November 21, 2019
by Katerina Parpa
A New Reality
Imagine you have spent a lifetime working long days in the fields. Building your farm with your own hands. Creating a home and a family with your spouse. Then, in one instant, everything is taken away from you. Your crops are set on fire, your home bombed.
You and your family run. When you return a few days later, you find your house ransacked. The tiles you carefully placed lie shattered, the walls you painted are riddled with bullet holes. Your belongings have been looted and your carefully crafted furniture reduced to firewood.
This is Hasan’s* story.
Images of his ruined home display on Hasan’s* phone screen as we sit together on the cold concrete floor in the tent he now calls home. Such images of the destruction wrought by ISIS could have been recorded by any one of millions of other displaced Syrians. Many¹ like Hasan are sitting in camps and other temporary residences, remembering the places they once called home.
Hasan offers us black tea with sugar and I think to myself that despite having very little, Hasan is very welcoming to our team. Even in the midst of desperate conditions, Middle Easterners are very hospitable people.
We are joined in the tent by Hasan’s wife, his mother, and two teenage girls named Shadia and Ghada who live in neighboring tents. Shadia, who is 16, brought her two-year-old son Mahmoud along and Ghada’s toddler daughter Aziza also sits with the group.² Hasan gives Mahmoud some fruit, and the toddler splits the small piece and shares it with Aziza. Even though the neighbors share generously between them, the prevailing mood is hopelessness and hurt.
We ask Hasan, “Do you hope to go back to Syria and rebuild your home and farm?” Hasan replies, “No, we want to go to Europe. The only thing we can do is wait for someone to help us.”
Many refugees feel as Hasan does; overwhelmed by shame over the destruction of their homeland and broken families, they want to leave their heritage behind. And many do not feel empowered or capable of returning and rebuilding their country little by little without support.
A Family Touched by God
In the Zahle camp, most families are non-Christian. But there are some, like Amir and Farida, who have come to know Jesus in Lebanon through contact with believers. It is evident in the faces of Amir and his family that they have been touched by the love and light of Christ. Despite their limited resources, the couple and their six children have joy in their lives and hope for the future.
The family’s 17-year-old daughter, who has not been forced into early marriage, beams as she shows the SAT-7 team her hand-sewn designs. She dreams of becoming a clothing designer one day, she says. The five boys are also excited to meet the SAT-7 team and to share their accomplishments and dreams. The oldest proudly states that he wants to return to Syria and be a police officer, so he can protect his fellow citizens. His younger brother wants to be a doctor, helping to heal people. Another son, like millions of children around the world, wants to be a football player. A fourth brother expresses his desire to become a musician and songwriter and he shares a rap song he wrote about Syrian refugees while Nicole Thoma, SAT-7’s Development Team Officer, joins in. The youngest, Moustafa, jumps around the room in excitement. All the brothers then settle in front of the TV, watching the worship program Family of Jesus on SAT-7 KIDS.
We ask the parents if they want to return to Syria and rebuild their home, and they tell us they do. They feel confident, they say, that God would take care of them in the process of returning home. The sight of this young family with hopes and dreams for the future fills my own heart with hope and a prayer that they find their way to continue to dare to dream.
The Power of HOPE to Change Lives
Having received Christ in their hearts, the difference between Amir’s family and Hasan’s is clear to see. Amir’s family, despite their circumstances, has fully received God’s message of love, which has helped them feel valued, supported, and empowered. The children dream for the future, and all the family members are doing their best in their present circumstances.
Hasan’s family, and the millions like them, need to hear the same Good News that has transformed Amir’s family’s lives. A loving God does not leave refugee families to fend for themselves without any source of HOPE made available to them. One unique way that HOPE and support is being brought to refugee families is through the power of satellite television, something in which nearly all families have access. The HOPE that Christ freely offers to all is broadcast 24/7 on SAT-7 in the languages of Arabic, Farsi, and Turkish. People hear the truth that this life is not all there is and that by having faith in Christ they can have a HOPE that is secure for a better future.
