Events in Syria – Highlights
Total children reached: 4,550
Some of the Syrian centers paid the families a personal visit due to the rise in cases. One of the churches spent six hours touring every house on their list, singing hymns, sharing stories about the birth of our Lord and Savior, and distributing gifts. In Kafram, the attendees included a variety of locals, refugees, children with special needs, and martyrs children across different denominations.
In Safita and Tartous, the church began their preparations well ahead of time. This included crafts that would be ready for the children upon their arrival. The day prior to the event, multiple volunteers stayed late into the evening preparing, praying and surrendering all to God, for they know that all their work would be in vain if He is not leading the way. On the day of the event, multiple craft stations awaited the children, along with the usual program and distribution of presents. The children expressed immense excitement at the crafts and most jumped from station to station, partaking in as many crafts as they could. So many of the event locations were colorfully decorated with the children in mind. This made an evident impact upon their arrival as we watched their eyes dart around from one decoration to the next, examining the bright colors.
At the Kurdish church, amongst the participants was a family of two children who enjoyed the party and presents. On their way out, they asked if they could take a gift home to their sister who struggles with a disability. The church leaders decided instead to pay her a visit. Before arriving, they spent time in prayer, asking the Lord to ensure His love for her shines through them and she knows that our God leaves no sheep behind. Upon their arrival, they spent time in prayer with the child and offered her a gift. Her siblings’ awe of that moment was written all over their faces. They expressed their immense gratitude for this personal visit, said they would never forget today, and expressed feeling more important than they have in a long time.
One of the Syrian events had a young Sunday School boy named Marwan who loved learning about God. About a month ago, during a lesson about the joy of giving, Marwan listened intently and wanted to put his lesson into practice. That day, Marwan saw his friend during the piercing winter weather without a hat and feeling very cold. The following week, when Marwan’s Sunday School mates asked him why he had no hat on, he explained that he gave his only hat to his friend who didn’t have one. During the Christmas event, Marwan was shocked to find a warm colorful hat in his gift bag. He expressed with glee “This miracle will accompany me for my entire life!”
At one of the celebrations in Syria, Maco, an eight-year-old boy, had fallen a year ago from the third floor and broken his legs and arms and severely injured his head. The doctors said there was no chance he would make it. During the event, Maco was explaining “I thank God for he gave me life and saved me from death. My life changed drastically after the fall and I couldn’t go to school this past year so I was so happy to participate in this Christmas celebration, be around other children, and be reminded that I am a child of God!”.
Arty and Arina are 11-year old twins whose Christmas list included that their father who had been kidnapped finds his way home. They expressed joy that although their earthly father was not there, they knew their heavenly Father would never leave them.
Also at the event was a 12-year old girl whose faither had recently had heart surgery. Their medical expenses had become too much to handle. She said she was okay with the fact that she wouldn’t be able to celebrate Christmas this year. To her surprise, the gift she received at the church was exactly what she had wished for!
Jaramana Baptist church shared two moving stories from their gatherings. Firstly, Maria, a young girl who had been attending their Sunday school services for some time now, shared at the event how much she loved her Sunday school teacher for introducing her to Jesus who cured her mom from cancer. She was one of the children who found in their giftbox the exact gift they had hoped for. For Maria, it was a red pajama set! Secondly, while taking photos amidst the celebration, a young girl, who had an uncommon looking eye, walked up to the photographer and asked him not to have her left eye show up in the photos. She went on to explain that it was because she thought it was ugly and her friends bullied her about it. Her spirit was raised when the photographer told her she was so beautiful and that despite what hurtful things we may hear, God loves us and has created us in his own image.
In the Kurdish church, a family of 3 children, aged 12, 11, and 4 who were raised by their single mother, lost her three years ago. The two older ones became their little sister’s guardians. The eldest brother thought he would not get a present because of the immense responsibility he was carrying. He felt as though his childhood was taken from him. When we offered him a gift he was absolutely stunned and so expressive of his gratitude. Another major expression of gratitude came from a father of an adopted girl who donated gasoline to the church in appreciation. He said “You changed my daughter’s life like she changed our life. She came home so excited after the events and taught us all the wonderful hymns you sang”.
At another location, the church received an envelope with some money and a note from a young boy. The note was a prayer he had written thanking God for sending him a gift. His mother later told us he had been saving up for months to donate at church but wasn’t able to during the lockdown so he decided to mail it instead to bless the church. Lastly, one of the stories that gave everyone a good giggle was that of a little boy about to go home who was asked if he was happy. His response was “I’m happier than when I’m eating fish!”
In closure, putting the material consideration aside for a moment, a strong hunger to hear words of hope was prominent across Syria. The opportunity to spread this hope through the story of His birth was an enormous blessing. The deep desire to spread joy was evident in the beautifully decorated halls, the well thought through programs, the carefully selected gifts, and the longing to connect that no masks could hide. Parents’ hearts were bursting with joy from seeing their children treated with such love, care, and importance.
So many children asked if we could have a program just like this one every week! As the season came to an end, one of the mothers’ words continued to echo in our minds
“Christ’s love shines through even the smallest details of what you are doing. Not only do you tend to our necessities but you show love to our children, helping them live a “normal” life! Because of you, they know that they are thought of and important in God’s eyes. Because of you, we celebrate Christmas this year. You delivered the hope you have in Christ to us and our families. Thank you”.
And we, in our turn, would love to thank the Religious Freedom Coalition for your faithful and continuous support and for your perseverance in enabling us stand by vulnerable children that they too may celebrate Christmas and come to appreciate the Reason for the season, no matter what their circumstances are.
*This report was created by our ministry partners in Syria*