EXCLUSIVE: Arab Pastor on Baptizing NFL Star in Jordan River

Nazareth-based pastor speaks to Israel Today after baptizing Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson

By David Lazarus | | Topics: Arab Christians
Illustration. Photo: Tomer Neuberg / Flash90

Deshaun Watson, starting quarterback for the Houston Texans, gave his life to Jesus in the waters of the Jordan River during his first trip to Israel.

“It is simply overwhelming,” said Watson, who was in Israel with his trainer, Quincy Avery. “To be baptized in the waters of the Jordan River, sail on the Sea of the Galilee, and visit one of the first towns where Jesus preached his Gospel—I am truly in awe of this wonderful land and the wonderful people who live here,” he wrote on Instagram.

One of those “wonderful people” was local Nazareth Pastor Nizar Touma of the Church of the Nazarene, who performed the baptism. “I had no idea who this was,” the Arab pastor told Israel Today. “I didn’t know that this baptism was so important.”

The group that organized the famed quarterback’s trip to Israel contacted Pastor Touma, but neglected to explain to him that he was about to baptize a celebrity. “When I arrived at the Jordan River site, I saw all these cameras and they had a whole program arranged, but I had no idea who this is,” Touma recalled. 

It was only on the next day that a friend of the pastor saw his picture on Deshaun’s Instagram page and called him from the US to tell him about the star quarterback. “Do you know anything about American football,” I asked the pastor. “Me? No, nothing. But now I will watch the games and I pray that he will win,” Touma said with a smile.

It is not uncommon for celebs to visit Israel. A group of players with the World Champion New England Patriots football team just happened to be here this week as well on a trip organized by their Jewish owner, Robert Kraft. 

Often these trips are organized for promotional value. But getting baptized in the Jordan is a long way to go just for advertisement. “I don’t baptize people unless I know they are sincere in their belief in Jesus,” Pastor Touma assured me. “I spent time with Deshaun and his trainer and explained to them about our faith and why we believe. I asked them if they believe in Jesus and they both said yes, ‘I believe.’ So, I prayed for them, asked for God’s blessing, and anointed them with oil,” Touma said. “I could see that Deshaun prayed sincerely.”

Touma prays that Watson will now be a public witness to people about his faith in Jesus. Surprisingly, his baptism story was already covered in JNS, a Jewish news syndicate. Watson is active on social media and is happy to tell the world about his faith in Jesus. He shared on Instagram that he toasted “L’Chaim” with local Israelis.

God works in mysterious ways. Pastor Touma is a personal friend, and is active in bringing together Arab Christians and Messianic Jews in Israel.

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