I just came back from Egypt. I had the chance to personally meet with the families of the 21 men that were beheaded by ISIS for their Christian faith. We met at a local church instead of their homes for safety reasons. It is difficult to put in words how glorious and eye-opening the experience was and I think it will take me weeks if not months to capture it all but here is how it happened and what I learned from it.
Back in February, I was online scrolling through my Facebook feed. Squeezed in, between articles on The Kardashians and funny buzzfeed videos, I noticed the story of the 21 Christian men that were beheaded by ISIS because of their faith in Jesus.
My heart sank and I was struck by the news for several reasons; Some of the thoughts that raced through my head were:
- How painful this must be to the mothers, fathers, brothers, wives, sons and daughters of those young men?
- How come this is “just another story” and is less important that many other celebrity-related news?
- Why are we, in the west, so ignorant and lack compassion towards injustices in other parts in the world?
- What can I actually do to make a difference? (Because we all know complaining about it online doesn’t actually make a difference and neither does blaming political parties)
I was stuck with the last question; I just couldn’t move on without having an answer….What can I actually do to make a difference? Being an Egyptian myself, I made some phone calls and found a way to reach those families of the beheaded men through local churches. Those families didn’t just lose their loved ones in a very barbaric way, but they also lost the main, if not the only, source of income. Keep in mind that in third-world countries, there are no social security income, food stamps, paying jobs for women in villages, free health care or public schools, etc. Once I knew those families can be reached, I decided to create an online campaign to raise money for the families. I skipped work that day and I created the campaign with a video.
After getting an incredible amount of public support and many generous donors, $38,155 were raised. I decided that raising the money isn’t enough and I wanted to be there to personally meet the families. Couple of friends decided to join me; they took off work, paid for the trip out of their own pockets and joined me on this journey.
I went thinking that I am making a huge difference to the lives of the people. Which, thanks to the donors, I was making a huge difference. However, what I didn’t know is that those families were possibly making a greater difference in my life than I was in theirs. After having the chance to chat with them, I was once again, struck in shock with what I was hearing:
- They have forgiven those evil men of ISIS who brutally murdered their loved ones.
- They have hope in what to come despite the circumstances.
- They have faith and confidence that their loved ones are in heaven.
- They had such an unbelievable level of gratefulness for what we were doing.
Placing the money in envelopes for each of the families and putting them in gift boxes; each containing a plaque with a Bible verse as a remembrance to the families of God’s faithfulness and provision.
Handing the plaques with the money for a family member of each victim
Issam’s (one of the martyrs) little brother, wife and daughter.
This has put things in perspective for me. How many times have I had unforgivness over small mistakes done by those who love me? How many times have I been easily offended over posts on social media? How many times have I doubted God’s goodness over small unanswered prayers? How many times have I been so ungrateful when things didn’t go my way? and how many times have I had no hope over small problems that I was facing? I am so thankful for this trip and I believe EVERY person in the west should consider taking the time to go to a third-world nation and spend time with the poor. There are valuable lessons about faith, gratefulness, and hope that money can never buy.
I will be posting more photos and posts on my blog as I am processing those valuable life lessons learned. Please feel free to share the post to others that can be inspired by it and subscribe to my blog.
Have you been among the poor before? What lessons have you learned? Would love to hear your comments below!
– Johnny Youssef