By Cara Taylor wth Talin Topalakian | Jinishian Memorial Program
In the past seven years of civil war and deprivation, no one in Syria has escaped hardship. The Jinishian Memorial Program mission teams have walked through the suffering with their neighbors, keeping their doors open. As Jinishian workers serve those in great need, they also see firsthand how lives scarred by pain can grow in their capacity for love.
These four Syrians of Armenian descent, whose ancestors survived the first genocide of the 20th century, have found grace in their own moments of weakness and now offer grace to others on the long road to recovery.
In 2013 Fernand’s husband was a victim of a rocket missile explosion during the most severe days of war. She was left alone to parent their 8-year-old son and faced mounting debts and overdue bills. Persevering through her grief, she started to work as a family counselor in an Armenian organization. In spite of ongoing dangers and astronomical inflation, Fernand managed to support the two of them and pay down her debts.
Two years later, the violence nearly claimed her own life. Fernand was seriously wounded by a rocket missile and lost her left eye. By the grace of God, she survived and several organizations in Aleppo assisted her with the surgeries needed to enable her to go home to her son. The Jinishian Memorial Program helped defray Fernand’s significant medical bills and encouraged this young widow who has faced every obstacle with courage. After so much loss, Fernand continues to offer compassion to war-traumatized children through nonprofit work in education. Her generosity overflows from a thankful heart.
Harout, a young father who works as a barber, struggles to keep up with his family’s expenses. Instead of focusing on his own troubles, however, he was moved to offer his services to Jinishian clients for free, restoring a bit of dignity to many people who, like his own mother, came to Jinishian for help. Harout wanted to return the blessing to the organization in some way. Clients were very happy to have free haircuts, and it was fulfilling to Harout to be able to express his thankfulness with his barber skills.
Sevan is a beautiful 28-year-old young woman and a certified make-up specialist. Tragically, a bomb disfigured her face with severe burns and damage, particularly around her lips and teeth. In spite of this tragedy, she did not lose hope and continued to work and save money. Sevan’s faith in God sustained her. The Jinishian Memorial Program assisted her to undergo reconstructive surgery. When Sevan visited the Jinishian office to express her gratitude, her healing face and good spirits were a joy for all to see. Sevan always felt satisfaction as a beautician by providing happiness to her customers, but now she blesses them with a self-confidence that’s more than skin deep.
From early childhood to age 19, Sarkis lived without teeth. Not only was he vulnerable to cruel teasing, but he suffered many digestive and psychological problems as well. In response to his social isolation, Sarkis was always first in his class, proving himself to be an intelligent and hardworking student. His dream was to help others with similar challenges through a career in dentistry. Before entering medical school, however, Sarkis cherished a hope for dental implants. Knowing that it was beyond his family’s means, he applied for assistance from the Jinishian Memorial Program. After listening to his story and getting to know this courageous and determined young man, JMP encouraged this future dentist by providing funding for his dental implants. Sarkis is full of gratitude and already eager to “repay” Jinishian when he graduates.
The Jinishian Memorial Program began in Aleppo, Syria in 1966 to meet the needs of the post-genocide Armenian population. Today JMP reaches more than 65,000 people each year in seven locations, often where other organizations won’t go — Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Artsakh and Georgia. The leadership and staff are 100 percent local and unite across Apostolic, Catholic and Evangelical traditions to share God’s love with the most vulnerable.
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