Syria may have all but disappeared from the news, but the situation in this war-torn country is still bleak.
Thousands of people are struggling to rebuild their lives with many suffering from trauma caused by the war. Bible Society Syria says thousands upon thousands of people are still missing, including two Archbishops. There are horrific stories of pain and loss.
However amidst it all, the light of God’s Word shines brightly offering hope and restoration. And in the middle of the conflict, the Bible, together with prayer and specific Bible verses, has even been a lifeline to safety.
You’re about to read some incredible stories. These have been sent to us by the team at the Bible Society in Syria. For the personal safety of the people in these stories, we are only able to show you some photos. Read on to learn how God is at work in people’s lives in Syria through the Bible.
God miraculously stops an execution
Yousif was a hardworking carpenter and proud of the fact Jesus was also a carpenter. One of his favourite Bible passages is from Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor…” Yousif, together with his wife, loved Jesus with every part of their being.
However, one day, almost three years ago, everything changed. Their village was attacked and their house burnt down. Yousif and his son were separated from his wife and daughter and sent off to camps.
One day they were told they were to be executed the following day. When evening came Yousif called some men together and he brought a glass of water and a large chunk of bread. There was total silence in the crowded room. Yousif said: “Dear friends, I must tell you that this is a very unique moment in our lives. We are so very fortunate. We are here with Jesus just like the two thieves on the cross on Golgotha. This evening it’s up to you and me to decide which one of the thieves we want to be. You know that we have all failed to live the life God has wanted us to live. We have all done things we shouldn’t have done.
So tonight there is still time to get right with Jesus. Do you realise that tomorrow, if we make the right choice, we can experience the truth of Jesus’ words, ‘I promise you that today you will be in paradise with me.’”
He then gave communion to his friends. There were many who were battling with the decision of whether to follow in the footsteps of the thief who had asked Jesus to remember him, or simply be upset with Jesus for not saving them from their terrible fate.
The following day they were all marched out of the building to an open field. After three of their friends had been executed the execution suddenly came to an abrupt halt just before Yousif was called up! Not only was Yousif’s life and some of his friends’ lives spared, he was so impacted by his near-death experience he now shares the love of Jesus with everyone he meets.
We lost all we owned except our Bible
“I looked at Hagop, my husband, as we were driving away from our home. Then I turned back wondering whether we would ever see our home again. I had tears in my eyes. We had just been woken by a heavy bombardment with shells falling all over our home town and throughout the region. Our first reaction was to get into the car and drive as far away as possible.
“We forgot to take anything with us except our old Bible, which had always given us hope as a family. That morning we didn’t take time to read it, but there was a Bible verse that came to our minds, as Hagop was driving as fast as he could.
It was from Luke 18:28 – 30; Peter said to Jesus, ‘See, we have left our homes and followed you.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.’
“Yes, we could only see death ahead of us, but Jesus promised us life both in this life and in the next one. We were safe – despite everything!
“We and many others soon found a place to sleep in a church some sixty kilometres from home. Our pastor gathered us all to thank the Lord. We all looked at him and one of us said, ‘What can we thank the Lord for? That we lost our homes and now they will be taken over by people who hate us and you know what this means.’ The pastor calmly said, ‘We should always thank the Lord and especially on a day like this when he has saved us from a certain death. Always remember God is good and that he loves us.’
“This day was to be followed by many days when we were sitting in church sharing our hearts with one another. Yes, Hagop and I kept on reading the Bible and finding strength to go on. The experience had left us traumatised and being with so many others sharing the same experience didn’t help. But one day we felt that the sadness in the whole tragedy had brought us together in a beautiful way.
We knew he was all we needed. We started thanking the Lord for this terrible event. “Three months after our escape from our home town it had been taken back and we were able to return. Our house had been emptied of valuables, hit by a shell and half burnt but we were back home. We knew Jesus had really taken care of us!”
God helps a family escape to safety
We had never believed the day would come when our own neighbours would turn on us. But it happened at the very beginning of the war in our city. We were made to feel we were different from our neighbours and they had weapons to prove it.
We also didn’t believe anything could take us away from our home. It had always been a safe haven, housing our family and the families of our father’s five siblings and later our neighbours on the ground floor.
We stayed on for a year living quite a normal life despite the rising tension and ongoing fighting. I was able to go to university but we were cut off from being able to attend church. Prior to the fighting the Priest at our church had given me a New Testament. This was when the Bible came alive to me.
I couldn’t wait to get home to start reading this ‘new’ Gospel. When reading his words, I realised that he wasn’t only standing there while I was reading, no, he was already inside my heart. It was an amazing experience to realise Jesus is our Emmanuel – God with us!
Almost seven months into the war young men with guns, some of them our neighbours, said they were moving into the two
apartments on the ground floor of our house. The fighting was getting closer and closer. More and more rockets and shells started falling beside our building. People were leaving until we were the only ones left.
We realised our building would soon be a target and we’d better start thinking of getting out of here.
One day my Dad and Uncle came home and said, “Get yourselves ready. We will soon have to leave for our parents’ village.” That night I couldn’t sleep very well. I went to my parents’ room and asked, “Do you really think we can escape? Gunmen are living in our building and they won’t let us go and then it will be difficult getting through the checkpoint where there are more soldiers.”
My Dad looked at me and said, “Hanna, until now God has been our protection. Mum and I believe he will take us safely out of here and once we get to the new taxi place there will be cars for all of us. We’ve been praying about this for a long time and God listens to our prayers.”
That very night one big shell followed by another one hit the wall around our house and the first floor apartment. We heard screams from the gunmen downstairs and they seemed to be in panic. Suddenly they were all on the run and our building was free of them!
I started remembering what my Dad had said about God listening to our prayers. I can tell you those shells made us all pray like we had never prayed before. While all the gunmen had been screaming and running out of the building, all in one direction, we had been silently praying for God’s guidance to help us escape.
Then I heard my Dad’s voice, “Are you ready? We are going in the opposite direction of the gunmen! Follow me!” Sometimes it’s good to have been living in the same area for so many years! We all knew every little alleyway. By the time we reached the checkpoint you could hear a pin drop. The loudest sounds came from our beating hearts, but God had answered our prayers. The checkpoint was deserted. Then when seeing there were just as many cars as we needed waiting for us, we were suddenly sure God answered our prayer. Just as the sun was rising we arrived at our new accommodation. My Dad thanked God and told us how fortunate we all were that we had survived a terrible night.
It wasn’t long before we were all active members of a new church in our new life and soon it was time for Easter. This was when something new and exciting happened to us. Bible Society Syria came to our church in a van filled with Bibles, New Testaments, children’s Bibles and other biblical material. We had never seen such treasures before! That afternoon I walked home with my first full Bible. It was called a Life Application Bible. It showed me how to apply the truths of the Bible in my life.
I was so excited. That evening I decided to read the whole Bible. George Andrea, Director of Bible Society Syria, had given me a little booklet with a Bible reading plan. That evening I wondered if I had come to this village to find a Bible and to find a place where I would have some rest and be able to get to know my God, my Jesus even more.
These stories are of real people in Syria. Through war, danger and loss, they’ve clung to the truth of the Bible. There are thousands more Syrians like them waiting to receive a Bible.
Will you partner with us to help George and his team bring urgently needed Bibles to people in Syria?