“We went to encourage them, but they encouraged us,” shares Andrea El-Mounayer, SAT-7 KIDS’ Channel Manager, recalling visits made to a Kurdish refugee family of seven made homeless by last year’s Beirut port explosion.
“The children who experienced the blast have needed special support, and our programmes have given them space to voice their fears and share their prayers and hopes for the future,” says Andrea. “In many ways, their response to what happened has inspired us to keep going. We know we have to walk alongside this next generation more than ever.”
As part of an initiative to help families in Lebanon following the explosion in August 2020, Andrea and the team visited and filmed with the family in their cramped living conditions. The parents and five children had fled Syria seeking cancer treatment for Ali, their young son, after their local hospital in Syria was attacked in the war – only for them to then be hit by the Beirut explosion.
“In Aleppo, there were missile strikes only six streets away from my house,” shares the mother. “But it was never like the Beirut blast. May God never allow this to happen to anyone else.”
“When we met the family in the summer, their house was in a very bad condition,” Andrea remembers. “The kids were deeply depressed.”
Children’s voices and experiences
To help the children give voice to their experiences in Syria and after the explosion, the SAT-7 KIDS team was joined by Sirine Daou, a certified children’s coach, who supported them through art therapy.
“When the Beirut blast happened, I remembered the missile strikes in Syria,” shares Cedra, the eldest daughter, during the session. “When it happened, I ran into the street crying out ‘Father, father!’”
Andrea shares that at the end of the visit, the team prayed with the family, and were amazed by their openness and faith. “I can’t forget the prayer time we had,” she says. “One of the children was pouring her heart out to the Lord with tears, asking Him to give her family a better place to live and her the opportunity to go back to school.”
Thankfully, the prayers of the young daughter from the Kurdish family have since been answered. When the SAT-7 KIDS team went to visit them for Christmas, they were living in a new home and the children had joined an informal school.
Hundreds of messages from children and young people like Cedra poured into the SAT-7 KIDS channel after the explosion. As they shared their feelings, faith, and prayers on programs such as Allo Marianne, they were comforted by the presenters and Audience Relations teams, and by one another.
Rashad, a young boy from Lebanon, prayed: “I thank God because he saved me from dying in the explosion. Although I am wounded, He is my healing, and I witnessed His miracles.” “We just want to show [the children] that all we have to do is take our grief and the pain we go through and put it in God’s hands,” shares Marianne Awaraji Daou, SAT-7 KIDS Presenter and Arabic Audience Relations Manager. “We have to trust Him and believe that He will turn the sorrows and the ashes in our lives into beauty.”
A companion through the years
For 14 years, SAT-7 KIDS has been a faithful companion to children in the Middle East and North Africa, supporting them through all the challenges they face. Jad*, a teenage boy from Syria recently contacted Marianne to tell her that he has secretly been watching the channel for almost ten years.
He shared his experiences during the war, saying: “Everything changed… I moved to a new place. I was far from my siblings, away from my dad. Some people attempted to murder my dad; I was also kidnapped. Even when I was kidnapped, I used to remember the songs [I learned on SAT-7 KIDS], I used to sing them again and again.”
“I am sure there are many viewers like Jad, who are from a non-Christian background, watching us secretly,” shares Marianne. “I believe that God is working in their lives just like He did in Jad’s life. We should do what we do faithfully – pray for our viewers, follow up with them, and show them real the love and hope we have in Christ.
“And when we cannot follow up, like in the case of Jad or any other kid watching us secretly, we trust that the Holy Spirit is working in their lives and believe that God’s Word never returns void.”
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