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Ishtar and Amir Meet Jesus

Like many other children, Amir and Ishtar have come to know Jesus, becoming close to him and accepting him as their savior and Lord. Jesus has profoundly changed their lives for the better. Amir and Ishtar, originally from Syria, came to Lebanon due to the conflict-ridden circumstances and the war in their homeland. They currently live in Zahle, Bekaa, along with their mother and sister, Suhad.

About two years ago, our Children-at-Risk team visited them and invited them to the programs. They felt joy and enthusiasm, and have been attending the programs ever since.

“Through the programs, my brother and I acquired knowledge of the Bible and became familiar with most of the characters like Joseph, Abraham, Moses, Job, and Esther. We truly enjoy and love to hear the word of God and stories from the Bible, from which we have learned numerous lessons and values. I’ve learned from David’s story that sin begets sin. King David committed many sins. He even made a mistake in his thinking by loving a married woman, lying to her husband, and then planning to kill him. However, in the end, he repented and realized his mistake. We all make mistakes, and that’s why Jesus died; to wash away our sins and save us.

In the club, I learned how to pray and express gratitude to God for everything. I also learned that every person is unique and that God endowed each of us with gifts and talents that are different from those of others. I love discussions and questions about Bible stories. I get excited every time and I love to participate.

My brother and I discuss some of the stories and lessons we learn in the club at home and we read them in the Bible. My mother always asks us what we learned there, and we tell her.” Ishtar said.

Ishtar’s words reflect her experience in learning the Bible, her spiritual growth, her confidence, and the deep faith she feels in God’s mercy and guidance. She said that her favorite chapter is Psalm 1, in which she learned to apply God’s word, walk on His path, and be like the fruitful tree.

“My life has changed, including my thoughts, behavior, and actions. I used to get angry often, shout, and argue with others. I became calm and learned to love others since God is love.” Ishtar expressed happily.

When the team asked Ishtar about her goal in life, she answered that she wanted to serve in Sunday school and tell children about Jesus when she grew up. As Amir said, his dream in life is to become a pilot, visit countries, and spread God’s word. He wants to travel around the world and tell people about Jesus.

“I have learned from the parable of the sower that the sower is Jesus and the seed is the word of God. We should listen to the gospel, understand and believe in it, and share it with others.” Amir shared with the team his favorite story from the Gospel and the story that had the most impact on him.

“One of my favorite stories from the Bible is the story of Job. The devil took everything from him, but he remained close to God and prayed. I have learned that the devil fights against the believer who loves God. So, we must always follow God no matter what we face and we must pray with faith. Furthermore, the story of Jesus’ crucifixion has had the most impact on me. He was tortured and died on the cross. When I first heard the story, I was surprised and didn’t understand why He was crucified. I didn’t know much about Jesus at that time. Now I know that He died to save us from our sins and I believe in Him. Like everyone, I make mistakes, but I pray for God to forgive me and help me overcome my weaknesses. I will share a personal experience that is important to me. I used to feel envy and jealousy, and it was a great challenge for me to get rid of this sin. But I started thinking about the things I own instead of focusing on what others have. I also prayed and asked God to help me get rid of this sin,” Amir exclaimed.

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A Family Touched by Hope

Approximately a decade ago, Riyad, his wife, and their four children were forced to flee their home in Aleppo, Syria, due to the extreme danger and indiscriminate shelling in their city. Their journey led them to Lebanon, specifically a refugee camp in the southern part of the country. Like many others, they had hoped their displacement would be temporary and that they could return home once the situation stabilized. Little did they know that their temporary stay in Lebanon would extend for such a long period.

In Lebanon, the family found a degree of stability, and Riyad began working as a farmer to support his loved ones. It was during this time that he first learned about Heart for Lebanon and the invaluable support it provides to those in need. Seeing an opportunity to secure essential food assistance for his family, Riyad promptly registered.

As one of the organization’s teams conducted follow-up visits to the family, the family came to know them more. Their children, inspired by the initiatives available, began participating in various programs and events. These activities not only provided them with a sense of belonging but also an opportunity for personal growth and development.

