March 28, 2016
BEIRUT: For Fouad and Hiba,* like countless other Syrians today, it could easily seem that everything in their lives has changed since the war began in March, 2011. The conflict has torn apart normalcy and peace for families from every demographic of Syrian society. And in many ways life could seem unrecognizable now, if Fouad and Hiba were to pause and remember their lives in Homs before the war. And yet, for this couple currently enrolled in the Certificate of Theology program at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, some very significant things have not changed.
Their commitment to children’s ministry, for instance, remains the same. Hiba and Fouad spent 16 and 14 years, respectively, serving with a children’s ministry organization in Syria, and have seen God faithfully provide opportunities to serve in similar ways among children in Lebanon since resettling here last October. Baptist Children and Youth Ministries (BCYM), a sister organization of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, engages refugee children and Lebanese children from diverse religious and social backgrounds in programming that provides a fun refuge, even if just for a few hours or a few days of camp, from the challenges of their daily lives. Fouad and Hiba have quickly found a way to put their talents and past ministry experience to use by helping to lead these energetic programs. Their young children, Amal and Ghassan,* are even able to join their parents for these valuable days of ministry.
In any culture, silliness and a knack for not taking yourself too seriously are traits that will quickly open doors of communication with children. Hiba and Fouad both have unmistakable talents for connecting with kids in these ways, and have chosen to continue using their gifts to serve even after their own painful experiences of war and upheaval.
Hiba and Fouad participate in a silly skit with a valuable message at a BCYM camp. (Photo: BCYM team)
BCYM’s dynamic events include one day programs and three-day camps tailored for Syrian and Iraqi refugee children, and are open to any kids who want to participate. The programs consist of upbeat music with a spiritual theme, a story from the Bible with a message of hope, a silly but impactful skit, games, and a hearty lunch. One skit they love to perform for the children, pictured above, is used to illustrate the truth that “God loves me just as I am.” In the skit, they and another actor portray people with a variety of physical appearances. The children are taught that God loves them regardless of any of these characteristics, and also encouraged not to make fun of others for the way they look. Fouad, Hiba, and the rest of the BCYM team hope that through these programs, children who have had to face war and trauma will feel genuinely loved and accepted, and also see the love of God demonstrated tangibly. A child never leaves one of these events empty-handed. For example, children at the most recent BCYM program were given warm gloves, scarves, and knit hats, as well as an illustrated children’s Bible in Arabic.
The genuine love of the BYCM team members for the kids they serve is demonstrated by the fact that they make it a priority to follow up with the kids who attend their camps or one day events. They recognize the value of relationships and the weight that proven compassion, demonstrated over time, carries with kids who have endured hardships.
The BCYM team serves a group of refugee children during a January event. (Photo: BCYM Team)
Hiba and Fouad would appreciate prayer for their ministry with BCYM while studying at ABTS, and also for God’s guidance for their future. While they say “Amen” to whatever opportunities God provides, they reiterated that their heart and gifting is with children’s ministry. Additionally, they shared that many in their families remain in the dangers and uncertainty that continue to characterize Syria. Click the links to learn more about how you can pray for, support, and even participate in the ministries of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary and Baptist Children and Youth Ministry as they continue to serve God faithfully in Lebanon and the region.
You can be a part of the difference BCYM is making in the lives of vulnerable kids in Lebanon! To find out more about how your church group could send a team to partner with BCYM and serve under their leadership at a camp, contact us here.
*Names changed for security purposes