Amir* is in his 80s. His wife passed away years ago and their children fled the country. His pension is far below what he needs each month. He is living on the top floor of an apartment building, but the elevator stopped working as there is no electricity in Damascus to bring people up and down. Since Amir has difficulty walking, this means he can’t leave his home. But some days are made special for him when people from the church go to visit him, which they try to do frequently.
Joëlle and George are two of the students who come see Amir as often as they can. What a joy for him to talk with people, to be encouraged by their words and their presence. “I’ve only God and you,” he repeats to them when they come over.
George and Joelle
Christians are the hands, feet, ears, and voice of Jesus
It was Father Rami Elias who had the creative idea to involve students with the elderly. A group of 35 students visit three to four families a week. They do this as volunteers and the church provides them with scholarships for their studies.
Christians are the hands, feet, ears, and voice of Jesus in a country where over 80 percent of the population now lives in deep poverty. Because of the war and the collapsed economy, many Syrians left the country, often leaving their (elderly) parents without a caretaker. But from abroad many at least support their parents financially.
We stood by those who stayed, like Jesus who incarnated.
Although many Syrians have left Syria since the war started in 2011, a considerable number stayed in the country. “For us as [church leaders], it’s natural to stay. We stood by those who stayed, like Jesus who incarnated. He came to us, to be with us, to feel our suffering. No, I never thought of leaving.” Father Rami stayed like other church leaders as a beacon of hope.
My parents… my children
George is a third-year medical student. Joelle is in her third year of economics. Both are 21 years old and are involved in this Watad project of visiting the elderly. “For all youth, it is a challenge to study,” George says. “Prices for transportation and study material rose.” The 55,000 Syrian pounds (about 16 US dollars) he needs monthly to get to university and buy the printed lectures exceeds the monthly income of his father, the breadwinner at home.
Both of these young people loved the idea of doing something in return for the scholarship. “It was a new idea, to work with the elderly, but I thought it would be positive for us and for them. We do learn from the elderly,” says George.
"Now as these visits became part of my life, they improved my relationship with my family.”
“They went through many things and advise us.” Joelle adds, “The visits made me think of my parents. Will I be there for them? I doubted about staying or leaving. But now as these visits became part of my life, they improved my relationship with the people and with my family.”
“Recently one said, ‘You are the age of my children. Your visits give me the sensation that they didn’t leave. You are like my children,” says George.
Amir is happy
Father Rami and the two students are pleased with the impact they have made. “The need is much bigger. We only reach a small number of people. There are still so many others who aren’t visited.”
Amir is visibly happy with the visit of these youth. Time flies when they are around. Too soon they have finished their tea and told their stories and listened to what Amir had to say. Elderly people like Amir can’t wait till the young visitors will visit them again.
*Name changed for security reasons
Join the International Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians
- Please pray for the lonely elderly in Syria. Thank God for projects like Watad in Damascus.
- Pray that they will have the financial means to continue their important work.
- Pray for more students will have the desire to earn their scholarship and will take part in this ministry
With your support, we will open more Centres of Hope across Syria and Iraq, and the church will shine as a beacon of light in the darkness. Hope will arise once more in the region!
GIVE NOW: HOPE FOR MIDDLE EAST
- Every HK$290 could supply vital food, winter clothing and blankets to a Christian in Syria this winter.
- Every HK$400 could enable two vulnerable believers to access basic medical services.
- Every HK$510 could provide trauma support and counselling to a believer attending a retreat.