For Riyad, the impact of Heart for Lebanon went beyond food assistance. He discovered and attended a Bible study organized within the camp, held at a neighbor’s house. The experience left a lasting impression on him. He spoke of his curiosity and growing interest, saying, “I attended Bible study gatherings at our neighbor’s house in the camp and I loved the way things were explained. I felt curious to come every month.” This initial engagement was a turning point, as he and his wife started attending Bible studies together, opening the door to intellectual, spiritual, and mental growth with each class.

Their commitment to learning and understanding the Bible deepened their connection with Heart for Lebanon, and they embraced their participation in the activities wholeheartedly. This included the children’s programs and more Bible studies, which enriched their lives and faith.

However, life took an unexpected and harrowing turn when Riyad was abducted while on a mission to secure residence permits and passports for his family at the embassy. He encountered someone at the embassy who offered to help but ended up being part of a group that kidnapped him and held him captive. For days, he endured severe beatings and threats, and his family received distressing messages demanding a substantial ransom for his release.

Riyad’s family faced immense pressure and fear, but they united to negotiate with the kidnappers. After arranging a significant sum, they secured Riyad’s release and welcomed him back home. He spent two weeks in captivity, and the experience was grueling, but Riyad’s resilience and faith sustained him.

Remarkably, Riyad drew strength from his faith during his ordeal, recalling the lessons of patience, endurance, and Jesus’s teachings that he had absorbed during his Bible studies. He said, “During my abduction, I remembered what I had learned from the Bible study about patience, persecution, and the teachings of Jesus Christ.” This faith provided him with the reassurance and hope he needed during his darkest moments.

Today, Riyad has returned to his grateful and relieved family. Bible study sessions continue to be a source of strength for him and his wife. Their understanding of the Holy Bible deepens, and they are filled with gratitude for the invaluable spiritual support and teachings they receive through their association with Heart for Lebanon.

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A New Path

Kadria’s transformative journey from Syria to Lebanon was a testament to her resilience amid numerous challenges. Faced with the ongoing conflict in her homeland, Kadria, along with her husband and four children, made the courageous decision to start afresh in Lebanon, leaving behind their entire lives. In Lebanon, the family confronted additional hardships when Kadria’s husband’s health deteriorated, rendering him unable to work. This pivotal moment thrust Kadria into the role of the sole provider for her family, compelling her and her children to labor in greenhouses to meet their basic needs.

Amidst these struggles, Kadria discovered Heart for Lebanon through the network of neighbors and friends. Coming from a non-Christian background, her knowledge of Christianity and the Bible was limited. The introduction to Heart for Lebanon became a spiritual turning point for Kadria, who had never contemplated matters of faith or the purpose of her life before. Engaging in regular Bible studies with Heart for Lebanon, Kadria’s heart and mind opened to the teachings of Jesus Christ, and the stories of the Bible began to impact her on both a personal and spiritual level.

In addition to participating in Bible studies, Kadria devoted her Sundays to attending Hope Evangelical Church. Despite facing occasional harassment from her employers, she remained steadfast in her commitment, recognizing the spiritual nourishment it provided her. Astonishingly, Kadria not only attended the church but also contributed financially, despite her financial difficulties. When questioned about her motivation, she responded, “I love to help, and I have learned the value of giving more and more through the lessons I have attended. It’s important even if what I offer is very few.” She emphasized that giving transcends material assistance; it encompasses a spiritual dimension, evident in one’s interactions and support for others.

Reflecting on her spiritual journey, Kadria shared, “Attending Bible studies and church gives me inner comfort. I have acquired calmness and patience, and I have become less angry. Although my life has been difficult and negatively impacted for some time, I have found a new path and a new hope. I received great encouragement that created new hope in me through the team of Heart for Lebanon and the members of the church.”

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Story

Widad’s Story

Widad’s story is one of resilience and perseverance. Born in 1962 in Kherbet Kanafar, a town in West Bekaa, Lebanon, she grew up in a bustling household with four brothers and three sisters. Her father managed both a cow farm and a sheep farm, instilling in Widad the values of hard work and determination.

Seeking better educational opportunities, her family relocated to Beirut, the capital city, where they enrolled in a private school. After completing her studies, Widad met Daher, who later became her husband. Daher worked in the construction industry, supporting the family with his income, and together they raised three children.

