Lebanon (MNN) — Buchra’s story is not that unusual for a child displaced by war. What makes it extraordinary is a stranger’s investment in her future.
As civil war swallowed Syria, Buchra and her family fled to Lebanon. Although technically safe, the children weren’t allowed to go to school*. But Buchra continued her education with the help of Heart for Lebanon under its H.O.P.E. (Helping Overcome Poverty through Education) program.
A born teacher
Tom Atema, of Heart for Lebanon, says, “She was way ahead of her class academically, her English is probably better than mine. What was really interesting to me when I met her was (not only) that she loved Jesus passionately, but (also that) she loved telling stories.” Overflowing with enthusiasm and a passionate hunger for learning, Buchra shared what she had learned with anyone who would listen.
When she aged out of the H.O.P.E. program, she tested into a private school. In her new school, she was an inspiration for the other students. As she eagerly navigated her lessons, she taught them to other children in her tent settlement.
“She’s teaching them English,” Atema says, “she’s teaching them math. She’s teaching them Bible stories–sharing her faith through her love for education.”
“Education is enlightenment,” Buchra says. “These children are illiterate, and I am happy to be able to help my community this way.”
A brighter future
Buchra hopes go to college and earn a professional teaching degree. That’s a tall order, and many obstacles stand in her way. However, even if she can’t continue her education, Atema knows she will be using her natural gift for teaching anyway.
This kind of passion, he believes, is how the Gospel will penetrate the Near East. If you reach the child, you reach the family; if you reach the family, you reach the community; if you reach the community, you can reach the region.
“If you reach the region, you can reach the country; (if) you reach the country; then you can reach the Near East.”
“Buchra is a good illustration, and not just the only one,” Atema says. “She’s the bright one at the moment, but there are literally hundreds of kids like that who have come through our education program.”
H.O.P.E. makes a difference in Lebanon
*As mentioned earlier in Buchra’s story, Syrian refugees in Lebanon, because they are considered illegal immigrants, are not allowed in public schools. But Atema says God is using the H.O.P.E. program to get around these restrictions using the country’s non-formal education program. It would be similar to homeschooling laws, but they make good use of them.
He tells the story of the Heart for Lebanon school in Beirut, where one student needed paperwork to pursue higher education. Government authorities doubted her high test scores, so they re-tested, then tested all of the students at the school.
“The average got 99% right. The judge then gave everybody in that school a piece of paper that said, ‘you can now go to the school of your choice in your neighborhood.’ They did so well that they were all allowed to join whatever school they wanted to.”
A heart for home, a passion for the Gospel
“I am convinced that some of these kids are going to change the face of the Near East,” Atema says. Heart for Lebanon pursues the education of Syrian refugee children. They teach Arabic, English, math, science, and more, intending to empower this “Lost Generation.”
Believers can join the cause with Heart for Lebanon primarily by praying, Atema says. “We need prayer for wisdom, on how to deal with these many different situations, and how we can come alongside Buchra and other girls and boys like her.” Atema also urged Christians to pray that the staff of Heart for Lebanon would be unified in Christ.
For more stories like Buchra’s, click here. “These boys and girls are no different than the boys and girls that sit in the classrooms in your schools in your neighborhood. They just haven’t been given the opportunity.”
Header photo courtesy of Heart For Lebanon.