Taking a STEP Toward Wholeness
Today, nearly half of the world's refugees are children. Most of these children have lost years of education. Without education, their opportunities for the future are limited. In light of this, a Nazarene Church in the Middle East decided through its educators to come together and reach out to children who don’t have the privilege of attending a normal school. It was not difficult to gather 50 students (ages 4 to 14) from refugee families to join STEP (Syrian Temporary Education Program).
This has been an exciting year for the administrator and teachers of STEP who taught English, Arabic and Math in addition to having a chapel every single morning, all in a 1,500 square foot place. Through the cold and the hot sweaty days church members ministered to these kids who had forgotten what school means, or even to the youngest who didn’t know the meaning of school. Every single student has a story to tell, and all of their stories would fill a thick book. This is Hakim's* story.
Hakim's smile is honest and welcoming to anyone who approaches him. By his smile one would think he’s a pain-free, worry-free kid. Instead, Hakim is a 14 year old boy who has suffered pain. The pain of having to flee his country to a safer place to live in a basement with his family and sleep on the floor every night (not having a mat to sleep on). The pain of being mistreated in a different school he was admitted to in the past years. The pain of losing his brother, his best friend, to a car accident just over a year ago.
“We were going to the circus and my brother, Elias* decided to take a walk on his own. Suddenly we heard a big noise and we ran to see my brother on the ground”. Hakim's eyes glitter as he shares his story, but he tries very hard to hide his tears. If you ask him why, Hakim responds that he has trained himself not to cry so that his Mom won’t feel the loss of Elias all over again.
Yet despite all of this, Hakim continues moving forward in life with resiliency and hope. “I take care of three dogs.I couldn’t save my brother, so I make it up with something else. I came to this church/ school, and I am so thankful for being here. One of my friends looks just like Elias, so that helped me love this place at the beginning, in addition to the prayers they have here. Jesus is preached here and teachers live what they teach about Jesus. I see forgiveness and second chances at this place.”
*Names changed for protection.