In 1985, their lives took a devastating turn when Daher was diagnosed with cancer. The family sold their assets, including their house, to cover medical expenses, but despite their efforts, Daher succumbed to the illness after a yearlong battle.

Left as the sole provider, Widad faced immense challenges. Despite financial constraints, she took a job in a clothing store while also enrolling in a public university to study nursing. Her determination to improve her family’s quality of life led her to obtain her nursing certificate, and she worked tirelessly as a nurse in a hospital.

Widad’s dedication allowed her to support her children until they established their households. However, in 2013, she faced another hurdle when she was diagnosed with cancer herself. Fortunately, her job at the hospital provided access to social security, easing the burden of treatment expenses, and she successfully overcame the disease.

At the age of 54, Widad retired from her nursing career, but her financial struggles persisted, exacerbated by Lebanon’s economic crisis in 2019. Unable to afford her apartment rent, she made the difficult decision to relocate to the Bekaa region for more affordable living, relying on financial support from her children to make ends meet.

During a routine visit from members of ‘Heart for Lebanon,’ Widad found solace and spiritual guidance. Grateful for the opportunity to address her questions and deepen her faith, she began attending Bible study sessions regularly.

“I am thankful for your willingness to address my numerous questions,” she expressed, “and I pray that God continues to grant strength and guide the growth of the church.” Widad’s resilience and unwavering faith serve as an inspiration to all who know her story.

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A Christian Journey

Gharam is a name that means passionate love. Her journey traverses landscapes of both physical displacement and inner turmoil, each step marked by the weight of separation and the scars of conflict. Born into the chaos of war-torn Syria, Gharam’s childhood was eclipsed by the shadows of violence and uncertainty. Amidst the wreckage of her homeland, she learned to survive on her own. Her innocence was tainted by the harsh realities of conflict.

Crossing the border into Lebanon with her family, Gharam’s journey continued into unfamiliar territory, where the challenges of displacement seemed insurmountable. The refugee camp they settled in offered little break from the trauma they left behind, with cramped quarters resembling dungeons rather than homes, and the constant struggle to secure even the most basic necessities of life.

Amidst the desolation, a glimmer of hope emerged. Introduced to the Heart for Lebanon and Biblical lessons at Hope Evangelical Church, Gharam found solace in the embrace of faith. Through the prayers of a compassionate relative, she began to explore the redemptive power of Christ’s work, seeking refuge in the promises of salvation and renewal.

Though societal norms imposed barriers and restrictions, Gharam defied expectations with unwavering courage and determination. “Rather than succumbing to despair, I decided to embrace my newfound faith in Christ and decided not to be ashamed of it,” Gharam said. She wanted to learn it deeply, share it widely, and live it wholeheartedly.

Inspired by the story of the adulterous woman saved by Jesus’ compassion, Gharam found echoes of her struggles in the pages of scripture. Through prayer, she experienced a profound shift in perspective, transcending the bitterness of anger and despair to embrace a sense of peace in knowing that she is forgiven.

Despite the past and the hardships she faced, through God’s word working in her life, she emerged from the pot of conflict with the Holy Spirit living within her, giving her purpose and a steadfast commitment to sharing her testimony of hope with others.

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Transformative Hope Unveiled

Education stands as more than just a fundamental human right; it is a ticket for a brighter future, especially for children navigating the turbulent waters of challenging social landscapes. It serves as a transformative force, nurturing not only academic skills but also essential qualities of character and moral integrity. Within the walls of our Hope Educational Center, this vision finds vibrant manifestation. Here, education is not merely a means to acquire knowledge but a holistic journey that integrates academic learning with Christian living and the wisdom of the Holy Bible, nurturing young minds with spiritual, moral, and human values.

In the story of Rahaf Chakhabi, we encounter a moving narrative of resilience and aspiration. Despite her initial timidity, Rahaf’s spirit radiates with a passion for learning that surpasses the boundaries of conventional education. Dreaming of a future as a medical doctor, her aspirations are not just rooted in personal ambition but in a profound sense of duty to ease suffering and offer comfort to those in need. “I strive so that my siblings also benefit from this opportunity, given to us by God,” she said. In her, we witness the effect of knowledge, and how to touch the lives of those around.

