There was a huge traffic jam on West Columbia Avenue in Belleville on Sunday afternoon as hundreds of cars lined up to get to a faith healer at St. Anthony Catholic Church.
Channel 7 News had run stories six different times between Thursday and Sunday about the faith healer coming to Belleville and many people came with their sick children, ailing elderly people, and others in wheelchairs, on walkers and with oxygen.
Almost 1,000 were prayed over by Dr. Issam Nemeh between 1 p.m. Sunday and 1 a.m. Monday morning when he finally finished. About the same number had to be turned away, said church members who volunteered at the event.
Dr. Nemeh is a Cleveland, Ohio, surgeon and devout Catholic who is known for using his hands to pray over people. As healings are reported, the crowds swell at his appearances. He said what happens with their faith is more important than physical healings.
He has been interviewed many times and there is more information on his websitewww.pathtofaith.com . Besides surgery, he is also certified in anesthesiology and meridian acupuncture.
Dr. Nemeh said he was born in Syria and has had the gift always, but kept it to himself until Jesus led the way to bring it out to the public, starting at his diocese in Cleveland.
On Channel 7, Georgia Leventus of Marysville reported she was legally blind from optic neuroitis, a form of multiple sclerosis. Her friend encouraged her to go to Dr. Nemeh and Leventus told the television audience that once the doctor put his fingers into her eyes, she could see again.
Marilyn Krcmarik of Belleville suffered from spinal stenosis and said she was healed by Dr. Nemeh. Her friends in Belleville say her healing is real.
Sunday was the third time Dr. Nemeh has come to St. Anthony’s and in the past he was always able to pray over all that came, with none turned away. But Sunday was different.
There were 800 tickets, which were all sold for $20 each to pay for expenses by Dr. Nemeh and his team and the refreshments at the church. The extra is donated to the church and Dr. Nemeh said he is not paid for his appearances.
Healing services were set for 1:30, 3, and 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, but an additional service was added for 7:30 p.m., because of the crowd. The church was full and the overflow was kept in the Father Folta building. Some people who arrived at 1 p.m., didn’t get to see Dr. Nemeh until 8 p.m.
Volunteers stood in the rain directing traffic to ease the jam on West Columbia until Belleville Police told them they couldn’t stand in the street because it was unsafe. They continued to direct traffic in the parking lot and explain the situation to drivers.
Belleville Police Chief Gene Taylor said on Monday that he had not been informed there would be a crowd or he would have provided traffic control.
One volunteer, who did not wish to be identified, said it was so hard to see those in need turned away, but it just wasn’t possible to deal with all those who came.
“How do you tell the children no?” she asked, saying it was heart-breaking to see. She said at the very end of the session, Dr. Nemeh tried to work in the extra people.
“Had it not been for Channel 7, we would not have had to turn anyone away,” she said. “They did a lot of damage.”
She said people came from the Upper Peninsula, Traverse City, Pontiac, and even Cleveland, where the doctor has a following. A nun from Nigeria arrived.
She said Dr. Nemeh only took one break for the day and that was to eat dinner.
Mary Herring and other volunteers put on the dinner.
While some people reported physical healings, many said they felt the Holy Spirit when the doctor touched them and prayed over them.
The feeling is described as “a very peaceful, serene feeling and every problem in your life is lifted off your shoulders. It is a beautiful feeling and you’re in kind of a twilight sleep.” Often people collapse backward when touched and they are gently lowered to the floor by “catchers” who stand behind them. “He doesn’t push you,” she stressed.
Some people were desperate, with one telling volunteers he called the rectory and was told he wouldn’t need a ticket and no one is turned away.
Because of the overwhelming response due to television coverage, this time people had to be turned away.
The church is planning to have Dr. Nemeh back in the near future.
A rumor went around later in the day that Channel 7 was promoting the event so much because one of its people was healed by the doctor. This could not be confirmed.
Mike Foley of Frosty Boy on Main Street said that around noontime on Sunday he had about 20 different people stop at his ice cream stand to ask for directions to the church. He said people often stop to ask directions to different place, but this was a very unusual number of out-of-town visitors heading to St. Anthony.