my last option, when He should have been the first?

I told my mother, "I can't live without my daughter. I'm going over there. I don't know if I'm going to make it back alive." He had threatened I would be killed if I went over there. He had made many terrible threats and I had proof he meant them, but I decided I would rather be dead than live without my daughter.

I arrived in Lebanon, Sept. 10th. When I got there, I was guarded by his family constantly. I wasn't able to leave. I was never out of anyone's sight. It was frustrating.

I got into my Bible. I prayed. I turned to God and grew closer to Him and stood on His promises because I had nothing left but God.

The only communication I had with my mother was on my husband's cell phone, which he left at home. Then he got the cell phone turned off.

We fought. He took my passport. I prayed.

I had to call my mother to let her know what was going on, so when I went on an errand, I went to the pizza shop next door where they spoke a little English. They took me to where I could make an international phone call. I called Mom and she told me they were trying to send professionals to rescue me. It would work this time, because now I had my hands on Michaella.

Mom said, "Just sit tight."

My husband and I fought that weekend and I knew I couldn't take the abuse and fear anymore. I was alone in a foreign country with no protection -- except God. He gave me Psalms 37 and 91, which speak of God as our refuge, our shelter, and how He overcomes our enemies' plans.

Monday I called my mother again and learned the American embassy in Lebanon knew I was there and people were waiting for me. I was doubtful because before, they couldn't help me with Michaella. Mom insisted I go to the embassy, where I would be safe on American soil.

I said, "That's it, I'm doing it tomorrow."

Tuesday morning, I told my mother-in-law I was going to the store, and since Michaella was fussy I would take her with me. We would be right back.

Then we left with just the clothes on our back. I prayed, "God, I don't know what's going to happen, but You have to guide me. I'm walking out of here in faith."

I expected someone to follow us. No one did. I got in the elevator and went down to the first floor. I walked out of the building, praying, "Please, God, send somebody."

A car stopped, driven by a young man who spoke little English. I had to get going because someone might see me in a stranger's car when I was supposed to be walking to the store. I tried to explain that I wanted to go to the American embassy. I understood as much Arabic as he understood English. It was interesting, but I was finally able to convince him. He was supposed to go to work but he didn't go. He took us all the way to the embassy, which was out of his way. He even waited outside to make sure I didn't need a ride afterwards. He was an angel.

The first man I met at the embassy was Lebanese and he asked me, "Don't you think your husband has the right to take your daughter wherever he wants?"

I started crying. I said, "He's going to kill me if he finds out I left. If you aren't going to help me, let me know right now because I need to get moving."

They brought us into the embassy. They were wonderful. They fed us and got us diapers and hid us. God was answering my prayers.

There was a chance my husband had put our names on a list at the airport, to keep us from leaving. When the embassy people checked, we weren't on the list, so we were safe -- and we had to get out before we were added to that list.

I kept praying, "We have to get out today. Please God, make a way where there seems to be no way. Do something."

God made that way. We needed passports and exit visas, and a Lebanese official had to provide them. Someone exchanged favors and the next morning we had everything we needed to get out of Lebanon.

The embassy people escorted Michaella and me in something like an ambulance, but with big machine guns. A truck followed us, with five armed men hanging out the windows, waiting to shoot anybody who tried to stop us. It was bizarre, like something out of the movies.

Michaella loved it. They really don't have traffic laws in Lebanon, so every time we got stuck in traffic our escort turned on that siren and she'd go "Oooh! Oooh!" She was having a ball.

At the airport, they hid us in the basement and then they escorted us onto the plane and waited until the plane took off.

I just cried and thanked God and held Michaella in my arms.

I arrived in Lebanon on Sept. 10, and we were back home in Cleveland on Sept. 24th. Only God could do that.

God gave Michaella back to me for a reason, and she has been prophesied over that she will become a great woman of God. She was my miracle baby even before God brought her home. I miscarried before Michaella and there was a possibility she wouldn't survive. Because of God, we survived together.

Twice.


Note: Stacy and her ex-husband are in court now as he sues for custody of Michaella. Please pray for Stacy Hajjar and Michaella.