Rahaf’s journey is not solely defined by her academic pursuits; it is a story of knowing Jesus, getting closer to Him, and devotion to prayer. Her newfound abilities extend beyond mere literacy; they cultivate essential social values such as cooperation, empathy, and generosity. Rahaf’s selflessness transcends her aspirations; she endeavors to uplift her siblings, ensuring they too benefit from the opportunities afforded by education.

Her father’s pride and joy mirror the profound impact of our Hope Educational Center, elevating not just Rahaf’s academic achievements but also her spiritual growth and moral development. “Thank you for taking care of my daughter and changing her life,” he said.

In heartfelt gratitude, the sentiment is expressed, “Thank you, Lord, for making Hope Educational Center a channel for your blessings, touching the lives of every child and their families, including myself and my family,” she concluded.

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A Diamond

Hope Educational Center is a beacon of light for children who have been deprived of their most fundamental rights, both academically and socially. On the academic front, the center equips these children with knowledge that empowers them to chart a course toward success. Simultaneously, on the social front, the center provides the care and security these children so desperately need, instilling vital social norms and rules to deter deviant and inappropriate behavior.

At the core of this mission is the unwavering emphasis on the importance of education and the cultivation of a culture of respect among these children. The dedicated teachers at Hope Educational Center are instrumental in providing the necessary support and care that these children require to succeed and contribute to the prosperity of their society.

Almasa Khalil, one of our exemplary students at Hope Educational Center, is a shining testament to the impact of our program. Almasa is known for her unwavering determination and relentless pursuit of knowledge. Her positive attitude and diligence in fulfilling her academic responsibilities have set her apart as a role model among her peers.

During a recent visit, Almasa expressed her profound gratitude, saying, “I am immensely proud to belong to Hope Educational Center, where I’ve not only learned the value of kindness and love among my friends but also how we can truly support and care for each other.” She continued, “I aspire to use the knowledge I’ve gained to become a more successful contributor to my society. My teachers don’t just impart valuable lessons; they shower me with love and support. This encouragement fuels my ambition and drives me to pursue my life goals, both academically and socially.”

Almasa also highlighted the significance of chapel time in her life. She explained, “The time spent in chapel is incredibly meaningful to me because it’s when we come together to praise the Lord. During these moments, I’ve learned the importance of love, support, and selfless service to my friends, without expecting anything in return. I’ve come to realize the significance of treating everyone equally, without favoritism, as we are all created in the image and likeness of God.”

Almasa’s father, when asked about the noticeable changes in her behavior since starting the H.O.P.E. (Helping Overcome Poverty through Education) Program, explained, “She is not only excited about learning, but she is genuinely happy to be supported by her teachers. It’s as if her life has been renewed, and she feels psychologically more comfortable.”

Hope Educational Center firmly believes that education is the passport to the future, and as the saying goes, “Tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” Through our dedicated efforts, we are molding the next generation to not only secure a brighter future for themselves but to enrich their communities with knowledge, compassion, and a commitment to service, ultimately ensuring a more hopeful and prosperous tomorrow.

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A Heavenly Relationship in the Making

Education stands as a beacon of fundamental human rights, and the Hope Educational Center stands as a testament to this profound belief. Its commitment extends beyond academic pursuits, seeking to embrace the holistic development of students, fostering a spiritual journey that transcends despair and ushers in salvation. Aya Al Moussa, a participant in the afternoon program, embodies this transformative impact. Her once-muted existence has evolved since joining the Hope Center, with her teachers noting a newfound enthusiasm in her class participation. Aya’s qualities of attentive listening, love for learning, and remarkable memory make her a shining example within this educational community.

In a moving moment, Aya revealed the depth of her spiritual transformation when asked about her connection to the Hope Center. Professing her love for the center and the joy it brings, she spoke of discovering the power of prayer and cited her favorite Bible verse, Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” emphasizing the rest found in the arms of Jesus. Aya’s fascination with the biblical narrative, particularly the story of Adam and Eve, reflects a hunger for understanding creation, disobedience, and the redemption offered through the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ on the cross.

A visit to Aya’s home provided further insight into the impact of the Hope Center. Her mother, speaking of the evident joy radiating from Aya, highlighted the transformative effect on her daughter’s social and personal life. A glimmer of hope, a reflection of God’s love, emanates from Aya’s eyes, drawing her mother closer to God. Despite facing adversity, Aya’s dedication to her dreams has intensified, showing how the center cultivated resilience in her through its nurturing environment.