SAT-7’s message of HOPE in God helps these families break free from hopelessness. Their hearts can still be stirred to feel healthy pride in their heritage and secure in their own value. When they are empowered in this way, many refugees are driven to rebuild their communities in Syria from the ground up.
Before leaving Hasan’s family, one of the team members helped him find SAT-7 ACADEMY to have access to SAT-7’s education and social development programs. Intrigued, Hasan and his wife began to watch. I take heart knowing this is not the end of the story for families like Hasan’s. God is still at work and will make His abundant love for them clear in His timing. God can use any circumstance, even war and times of hardship, to reveal Himself to His children.
Christian families like Amir’s dearly need the support SAT-7 provides, too. All Christians need continuous nurturing of their spirits through teaching and messages of God’s love and provision. Much support is needed by families like Amir’s, with their new faith and their challenging situations. They are hungry for God’s loving guidance and to feel His presence. Moreover, they desire hope and a good future for their children.
Our Bible teaching and prayer programs help believers to grow in their faith. Worship shows and televised church services provide fellowship. Counseling programs provide guidance to help heal their spiritual and psychological wounds.
Beyond the life-changing power of HOPE, refugees need other kinds of support. SAT-7 ACADEMY’s educational programs, such as My School, provide teaching for children without access to schools, as well as to adults who missed out on education themselves. Programming for parents, such as The Coach, helps them support children dealing with trauma or who have a learning disability. These programs speak to them and guide them in a way that restores peace and balance in families.
Through programs teaching culture, history, and heritage appreciation, SAT-7 is also helping to rebuild people’s love for their region and their desire to help restore what has been destroyed. Social impact programming, such as Puzzle, helps to promote tolerance, acceptance, and appreciation of each other’s differences, while SAT-7 KIDS’ Stories in the Attic brings to the surface old customs that need rethinking, such as child marriage, promoting critical thinking on these topics.
When I first visited Lebanon and met some of the refugee children participating in a SAT-7 project in a clean and safe environment, it was encouraging to see how happy and thriving these children were. However, the first time I visited an actual refugee camp and saw the type of environment millions of children are living in, it was a shock; personally, I cried for weeks. The same children that were coming to participate in SAT-7 projects – learning and enjoying the loving environment they were in – were leaving at the end of the day and going back to horrible living conditions and unhealthy family environments. I realized that we still have a lot to do towards helping them to truly feel God’s abundant love for them, to realize that their current circumstances are not God’s vision for their lives, and to truly have faith for something better for their future. We as SAT-7 need to keep broadcasting these messages again and again and continue striving to reach more and more viewers, especially children and youth. They are vulnerable, but they are also resilient and impressionable. It is a perfect opportunity to help steer them in a better direction, which will ultimately help to change the future of the region. My prayer for these children is that they will experience the full benefit of the SAT-7 education and social development programs, that they will develop a strong faith and relationship with God, and that they will experience His transformational love in their lives and in the region.
How You Can Help
The stories I’ve shared are the same as millions of refugee families like Amir’s and Hasan’s. Give thanks to God that refugees have access to uncensored satellite television and pray that families will access SAT-7’s life-changing programs to nurture their faith and feel HOPE for their lives.
Be a part of providing God’s message of HOPE and restoration so we can see a significant change for the future of Syria and the whole region. You can help continue beaming Christ’s love into the tents and hurting hearts of refugees. Just click this link to give as you feel led to the ministry of SAT-7.
*All names changed for security purposes.
¹ According to UNHCR, over 5.6 million people have fled Syria since 2011, seeking safety in neighboring countries of the Middle East and beyond. Lebanon hosts the most refugees per capita in the world, with an estimated 1 million Syrian refugees now residing in camps and informal settlements.
² It is very common in the camp for young girls like Shadia and Ghada to be married mothers by the age of 15. Girls are often held back from attending school, and their parents may marry them off for fear they will be trafficked and raped or because they cannot provide for them.
SAT-7 Communications Officer | Katerina Parpa is based in Nicosia, Cyprus. She was born in Cyprus and grew up in the US. Her previous work ranges from secular media to retail management and marketing. Her passions are health and fitness, art and culture, and supporting the local community through volunteer work and event planning.