“Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” Ephesians 6:13-15
Shoes ‘fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace’ are probably not something you will find in 33-year-old George’s shoe shop in Mashta al-Helou. But the fact that he has a shoe shop at all is a great sign of the growing peace in Syria – and it was all made possible through your support and a Centre of Hope.
L-R: Amal, George, Samir
When Open Doors partners visit George’s shop – which he runs with his parents, Samir Dekki (58) and Amal Odabashi (50) – the windows are still covered in paper. Inside, George, Samir and Amal are standing in the midst of piles of shoeboxes, preparing the shop for its opening.
George describes how life in Aleppo was for him and his parents: "Before the war, we had a happy life in Aleppo. I had many friends but all of them left; they migrated, some joined the army and others died.
"Our life has completely changed since the outbreak of the crisis. We were terrified, scared, didn’t know if someone would come back alive when he left the house. We felt scared the whole time. The scariest period was when the rebels were only 50 metres away from our house. We had a lot of questions in our head, we didn’t know what to do, we lived in fear.
"What helped us was prayer. We prayed to God, we stayed at home, but we also learned in that situation how not to think only of ourselves but also help the others. We prayed for the needy, although we ourselves also were in urgent need. When we left the city, we didn’t know if we would ever return. It’s very hard to leave your home, your friends, your bed, not knowing if you ever see them again. It was agonising, painful and very difficult."
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‘Syria is the cradle of Christianity’
George’s father Samir explains, "We lived before the war in prosperity in Aleppo. As soon as the war in Aleppo started, my shop was in a vulnerable location, people couldn’t come to the shop because of that. We came to this place and my wife could do some sewing work, but not enough to maintain the family. Now we try to have an income with this shop. We hope that we can live in the same way as we did before the crisis."
In Aleppo, he had a shop which sold fruit and fruit juice. "But during the war, people were not allowed to pass through the street, so we were forced to close the shop," he says. "The city came under siege and there was shortage of everything. We had some savings but lost all because the lack of work. We decided to come to this town."
So, what does this shoe shop mean for Samir and his family? "Our financial situation is bad," he says, "what we receive is scarce compared to our expenses. But now with the shop I am optimistic, I think that with this shop we can cover our expenses. These kinds of income-generating projects are important for us and for other Syrians; they help us to stay in our country. As Christians we have to cling to this country, otherwise the region will be empty of Christians. Syria is the cradle of Christianity."
‘God will enable us to overcome’
Amal, his wife, adds, "I hope that Syria will be healed, that everything will return to normal, that people will return. I hope and pray that our children will contribute to rebuilding Syria. I am so glad that we [Syrian Christians and Christians around the world] are united in prayer; I am happy that there are still people like you who think of other people. Even though shelling and bombing might have seized, the situation is still miserable in Syria. Especially for those who rent a house, there are many who don’t have food to eat, they need urgent help."
How does George feel about the future? "In a way we know that challenges are illusions; God will enable us to overcome everything. This income-generating project is essential for us, it’s essential to carry on. Thank you for your help. Please pray for us, not only that we financially will manage, but also that our country will be healed of these circumstances and that peace will be restored."
You can bring hope to Syria
Thank you so much for continuing to bring hope to our persecuted church family in Syria. With your support, communities, families and businesses can be rebuilt and established – and, ultimately, the church in Syria can be a witness to those around them.
A gift of £65 could go towards providing training and a loan to enable someone to open a small business so they can support their family and community.*
- For the success of George’s shoe shop, that it will not only be a blessing to George and his family, but also to his community. Pray that God will enable them to stand firm in the armour of God
- For God’s protection and favour on Centres of Hope in Syria so that they can continue to help rebuild their communities
- That there would be an end to all violence and conflict in Syria, and that the peace of God would reign throughout the country.
*The total cost of this training and a loan is £452 per person.