Ten minutes. That was all the time for Sanna and her husband to gather their eight children and get out of the house.
They didn´t pack a suitcase, nor did they grab a few prized family photographs. They simply ran as far and as fast down the street as they could.
Sanna´s family had recently converted to Christianity, and residents in their village near Aleppo were greatly displeased. The news spread to militant rebels in the area. Threats of retribution for abandoning their Islamic roots grew more menacing.
Many times they contemplated fleeing as other Christian friends had done, but such a move would be difficult with their large family. Unaware of a planned attack, they would have died if not for the compassion of one of their Muslim neighbors who knocked on the door—just in the nick of time—that terrifying March day.
“Leave now. They are coming for you,” the woman warned.
Moments later that warning proved true when a group of angry, shouting men stormed onto their street. By then Sanna, her husband, and their five boys and three girls were a safe distance away. They found out later the rebel group burned their house to the ground. The car, too small for their family to use for a quick escape, was also destroyed.
Sanna and her family stayed on the move until they finally crossed the border into Lebanon. “We made our way to Beirut by hitch-hiking with strangers from city to city,” she said.
It was a long way from home, but perhaps here they could find work and a peaceful place for the children, ages 1, 2, 5, 10, 13, 16, 18, and 20, to sleep.
They moved into a room in a basement with no furniture, no kitchen, and no bathroom. There was no running water or electricity. However, at least they had a secure roof over their heads and they felt safe.
Nothing has changed since their arrival six months ago. Sanna still doesn´t have a means to cook or refrigerate food, so the family must buy supplies each day. They survive on bread and jibneh cheese.
But they are surviving—barely.
Finding a job in Lebanon—and paying $150 a month for rent—has been a challenge for Sanna´s husband. No one will hire him, so he picks up odd jobs when he can. Some employers have promised wages but did not pay after the work was completed.
“My husband was a construction worker. In Syria we had a house and a car. Each of our children had their own bed,” she said. “We lived a good life and had enough money to take care of our expenses.”
They miss their comfortable beds. Before a local evangelical church provided them with two mats, everyone slept on the basement´s concrete floor. They still have no blankets or pillows.
The only material possessions the family took with them when they fled from Syria were the clothes they were wearing. For months they didn´t have even one change of clothing. The children removed their clothes at night so Sanna could wash them in the evening and let them dry overnight. They all bathe out of a bucket.
Sometimes one of the younger children will ask where their house and car is. Sanna can´t make sense of their misfortune herself. How can she explain to her little ones the insanity that has ripped their country apart?
When her children cry, Sanna says the neighbors yell at them to be quiet. She can´t hold back tears either. She stays home every day because she is afraid to go outside. Even in Beirut, walking in the streets is overwhelming for her and she only does so when she must.
With no funds to buy medicine for her high blood pressure, she worries the distress of their circumstances will literally kill her.
As a mother, Sanna´s greatest source of anguish is not being able to properly care for her children. She has no money to buy diapers for her baby, so she uses plastic bags. Her children are getting sick and she is willing to beg if she has to so they can have the needed medications.
Sanna is near the breaking point and wants to go home. “I would rather go back to Syria and live without safety in the middle of bomb attacks than continue to live in poverty in Lebanon,” she said.
A Christian Aid-assisted ministry is reaching out to Sanna’s family. The leader was instrumental in bringing them across the border into Lebanon and connecting them with a local church.
While their material needs are overwhelming, it is the deep emotional hurts that plague them the most, especially the children. Members of their church meet with the family to pray and read the Bible together. They counsel and encourage the children. Sometimes all they can do is wipe away the tears.
Please pray for Sanna and her family as they, like hundreds of thousands of refugees in Lebanon, face an uphill battle to survive. Pray also for wisdom and strength for gospel workers who are doing what they can to alleviate suffering and share the love of Jesus Christ.