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The long road from Baghdad (reporting from Dearborn, Mich.): Wissam Al-Aethawi endeavors to take the Gospel to the epicenter of Arab life in America. 

DEARBORN, Mich. — In the heart of this Detroit suburb, Muslim women who wear hijabs to cover their heads abound.

Signs for Middle Eastern restaurants, halal meat markets and even national chain stores such as Walgreens appear in Arabic and English.

Cedar trees — the national symbol of Lebanon — line the streets.

A century after Henry Ford recruited thousands of Lebanese, Yemeni and other immigrants to work in the auto industry, this Michigan community boasts the largest concentration of people of Arab origin outside the Middle East. They comprise roughly 40,000 of Dearborn’s total population of 100,000.

“I call it the Arab Chinatown,” Christian missionary Wissam Al-Aethawi, 36, says as he drives along Warren Avenue, the city’s business and cultural hub.

Al-Aethawi, a one-time Iraqi soldier and engineer, believes God led him here — to the epicenter of Arab life in America and the home of the largest mosque in North America — to share the hope he found in Jesus.

This former Muslim’s dream: to establish an Arabic-speaking Church of Christ in Dearborn.

This story appears in the October 2015 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

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