Since we last saw the family, their situation has become more difficult because of Lebanon’s current crises. Their tenant doubled the price of their rent because of the devaluation of the Lebanese pound, and they now have to pay 1,000,000 LBP a month not to be evicted. This doesn’t even include their other expenses, like electricity or water consumption. They only receive public electricity one to two hours a day and cannot afford a subscription to a private generator to compensate for this drastic shortage, as it would now cost even more than their monthly rent.
Mahmoud, the father, can barely find work as the painting business he was working at is not getting any clients. The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns, coupled with the degradation of the general economic situation, was very bad for business.
Mahmoud is extremely concerned with the future, even more so since the start of the war in Ukraine:
“We witnessed and are still witnessing the effect of the war in Ukraine on Lebanon. There are a lot of resources that we use which are imported from Ukraine or Russia, like flour or oil. The prices of these items have skyrocketed. Now the price of bread is so high that we worry whether we will be able to afford it the next day.”
Everything has become so unbelievably expensive that they haven’t been able to buy fruits, dairy products, or meat in a while. Most days, they just get bread and some vegetables to make salads, and live off what they have been able to store and keep aside.
On top of their food security concerns, Mahmoud and his wife Maha have serious health issues that they can not properly treat and that cause them to live with daily physical pain.
Maha developed asthma because of the family’s bad and very humid living conditions. She’s been taking medicine and using an inhaler ever since. She also has neck calcification and a lot of body pain. As for Mahmoud, he broke his arm several years ago, but didn’t have the money to undergo a surgery to fix it. Since then, he can only work with one arm. He also fell off a ladder while working and badly hurt his back, but he couldn’t afford the recommended $5,000 surgery to treat his injury. Because of this, he can’t carry anything heavy, and his back always hurts.
But Maha’s main concern remains her children’s happiness and future prospects:
“What hurts the most is to feel like my children are deprived of their rights. We weren’t living like that in Syria. We used to take them to school 6 days a week. They had hobbies, learned to play music, practiced sports and gymnastics. We used to take them to amusement parks and go out with friends. My kids are now deprived of all this.”
Despite everything, the mere mention of our local church partner was enough to put a smile back on Maha’s face.
After a long and excruciating journey from Syria to flee the war, and after two years in Lebanon with barely anything and without education for their three children, Maha and Mahmoud were overwhelmed with joy when they heard about the church’s learning center and were able to register their children there.
Five years later, the children are still happily enrolled in the center, and continue to learn English, Arabic, and mathematics on top of arts and sports. Their firstborn daughter is now a bit older than the rest of the class, so she helps the teachers with the younger children. She plays games with them, teaches them the numbers or the alphabet, and keeps them disciplined and calm.
Maha happily shares:
“To this day, the only safe haven for our children has been the church learning center. They tell me they wouldn’t mind being there all day from morning to night! They feel valued, and they love their teachers dearly.”
The family has received basic needs assistance from the church, including food vouchers which helped them a lot. Unfortunately, because of increasing resource constraints, we are currently in the painful process having to scale down the level of assistance we can provide. Many families such as the Algacems might not be able to receive food assistance anymore, although they still need it.
Ultimately, what keeps Maha and Mahmoud going is their increased faith. We didn’t remember them mentioning faith at all four years ago, so we were so encouraged to hear them share about their hope in Christ. They have deep faith, believing that Jesus didn’t give up on them and that things will get better in time.
“We believe that even after all this sorrow and hardships, there will be happiness and relief. I feel like I have become very close to Jesus. I am now 100% sure that He is with us and that He listens to our prayers. All this time we used to ask ourselves why we haven’t gotten the chance to travel somewhere else. But now we trust that God has better plans for us. Our lives are His, and He should do what He sees fit for them.”