What does Christmas mean to you?
When children of all ages across the U.S. were asked this question, they had a wide variety of Answers:
"Christmas means sharing and to have fun with your family.."....Angela (8) IL
"Christmas to me means being able to have family over and celebrate the birth of Christ."....Malina (9) Virgina
"I'm an ordinary teenager and just being real. Christmas is shopping and buying new clothes and shoes."....Whittier (17) California
These answers are fairly common when asking children here in the United States, but for children around the world who have been affected by the horror of terrorism, Christmas is just another day when they are fearful for their lives as they try to survive within the horror of war and violence.
In Syria, the radical group ISIS is systematically subjecting children to indoctrination and training them to become child soldiers filled with hate. Those fortunate enough to escape war and the evil intentions of terrorists, are forced to leave their homes and flee in search of safety. In refugee camps outside of Syria, children brave freezing winters in makeshift shelters, often without sufficient food or supplies. One of these children is a young girl named Aya, whose life was forever changed after an encounter with Jesus.
AYA's STORY- Aya was 9 years old when the violence of ISIS caused her family to flee to safety. Back in Syria, Aya’s father was a successful businessman who worked hard to provide for his wife and four children. The benefits of a thriving economy quickly evaporated when war broke out; the family’s home and business were completely destroyed and Aya’s father sustained serious injurious, leaving him disabled.
As Aya grew up in a war zone, she witnessed the death of her friends and neighbors, a traumatizing experience for anyone, but especially a young child. Seeking safety and a better life, Aya and her family left all of their possessions, and traveled to the nearby Bekaa Valley, where they joined the nearly 2 million other refugees living in Lebanon.
Life in most refugee camps is relatively safe, but very difficult and filled with challenges.
All 6 members of Aya’s family live in a very small makeshift tent without adequate food or basic necessities. Nearly every time she laid her head down to rest, Aya was awoken by nightmares of the terror she witnessed in Syria: the bodies in the street, the loss of her toys and possessions, and her father’s injuries. She began to fall into a deep depression.
One day, Aya’s mother heard about the work of Call of Hope in the camps and the frontline workers began to provide food, blankets and other necessities for Aya’s family; they helped her to get placed into a Lebanese school, and most importantly they told her about the love and hope that is found in Jesus Christ.
Today, Aya is 12 years old and both her and her mother have both come to know a personal relationship in Jesus! With the peace of Christ now in her heart, she no longer experiences deep depression and frequent nightmares as she once did. Despite her circumstances, Aya eagerly looks for way’s to help show the love of Christ to others in her community. When she heard that some Lebanese children were battling cancer, she was compelled to help in anyway she could. She knew that her family had no money to give – the only thing she did have was her hair, which had not been cut since she was born. She told her mother:
“Mom, I have no money and nothing at all, but I have my hair which I like the most, it is very difficult for me to cut it, but I want to cut it and give it to my friends who are sick with cancer for I want to tell them how much I love them and how much Jesus loves us too”.
Today, Aya has no toys or possessions to speak of and sometimes she cries when she thinks about the life she left behind in Syria, but today she is grateful to know the love of Christ in such a difficult time.
As we gather with our friends and family over Christmas, we have so much to thank God for– a warm home, food to eat, a bed to sleep on, loved ones nearby. In countries affected by terrorism, their reality this season is strikingly different. The children in our lives are blessed with abundance, but not every child is as fortunate. This season please remember in prayer those who have lost so much because of war and terrorism around the world.
As we reflect on the meaning of Christmas, where God gave the ultimate gift of his son to a world without hope, as the body of Christ, we now have the opportunity to spread the love of Christ to hopeless children around the world who have been victimized by terrorism. With your help, we can provide care, comfort, and the tangible love of Christ to these precious children. Please consider giving a donation today to provide a Christmas of Hope to children in need. Your small act of kindness can make a world of difference to a child who has been victimized by terrorism.