"When we give a loaf of bread, the love of Christ is written on it," says Ghassan, a church leader in Aleppo. He has chosen to stay to serve his hurting community, despite losing friends and family to kidnappings and bombs.
“My bishop was kidnapped in April 2013, my church was destroyed, and my house was bombed. My two sons left the country, my wife died of cancer and I lost two of my close family members because of the bombings.”
This the story of Ghassan Ward, the priest at the Greek Orthodox Church in Aleppo. With such harrowing experiences of the war in Syria, you would expect him to be desperate to leave. But Ghassan is choosing to stay in Syria, and care for his hurting community. “Many of my parish were rich before, now they are poor. They have no work, no income and all the savings are spent during the years of war,” he says.
“The role of the church is not only having the services - we welcome the people and we try to help solve their problems. God gave us the love. It’s not easy to do this, many of our young generation are out of Syria or are in the army. The needs of the people are very big; we’re trying to meet their needs.
“It’s God mercy that I stayed, that we stayed.”
Open Doors has partnered with many courageous church leaders like Ghassan. Your support and prayers are keeping thousands of desperate families alive every month with vital food supplies and other aid.
Samoouh Fareza Forat and her daughter Nima, pictured below, have received food and money through Ghassan’s church. “We came four months ago from Hama. We’re now living as displaced persons in Aleppo. Hama became too dangerous for us with the daily bombardments,” Samoouh says.
“This help is so important for us, without such support we could not live. The church has helped us a lot, they gave us furniture, beds, blankets. God has saved us during these seven years of war, God gave us help through the church.”
Rezk (70) was displaced from his village in the Latakia area in 2012 because of heavy fighting. He and his wife fled to Aleppo, and are also supported by Ghassan’s church. “Thanks to God, my wife and I survived. We live from my retirement salary of about 60 dollars, plus the help we get from (the church). We went through very hard times here in Aleppo, especially when the city was besieged. At that time we only had one meal a day, one day rice, the other spaghetti.”
The churches in Aleppo are working together to support displaced families who have been left with nothing. Elias, who organises the relief efforts of Ghassan's church, says, “Together with all committees of the churches and organisations we check all the data of the people registered to prevent families or people receiving support from more than one church. All bishops and protestant church leaders are cooperating in this.”
Elias organises support for 1,700 families. The families are given food items such as spaghetti, rice, cheese, tea, coffee, and oil, and families with babies also get nappies and baby milk. At the end of last year, thousands of families also received fuel, winter clothes and school supplies through the church.
Elias says, “We work with about 60 volunteers and 12 employees. On days with a big distribution we have a team of about 100 persons.”
Ghassan explains, “We help also non-Christians. They are our neighbours, we live with them, and we cannot neglect a person who is hungry. When we give them a loaf of bread, the love of Christ is written on it.”
Our courageous church family in Syria are shining as lights in the terrible darkness of war, and providing a lifeline for thousands of desperate families who have been left with nothing. But they need our help to continue this vital work.
Please pray for Syria, and give a gift today. You can't help every person in Syria, but you can put food into the hands of one family to help them survive until the crisis ends. Even a small gift can make a huge difference.
Brother Andrew, the founder of Open Doors, says, “Our prayers can go where we cannot... There are no borders, no prison walls, no doors that are closed to us when we pray.” You can't be with your Syrian brothers and sisters in person, but your prayers can reach them with the hand of God.
Ghassan's story is included in our free Can you believe it? pack. Order yours and inspire your church or small group with stories of faith, hope and love. Watch the video:
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