In the words of Aya’s mother, “Gratitude flows within me towards Heart for Lebanon for the opportunity you gave my daughter and the unwavering support provided by the dedicated teachers. You have created a brighter future for every student, and especially for my daughter.”

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Tearful Repentance

Ghaith Diab, a recent student at Hope Center, brought his bright and exuberant personality to the morning program after transitioning from the afternoon one. From the very start, he exhibited a strong determination to be noticed and to make his classmates laugh with his jokes and humor. His eagerness to stand out was undeniable, but little did he know that he was about to encounter a transformative moment in his young life.

This pivotal moment arrived during a dictation test, a significant academic challenge for young Ghaith. As the teacher distributed the test papers, Ghaith had a plan in place. He had concealed an extra sheet of paper in his pencil case and attempted to sneak peek at it during the dictation. The teacher observed his struggles and decided to step in. She approached Ghaith calmly and said, “Ghaith, please stop writing. I’ll talk to you later.”

Instead of chastising him, she sensed his inner turmoil, taking him aside and gently inquiring about the reasons behind his decision to cheat. Tearfully, Ghaith confessed that he didn’t understand the words in the dictation. In response, the teacher assured him of her unwavering support, promising not to be angry or punitive. She patiently explained the unfamiliar words, offering additional practice, and in doing so, instilled in Ghaith a newfound sense of trust and self-confidence. The following day, Ghaith tackled the dictation test with renewed determination, completing it honestly.

As the school year unfolded, Ghaith’s spiritual journey led him to a Bible session where he posed a seemingly simple question, “What is the cross?” His compassionate classmates explained, and the Bible teacher seized the opportunity to share the profound story of Jesus’s crucifixion, a story previously unfamiliar to Ghaith. “Is that what Jesus did for me? He was nailed to a cross?” Gaith asked as tears welled up in his eyes. He had absorbed the message of love and sacrifice that this story conveyed.

After the Bible session, Ghaith felt remorse for his past actions. He approached his English teacher to express his regrets for cheating during the dictation test. At that moment, his teacher noticed the remarkable transformation in Ghaith and responded with a warm, understanding smile. He asked Jesus for forgiveness too. This episode marked a significant turning point in Ghaith’s journey at the Hope Center, where he learned the values of honesty, trust, and the importance of seeking help when needed. With the unwavering support of his teachers and the nurturing environment of the Hope Center, Ghaith not only thrived academically but also underwent a remarkable spiritual transformation.

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Always Fruitful

Rajaa, born in the Hauran region of Syria, was the youngest among her ten siblings. Her father’s work cultivating owned lands provided the family with a comfortable life. After completing her studies in a public school, Rajaa pursued further education in Damascus, completing a comprehensive law program over five years.

During this time she met Imad who was visiting Syria from Lebanon. A deep connection formed between them, leading to their marriage and relocation to Lebanon. Imad operated a meat shop, supporting their family. In 1999, they welcomed their first daughter, Rita, followed by another daughter, Maria, in 2001.

Years later, both daughters worked temporarily as waitresses in a restaurant. Rita’s encounter with a member of the Hope Evangelical Church led to her attending a youth gathering, where she found happiness in Biblical teachings. Excited, she shared her experience with her mother, Rajaa.

Two church representatives invited Rajaa to join the church’s Bible study, which she eagerly accepted. She diligently took notes during gatherings, reflecting on their significance at home. After accepting Christ Jesus as her Savior, and upon learning about new discipleship classes, Rajaa registered and fully engaged in the program, demonstrating commitment and growth. After completing the program, she publicly declared her faith through baptism. “I am now saved, and I have become a disciple of Jesus. Now, I want the world to know about my faith,” she said. 

Expressing her desire to volunteer in visitations, Rajaa actively participates in frequent visits. She also attends leadership meetings, gaining insights into effective leadership rooted in Biblical principles.

She humbly expressed her gratitude, stating, “I am genuinely thankful for the leadership classes, as they have equipped me with strength and wisdom from the words of the Lord in the Bible, enabling me to serve Him more effectively.”

We ask for prayers for Rajaa, that God may continue to use her as a devoted servant and true soldier in His service.