I first met Abou Younes* when he came along to the Life Center Beirut looking for help with food. His journey to Beirut had begun with a harrowing escape from Daesh/Islamic State and involved selling the last of his possessions to pay a smuggler to take his large family across the Syrian border into Lebanon. They just had the clothes on their back after Daesh came through and massacred many in their town.
It was at the Life Center, too, that Abou Younes encountered and entered into a relationship with Jesus. He was filled with love and joy and felt a fire inside him to share this experience with others. However, he quickly discovered that there were those that did not want to hear.
While the Naba’a neighbourhood of Bourj Hammoud is known as a Christian Armenian neighborhood, it now houses a large number of people from all sects and religious backgrounds. Abou Younes lives in an area of the Naba’a that is a Hezbollah/Shiite area. As this is not his family’s background, his neighbour, a Shiite woman, kept close watch over their coming and going. She noticed a lot of foreigners coming in and out of their tiny one-room apartment. When she quizzed him about it, he tried to skirt around the issue and say that they were coming to look at the property to provide some help. Her inquiries didn’t stop here though. One day, one of his daughters spilled the beans to the neighbour that her parents had gone to church. Next thing you know, she had their electricity disconnected. In Beirut, electricity, generator, and water may all be controlled from an apartment other than your own, and you can find yourself at the neighbor’s mercy to keep things working!
Abou Younes also found his faith was not welcome at work. He had landed a job close to the Life Center where he was working seven days a week. One day, some foreigners from the Life Center dropped by his place of business. He ended up inviting them to his house to meet with and pray for his family. Unfortunately, his colleagues saw this. They hadn’t known he was a believer and, afterwards, gave him such a hard time on a constant basis that he ended up losing his job.
Even as the pressure intensified, Abou Younes was becoming bolder and bolder about his faith. He started holding Bible studies at his house. This also did not go over well in the neighbourhood. Eventually, it became so dangerous for his family that he had to stop. He found this heartbreaking because of his eagerness to pass his faith on to others.
However, it wasn’t long before God opened new doors for him to share as he began to travel to the Bekaa Valley to connect with his relatives living in the tent camps. With the support of the Life Center, he quickly started a Bible study course for those who are new believers as well as for those who are just learning about the Christian faith. The study courses have rapidly grown, and there are now four meetings happening in the Bekaa Valley each week with dozens of new believers attending.
Abou Younes’ next job, after a long period of unemployment, was at a produce shop where he was quickly promoted to manager. His zeal and self-described “fire” for his faith could not be contained. Soon, he was talking to customers about Jesus. It wasn’t long before a whole group of people came to the shop to meet with him to hear more about this Jesus. The owner saw the people gathering and became very disconcerted by it. He didn’t want any trouble in what is already a very politically charged environment. The next day the owner paid Abou Younes his wages and dismissed him.
Today Abou Younes is working as a volunteer at the Life Center though they do bless him with a small stipend. He helps make visits as part of the refugee relief ministry where he assesses their living situation, and he offers words of hope and prayers over families in the direst of circumstances. He is known in his neighbourhood for his generosity, despite the cramped conditions in which his own family of 17 live. He once invited a man and his family to come over to bathe every day since they were staying in a place without utilities.
Abou Younes’s passion and boldness have yielded incredible results. His wife is now leading a Bible Study group with the pastor’s wife, and Abou Younes leads a group at the Life Center in addition to the four he leads in the Bekaa. There are scores of people who now believe and are being discipled as a result of his faith. Please pray for Abou Younes that God will continue to provide all his family’s needs. Pray that the Life Center can afford to bless him with a full-time job and a stipend that will help him pay the rent and feed his family!
*Name changed for security reasons
Read Esther’s previous blog about another refugee who, at just 12, is also a world-changer!
See how SAT-7’s new ACADEMY channel is offering hope and supplementary education for families displaced by war.