This Christmas, you can help Syrian families like Jina and Abraham’s shine with hope for the future.
Jina doesn’t know where her husband is. She hasn’t known for six years. Their son, Abraham, was only one when his father, Rober, was kidnapped for being a Christian. Abraham doesn’t remember his father – but he feels his absence every day.
Jina and Abraham are living with loss, yet they are unable to grieve. So many questions remain unanswered. Is Rober alive or dead? Will he come back to them? Will he come back, changed?
No family finds it easy to plan for Christmas when there’ll be someone missing. But this year, Jina and Abraham don’t have to face their tragedy alone. They know their pastor, Abdalla, is there to give them food, fuel and clothes – as well as comfort, prayers and hope in Jesus. In our gifts and prayers, we can be there for them, too. We can help to resource the local church and turn it into a ‘Center of Hope’ for the whole community.
Kidnapped for his faith
Rober was abducted while travelling by bus to Qamishli, carrying a large amount of money. But the reason that he was taken wasn’t the money – it was his Christian faith. When extremists stopped the bus, which was carrying many Muslim passengers, only Rober and another Christian man were taken.
“They knew the names of my husband and of Elie, the other Christian, and ordered them to come out of the bus. Both were taken by them.”
Elie was released when his family paid a large ransom, and he is now living safely abroad. He told them that Rober was still being held because he wouldn’t give up his faith. “They told Rober to convert to Islam,” says Jina. “Rober refused and said: ‘I have my God and that’s it.’” He was taken because of his faith in Christ, and that’s the same reason that he hasn’t been able to come home to his family.
Jina recalls happier times, though they proved short-lived. She says, “Rober and I were engaged during the war in 2011. In that same year we got married. Abraham was born in 2012. In 2013 my husband was kidnapped.” She calls her son Apo, the common shorter form of ‘Abraham’ for Armenian speakers. “We were very, very happy with our son Apo; we were dreaming about his future. My husband and I were only able celebrate his first birthday together in 2013 – after that Rober was kidnapped.”
“Your will be done”
It’s now been six years. But Jina hasn’t lost hope that Rober will come back – that’s what she prays every day. “My faith in God is very big. I say to Him: ‘O Lord as you like, may Your will be done; O Lord, I just ask you to return my husband safe and sound.’”
It would be hard enough to grieve for a husband who had been killed, but Jina has to cope with not knowing whether or not Rober is still alive. As we read in Psalm 34, “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Jina knows that God is her refuge and her strength. And He is using your support to provide Jina and Abraham, and others like them, with the vital aid they need to survive without their breadwinner. They are being supported by a church that operates as a Center of Hope in Aleppo, run by Open Doors partner Pastor Abdalla.
Hosted in church buildings, Centers of Hope provide vital relief aid (food, fuel, clothing), medical care, trauma care, children’s classes, Bible training, business microloans and more. They meet Syrians in their place of need, offering the most appropriate help – whether that be to sustain people for another week or set them up for a self-reliant future.
Establishing Centers of Hope is a focus of Open Doors’ long-term campaign, Hope for the Middle East. Our goal is to ensure the church in Syria and Iraq doesn’t just survive – but flourishes and provides a light to their nations.
Nineteen Centers have been established so far in Syria. Now Open Doors’ vision – with your support – is to open another 20 Centers of Hope across the nation. Together, we can help strengthen the church in Syria to reach even more people in their communities with the good news of the Gospel.
Food and fuel
Abdalla and his church can’t guarantee Rober’s return, but they can stand by Jina and Abraham while they wait. Open Doors supporters make it possible for the Center of Hope to give out food and fuel, as well as support vulnerable families in prayer. Jesus promised to be with His people ‘always, to the very end of the age’ (Matthew 28:20). Today, Abdalla and others like him are proud to be Jesus’ hands and feet in Syria, praying with the persecuted and distributing essential aid to those who need it.
Jina receives regular fuel that she can use for heating and money that she can use to buy more. “They help us with the costs,” she says, “and I also receive gallons of diesel.” If it weren’t for the church’s help, she adds, she and Apo would suffer a great deal. These gifts sustain them while they pray for Rober’s safe return.
