Young presenter Christina Issa shares her story of growing up in war-torn Syria, and how watching SAT-7 KIDS brought “peace and security in the middle of fear”.
“As a child growing up in the middle of war, life was full of uncertainty and fear.” Christina Issa’s upbringing – like many millions across the Middle East – was scarred by conflict.
She grew up in Syria at the height of the country’s civil war as part of a Christian family. But, she said, “It was hard to keep our faith strong when everything around us was falling apart.”
Throughout these distressing and often frightening times, there was, she said, “a source of hope that brought comfort to us. My father ensured that God’s Word was still present in our house, through putting SAT-7 KIDS on the TV. The stories of faith and hope gave us the strength to carry on. The words of the presenters and speakers would resonate with us, providing a sense of peace and security in the middle of fear.”
The family’s trials intensified when Christina’s father was diagnosed with cancer, and died after a two-year battle with the disease. The loss was devastating for the 14-year-old Christina and, understandably, she struggled in her life and faith for a time.
The family, like many Syrians caught up in the country’s brutal civil war, later moved to Lebanon, and it was there that Christina’s life started to turn around – and she began to trust God again. She said, “When we settled in Lebanon, I witnessed God’s presence in every aspect of my life, from education and work to everyday experiences.”
This prompted Christina to recall something her father had said to her mother during his illness that “deeply resonated” with her: “He said, ‘You’d be wrong if you think I can take care of our family more than our God can.’ This statement made me realise that even during our darkest moments, God was indeed taking care of us.”
And God had plans for Christina. Throughout her Christian upbringing and all the years spent watching SAT-7 KIDS as a family, God had been speaking to Christina and establishing a deep foundation of faith. Now it was her turn to share His love with a new generation of viewers.
In Lebanon, Christina heard about a casting for a new children’s programme on SAT-7 KIDS called Challenge Accepted, and went on to be selected as one of the show’s presenters.
Christina, now aged 21, said, “I found myself working for the very same television channel that brought so much comfort to me as a child. At that moment I remembered little me wishing to go into that television in our living room, never knowing that it might actually come true one day.”
The team on Challenge Accepted quickly bonded and became close. Christina’s co-presenter Shady Tarzi, also from Syria, spoke of how they became “like a family” as they prayed together, shared their struggles and supported each other.
The show is now in its third series, and Christina is using her own experiences to help strengthen the faith of its young viewers. She said: “Through Challenge Accepted, my aim is to reveal the realities of life’s struggles without any filters or pretence. I want to reassure young viewers that their pain is understood and that they are never alone. With Jesus, they have the strength to overcome and navigate through life’s storms. Just as God’s presence guided me, I believe His hand will uplift and empower them in their own journeys.”
Watch Christina’s story
Gameshow helps viewers deepen faith
Challenge Accepted is a gameshow on SAT-7 KIDS for young teenagers, which aims to introduce them to the history, geography and stories of the Bible and put their knowledge to the test. Pitting two teams against each other to encourage healthy competition, the show provides an hour of laughter, play and excitement, while also showing young people how the Bible applies to their everyday life.
Along with a Bible quiz and fun team games, Challenge Accepted also helps participants and viewers dig deeper and explore their faith. In a segment called “Truth or Dare”, participants are encouraged to share a personal challenge or problem they have overcome and discuss it together, encouraging young viewers to talk openly about their lives.
SAT-7 KIDS Manager Andrea El-Mounayer said, “We want children and youth to have passion for the word of God, and with this programme we want to raise their interest to read more in order to win the game. We also want to present good role models that can positively influence their behaviour and attitude, as well as offer a fun, light-hearted game where the whole family can participate and play together.”
Read more inspiring articles in our Summer 2023 Insight magazine