How a little ray of hope brightened the darkness for a family in Damascus during Christmas
Even the faces of the seven children look sad and serious. Somewhat tense, they sit next to their parents on the worn-out sofa. The living room is surrounded by bare, light brown walls from which the plaster is crumbling off in big flakes; in many places the brickwork is showing through. The children and their parents look at the visitors uncertainly. It’s not often that they get a visit, let alone visitors from the West.
Could they talk about their living situation? Their day-to-day experience? Asks the small delegation from the international charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), as they settle down on the sofa opposite. It’s the only way the countless anonymous stories in Syria, which often resemble each other in their bleakness, can be transformed from abstract statistics into concrete faces and names.
Hesitatingly, and in quiet voices, the parents speak, while the children sit speechless next to them. The father used to make a living as a vegetable trader, but then the war began. In Kashkoul, a suburb of Damascus where the family lives, there were many explosions, says the mother. Rockets flew over the roofs. With nowhere to flee to, there was nothing left for them but to stick it out between the rented four walls and hope that they wouldn’t get hit, that the nightmare would soon pass. Sometimes, on quieter days, the father opened his little shop to sell some vegetables. But over time that became impossible, the danger was too great.
“Even now, after the war, this area is not safe,” the mother explains, pointing to the eight stitches on her eight-year-old son’s arm. Four weeks ago, a child cut him with a razor blade while he was playing on the street. Probably not deliberately, but nonetheless, this isn’t a good area.
Overall, the situation after the war is even worse: money has lost a lot of value and without the support of ACN they would not even be able to make the rent. Since the day before, the children had only eaten a piece of bread, and without ACN’s help that would more often be the case. “There is no hope here. The situation gets worse every day,” says the father, with sunken eyes. The mother adds: “The only things I ask God for every day, are that He protect my children and provide them with something to eat.”
Suddenly, the mother pulls herself together and beckons over her six-year-old son, “There’s something I want to tell you about Milad”. She explains that on Christmas Eve last year, Jesus appeared to him in front of the shabby, flaking wall, over one of the worn-out sofas. Milad was frightened and began to cry. When he told his parents why he was crying, the father said soothingly: “Milad, everything is fine, you don’t have to be scared. Send Jesus a little kiss!”
Before Jesus disappeared, He promised Milad – whose name means “Christmas” in Arabic –that He would visit him again the following Christmas. Since then, Milad often dreams of Jesus. His mother says he has become gentler, and that through this event a little hope has found its way into the family.
We may never learn if Milad will see Jesus again this Christmas. But we can pray that the family will always be assured that for Jesus they are not merely one of countless anonymous stories, and that He is always with them, even when they can’t see Him.