May 24, 2016
From Dependency to Dignity: Sara's Story
Post by Brittany Tedesco
Sara* and her family were doing well for themselves. They owned three stores in Mosul, Iraq in 2006...right around the time ISIS began forming in their country.
They, along with other Christians, began receiving threats, but they weren't too concerned. Life was good—until Sara's brother was kidnapped by terrorists.
The family sold everything they had to ransom the young man and then moved to another part of Iraq to start over. It wasn't easy, but they persevered. Little by little, throughout the years, they rebuilt what they'd lost. Hard work and ingenuity paid off. They were able to purchase a building for their business in Qaraqosh.
Meanwhile, ISIS was growing. In 2014, the Islamic terrorist group invaded Qaraqosh. They seized everything belonging to Sara and her family, leaving them destitute. They fled to the neighboring country of Jordan where they hope to become citizens, knowing that, barring a miracle, they'll never be able to return to their home country.
As I look through countless photos of refugee men, women, and children—in bare tents or crowded around a truck filled with food delivered by a Christian Aid Mission-assisted native ministry—I often have to remind myself that most of these people aren't uneducated or unskilled. Some are professionals with advanced degrees. Some are former business-owners. Many of them owned nice houses and cars, they sent their children to nice schools.
They aren't lazy or unwilling to work. They're like Sara and her family. They just want to go home, to the place that's been forever stolen from them. Syria, once one of the most peaceful, prosperous countries in the Middle East, is now a smoking pile of rubble—a gray, dystopian landscape where bullets rain from the sky. Iraq isn't much better.
I posted some of these refugee photos to our Facebook page a few months ago. Someone commented on one of the photos—of a man carrying a box of bottled water back to his tent—that helping women and children was good and right, but men should be out working to support their families.
I'm sure the person who made the comment is simply unaware of the bleak reality for Syrian and Iraqi refugees in a foreign country, where they can't speak the language and where it's actually illegal for them to work because they aren't citizens. Many of them are exploited. A ministry leader sent a report describing how refugee men would find menial work in someone's farm or field and be denied even the low wages they were promised. In exchange for eight hours of backbreaking work, the men would often receive only lunch. What could they do? What recourse did they have?
Once respected in their countries, these men are now on the lowest rung of the socio-economic strata. Once well able to provide for their families, now they can't even bring food home to them.
My heart broke when I read about a group of Syrian refugees in a tent camp in Turkey who were burning plastic to keep warm or cook food. In the dead of winter, many had no blankets or coats. Children were without shoes. In a report he sent to us, a ministry leader described the black residue he saw on babies' faces, and the sick feeling it gave him to think about young lungs ingesting the poisonous fumes inside of those tents. That's when we started sending funds so that he could provide firewood to those suffering people.
With the help of our generous supporters, Christian Aid Mission has been able to provide for the basic needs of many refugees. And though they're so grateful for the aid they've received from kind Christians overseas, they don't want to be forever dependent upon it.
We want more for them as well—more than just staying alive to live in squalor for another day.
"I would like to share with you the story of a sister in the Lord who is now part of the embroidery project we have started," wrote one Jordanian ministry leader, who works among refugees. "As you know, refugees are not allowed to work. This project has given them a new hope and something to look forward to. They are learning to embroider and stitch and in turn they can sell what they can."
The "sister" he mentions in the report is Sara. She's one of several who have inspired this leader to continue working hard. "Though they went through really tough and dark times, they are constantly cheerful and smiling. They keep repeating the phrase, 'God is faithful and God is good.' Their faith in Jesus Christ is the main reason for their smile and their hope," he wrote.
Widows are plentiful among the refugee population, as many husbands and fathers have either stayed behind in their war-torn countries to fight or have been killed. Not only are these women alone in a foreign country, many of them have young mouths to feed.
The ministry in Jordan has started a sewing project for women. Those who've been trained sew items like bed sheets; pillow covers; uniforms for hospitals, hotels, and schools; and specialty items, like shirts embroidered with the letter "N" (for Nazarene).
The cost to supply each woman with a sewing machine, cloth, and thread is between $300 and $500. She'll then join a sewing group sponsored by a local church.
"This will enable her to be self-sufficient and take care of her family, including the cost of education, food, clothing, and a place to live," the leader wrote.
For the third time, Sara is rebuilding her life—like so many other victims of Islamic hate and violence who refuse to be destroyed. With a little help, they can move past day-to-day survival and dependency to self-sufficiency and dignity.
*Name changed for security