Standing with the vulnerable
Jina can’t get a job because, as a single mother, she needs to be there to care for Abraham during the day: “It’s hard to raise our boy alone, very difficult.”
With your support, many Syrians are now able to start rebuilding their businesses, communities and lives, but Open Doors is still providing necessities to people like Jina who aren’t in the position to go back to work. Often it is the most vulnerable who had to remain in Syria during the fighting, and are still in need of vital support now: the elderly whose children left Syria, the chronically ill, and families like Jina and Abraham’s who have temporarily or permanently lost their breadwinner. This support is even more important during the hardship of winter.
Jina knows that she is particularly vulnerable as a single woman. When her husband was taken, Jina and Abraham went to live with her parents-in-law: “This was because of the shelling and bombardments, but also because of my reputation. I didn’t want to stay on my own as a single woman with a son. My mother and my in-laws were worried about that. Something bad might happen to me.”
In the Middle East, single women living alone or with children are often looked down upon and they run the risk of being harassed, or worse. In many countries of the world, Christian women are doubly vulnerable to persecution: both for their faith and for their gender.
“To know about Jesus”
After three years, Jina and Abraham returned to their apartment. It’s obvious that Abraham is still affected by his father’s disappearance, even though he has no memories of Rober. Abraham wasn’t able to speak for three years after Rober was kidnapped. He remains anxious. Each evening, says Jina, he tells her “Good night, I love you so much, but don’t leave me.”
When Jina hopes for the future, she naturally thinks first of her husband. She also wants Abraham to grow in faith. “I hope God will return my husband back safe and sound. Besides that, I hope that I can be proud with my son. I want to raise him righteously, that he knows what is in the Bible, and I want to teach him to live as a Christian.”
Your prayers and support do so much more than provide practical help for Jina and her son. Abraham is learning about the Bible in classes run by the Alliance Church. Jina is delighted that the Center of Hope offers these activities, and Abraham loves going to the classes.
“He often asks me, ‘When will it be Friday?’, the day of the Sunday School. When I ask him why, he says: ‘to know about Jesus’. He enjoys being there. He loves singing with the gestures. When he comes back home, I ask him what he learned today. He tells which verse they learned from the Bible.”
Hope for the Middle East
These classes can help raise the next generation of believers in Syria. The ultimate vision for the church, shared by Abdalla, Jina and all who worship at the Alliance Church, is to be a witness for Jesus in Aleppo. The projects run with your support aren’t intended to end with the survival of a small, beleaguered Christian community. Rather, the hope and intention is that Centers of Hope will lead to resilient communities, resilient families and a resilient church. A church that is powerful and life-changing, flourishing across the Middle East and shining as the light of Christ in the darkness.
This won’t happen overnight. The church has been significantly hit by the conflict in the region and Christians have been targeted in many attacks. The ideology of so-called Islamic State (IS) persists in the region, even though IS has largely been defeated in Syria. Christians know that they are still at risk, and they need the long-term support of the worldwide church so that they, in turn, can stay in their communities and be the hope for the Middle East.
And that could start with a parcel of food or a gallon of diesel for a family like Jina and Abraham.
- Pray for strength and encouragement for Jina and Abraham, and for the safe return of Rober.
- Keep praying for our brothers and sisters in Syria, for protection and hope and the opportunity to share the light of Christ.
- Thank God for the 19 Centers of Hope delivering help to vulnerable people in Syria through the local church – and pray that the vision of opening another 20 can be achieved.
Your long-term support can keep hope alive in Syria and the Middle East.
Every PHP2,300 could provide a supplementary food pack and fuel aid to help a vulnerable Syrian family survive the harsh winter.
Every PHP3,100 could provide medical care for two believers in Syria.
You could also help provide training and a loan so that women can open a small business to support her family. It costs PHP28,600 to provide this.
*Your gift will bring urgent relief and long-term support in Syria. Any excess funds for this appeal will be used in other situations of critical need.