To save their lives, Ferial and her family uprooted their lives in Aleppo, Syria, and fled to Latakia. Life was hard – but Ferial has found peace and purpose thanks to a Centre of Hope, supported by your prayers and gifts.
“Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come, 'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home.”
This verse from the well-known hymn “Amazing Grace” could easily be about Ferial.
Living in Aleppo during the height of Syria’s civil war, Ferial and her family forgot what it felt like to be safe. But that changed, thanks to a Centre of Hope in Latakia, supported by Open Doors – and you.
But although Ferial and her family faced a lot of hardships, she knows that God was with them every step of the way.
Hiding in the bathroom
Ferial and her husband Ghandi were living in Aleppo when the war started in 2011 – the memories of that time are still fresh in her mind. “There were a lot of aeroplanes over our house,” she says. “My children were young. I was afraid for them. We took them out of bed and hid in the bathroom.”
"The wall was cracked in the middle, the windows were broken... We didn’t have any bread and the children were hungry."
Their house was right in the middle of the conflict, with both sides striking each other with mortars and missiles. “Our whole building was weakened,” Ferial remembers. “We were on the upper floor. The wall was cracked in the middle, the windows were broken, there was debris. We didn’t have any bread and the children were hungry.”
Leaving for Latakia
Life had become unbearable in Aleppo. But after sharing their struggles with some friends, a risky plan was put in place to help them. “We couldn’t take a bath or take a shower as there was no water,” Ferial shares. “Our clothes became dirty. We spent almost three months with no water. My husband told this to friends who were living in the Latakia countryside. They asked him to come, they would find him a job.”
Although it was difficult, Ghandi left for Latakia, a much safer part of Syria, to look for work. Ferial stayed behind in Aleppo with the children – but not for long. After a month, Ghandi had a job and a home, and he invited the rest of his family to join him. Ferial says, “I had to go with the kids alone. My husband couldn’t come back because of the checkpoints. I was praying to God to go with us. We left home crying, especially the children because they loved the house. We only brought some clothes with us. We said goodbye to the neighbours, as we had in mind that we would be back soon.”
That was in May 2014 – Ferial, Ghandi and their two children still live in Latakia today.
Although they were out of reach of the worst of the fighting, life in the new city didn’t get off to a good start. “I cried a lot, and I was very upset,” Ferial remembers. “I fought with my husband, yelled at him. Our situation before in Aleppo was so different. In Latakia we only have one bedroom and a living room.”
Despite these new hardships, Ghandi and Ferial feel they did the right thing in leaving Aleppo. “I felt that my kids were safe here,” Ferial says. “I started to thank God that we had taken the right step. I understood that my husband’s idea was better than mine. The children were relaxed, and they could finally sleep. I once woke up and saw them sleeping peacefully. In Aleppo they didn’t, they woke up every ten minutes.”
“The church made us feel safe”
It was during this first difficult period in Latakia that a neighbour told Ferial about a Centre of Hope, based in the Nazarene Church. Ferial went – and found peace, practical support and a wider Christian family.
“We weren’t scared, because we have brothers and sisters in Christ who are helping us whatever the crisis is or was.”
“They took us under their wings, spiritually and financially,” she says. “They motivated me to love Jesus even more than I used to do before. We didn’t feel abandoned; they made us feel loved. The children were also very happy in the church. They felt that Jesus is with them, hugging them, loving them.
“The church made us feel safe and not afraid. We weren’t scared, because we have brothers and sisters in Christ who are helping us whatever the crisis is or was. They kept us getting on our feet without fear, that made the difference.”
Ferial is now a schoolteacher at the Centre – and she loves her job. “I love working with children so much. I like to educate them about Jesus and the church. I love this work, as children still can be influenced by teachers. I thank God that He put me in this position.”
Ferial is confident of a better future, thanks to you
Ferial with three of her students at the Centre of Hope
Ferial is so grateful for your prayers and support: “You’re very generous. I thank you very much. I thank God. He has given us those gifts; He is not leaving us. Please continue to support us, as the prices are now increasing daily.”
"Jesus won’t leave us. I am sure we’ll have a better future.”
Thanks to you, Ferial, Ghandi and her children can face an uncertain future with a certainty in God’s provision. “I fear nothing,” Ferial says boldly. “After we got to know Jesus, I see a very beautiful and good future. With all these crises: war, economical, psychological, the electricity crisis, the water crisis, I feel peace, inner peace. There’s no depression or sadness because we’re so close to Jesus. We say: Jesus won’t leave us. He will get us higher, to the summit of this life. I am sure we’ll have a better future.”
For Ferial, Ghandi, Anna Marie and Ohannes, that God will continue to provide for them in every circumstance
That God will continue to bless and protect the Centre of Hope in Latakia as it serves the community
That God will bring an end to the war and destruction in Syria, so that its people may rebuild and restore their lives.