Nidal and Fadi, from the Alliance Church in Damascus, Syria, had a vision from God to start a ministry reaching out to deaf people, inspired by Isaiah 29:18: “In that day, the deaf will hear the words of the scroll.” Nidal says, “Our vision was to treat and help deaf people in a different way. For many in Syria, the deaf were seen as having a learning disability... Rather, we wanted to treat them as any other people, and wanted them to know Christ and become leaders in their deaf community.”
There was just one problem: Nidal and Fadi aren't deaf, and they couldn't speak sign language.
As anyone's who's learned a language knows, the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it. So that's exactly what Nidal and Fadi did, spending as much time as possible with the deaf community. After some months, they were able to sign themselves.
But it wasn't easy. “The first years of the ministry were tough and strenuous,” Nidal says. “The route was not always paved with flowers... We went through many years without seeing any fruit from the work.”
But the leadership of the Alliance Church embraced this ministry and encouraged Nidal and Fadi to go forward with it. They called the Ministry 'Speaking Hands'.
Both Nidal and Fadi persevered, and focused on their goal. “Now we’re 13 years further on. Many deaf people have been baptised, and several of them became leaders for other deaf people. The church has purchased a centre for our ministry where the deaf can walk in and spend time together. Many of the deaf leaders who were formed in the ministry are now serving in this centre along with us.”
Your gifts and prayers have helped to support this ministry. Give to support the work of Open Doors local church partners in Syria.
The centre, which opened in autumn 2017, offers activities like informal fellowship, individual counselling, and Bible lessons. “They need a place to rest, a place where people listen to them,” Nidal says.
As Speaking Hands is not run in a church building, deaf people of all kind of backgrounds walk in. There is occasional training, where they are taught a profession and how to develop their own income. “Besides that, we continue with our weekly ministry time. Biblical passages are studied with a seriousness and depth, as the hearing people have their meetings, too.”
It costs £238 to provide training to help one person open a small business in Syria. You can contribute towards this work.
Recently, Speaking Hands ran a conference for over 30 deaf men and women, who came from Syria to neighbouring Lebanon to meet together. The organisers chose a location far away from all reminders of the Syrian war, to invest in these people who were sometimes forgotten, rejected, and living in isolation.
The focus during the conference was on the love of God, and on what God’s love can do in someone’s life. Nidal said, “The goal of the conference is to help the deaf to learn more about God’s love as a Father. They suffered harshly with feelings of abandonment and discrimination, so the conference’s goal is to help them realise their value in God’s sight.”
Give to support the work of Open Doors local church partners in Syria.
The speakers at the conference talked about the importance of staying close to the Father, and how we as Christians can grow weak when we’re not in close relationship with God, which had a deep impact on those attending. The conference helped to lead the participants into a deeper level of commitment to Jesus, with many publicly expressing to friends and family the impact it has had in renewing their faith.
During the last session, tears of joy and wonder ran over Nidal's cheeks, as he saw how the vision God had put in his heart had come true.
CONTINUE TO STAND WITH YOUR CHURCH FAMILY IN SYRIA
Your support and prayers are providing 12,000 families in Syria with vital aid such as food and medicines every month. Many of these families do have someone earning an income, but it simply isn’t enough to cover their basic needs as the costs of living have soared. Elderly people and families supporting sick or disabled people are often dependent on the support they receive from our local church partners to simply survive.
As well as emergency aid, our local partners are providing long-term support, such as trauma care, and loans and training so that people can start small businesses.
None of this work would be possible without your support and prayers. You can’t help every family in Syria – but you could put food into the hands of one family, and help them to survive until the crisis is over. Even a small gift could make a huge difference. Every £52 could provide emergency relief for two families in Syria for a month.
And please continue to pray. 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 you can stand with them in prayer.
- For Nidal, Fadi and their team, that they would be encouraged in their work, and that God would continue to use their ministry to reach the outcasts and the marginalised
- For those who are deaf in Syria, that they would be able to grow closer to Jesus through Speaking Hands, and that they would find fellowship with other deaf Christians
- For the work of Open Doors through local church partners, that they would be able to reach more of the needy and vulnerable in Syria through local church centres.