This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

What it means to be human

ALEPPO, Syria — This morning I woke up at 4:30 a.m. to the sound of a mortar exploding. I said to myself, “A new day is started.”

This is normal in Aleppo.


I went to the kitchen, hoping to get some tea or Nescafe, but I had an urgent call from one of our members who was injured by the shelling. He needed someone to take him to the hospital. I got my shoes and got to the car quickly.

Thanks to God, they dealt with his wounds quickly, and he was in church for our service.

I preached that we should use what God has given us. No one can say, “I don’t have,” because if God has given us even a tiny thing, we can do a lot with this tiny thing.

The church where we worshiped before the war was bombed, so now we meet in an apartment building. It’s up five floors, almost 120 stairs. We have had mortars hit the building, but God saved us and as many as 150 of us continue to worship there.

Being a pastor in this crisis is not as much about preaching as it is being with the people. Even if we cannot give money or fulfill their physical needs, we can at least pray with them, at least try to comfort them.

After the service, I received another call — two older women who had not one ounce of water and had run out of money to purchase water after paying for their rent and medicine. I got my family and went looking for someone to get them water, which costs a lot of money. We need $300 a month for a family of five for drinking and washing water.

After that I received more calls asking me to go quickly to look for a home for two people whose houses were damaged from the mortar attacks that morning. We called a family from church that was out of town. They agreed to lend their house for a week until we can make repairs.

Like every day

This day is like every day. Even what I have said doesn’t describe fully what is going on.

I am thankful to my wife and my family, who remain with me in Aleppo during this crisis. Without my wife, I could be failing. She is my supporter.

We have three children, ages 6 to 12. This situation has forced itself over their lives. My children, when they hear a lot of bombing, come to our room to feel a little bit secure. When we send our children to school, we say goodbye because we don’t know if we’ll see each other once again.

Always we teach the children that although it is difficult in this time, our security is in God. We try to teach them that we suffer as Jesus suffered and that the day of resurrection will come.

As I walk around the neighborhood, I see the despair on the faces of the people. I see children begging for money. I see people without shoes.

Insisting on ‘all’

In 2013, through the church, we distributed food baskets to 100 families for two months. Last summer we helped 118 families with monthly cash allowances. The allowances help families pay for things like medical treatment, food, tuition. In 2014, from August to December, 65 of the most vulnerable families got monthly allowances. (Mennonite Central Committee supported these efforts through its partner, the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches.)

We are not only supporting Christians but the whole community, to teach them that being a human means having a responsibility to the others. We never think “this is Muslim” or “this is Christian.” We think differently.

We think we are here for a message. This message should be clear for everybody — that God loves all the people. I insist on the word “all.”
We are called to live in hope. We trust God and we do our job — praying, taking care of each other, reading the Bible and being an instrument of love and peace. This is the hope we live in.

Please don’t forget us in your prayers.

Ibrahim Nsier is a pastor of the Arab Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Aleppo, Syria. Although he told this story in July 2014, he and his church continue to carry out this work today, even as conditions deteriorate in Aleppo and food and basic supplies get more expensive, according to Naomi Enns, MCC representative for Syria and Lebanon with her husband, Doug, from Kitchener, Ont.

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