By Leah Reynolds
The terror and violence became unbearable. At 4 a.m. some two years ago, Yusuf and Fatima Assad gathered their nine children and abandoned their home, possessions and comfort to search for a better life, away from bombings and turmoil.
The Assads, whose names have been changed for their safety, are among millions who have fallen victim to the unrelenting civil war in Syria, which first struck the nation four years ago. Since then, close to 1.08 million registered Syrian refugees have settled in Lebanon, located west of Syria.
For the Assad family, there was no turning back. Moments after they left, Yusuf turned to see a bomb destroy their house and everything in it. They moved forward, cramming their children on a bus, along with many others who were fleeing.
Today, the family lives in safety in the Bekaa Valley, nestled in the heart of Lebanon. But that safety does not come without struggle.
The family of 11 resides in a tent — complete with a wooden frame and Nylon tarp. It includes two sleeping areas, a living area and a small space for cooking.
Though grateful for what they do have, the Assads dread the approach of winter, for it brings a brutal bite.
When the first winter struck, they had little physical preparations to handle the freezing temperatures and abundance of snow.
“We would have to take turns staying awake to clean the snow off the roof so our tent wouldn’t collapse,” Yusuf said.
Snow was on the ground for nearly 60 days straight, they said, requiring them to huddle together for warmth.
Fatima added, “We were so happy to arrive here from Syria. But then the snow came and covered the entire camp and we had nothing to keep warm.”
…then hope arrived
In the nick of time, they said, visitors from the local church showed up with life-saving items.
“People came from the church bringing blankets and heaters and other provisions. We were so thankful to them for helping us,” Yusuf said. “The generosity was overwhelming.”
In the center of the living area is a heater for the family to circle around during the frigid winter months. In the bedroom are mattresses and blankets stacked high to the roof for the children and parents to lie on at night. In the cooking area is a small stove to heat water and cook hot meals.
These necessary survival materials were hand-delivered by members of local Lebanese churches, who simply just want to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.
Jihad, a Lebanese pastor who helps coordinate some of the deliveries, said he is certain God is using them to bring hope to the refugees.
A partnership between Texas Baptists and the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development is providing some of that relief by helping purchase winter survival materials for the local churches to distribute.
“(The refugees) have nothing, not even one pound in their pocket when they come,” he said. “We are doing our best to help them…We believe that God is turning everything upside down in our area so that we can plant the seeds, and we are sure God is planning something more amazing in our area.“
Today, the Assad family lives in safety and is able to stay warm during the winter months, as do many other Syrian refugee families living in Lebanon. But more importantly, through the generosity of the church, they have seen Christ’s abiding love.