Yusuf and wife on cell phone screen grab
Yusuf asks for prayer for the return of his son.

Who We Serve Yusuf in Syria

“Yusuf” is painfully aware of the time that has passed since his 31-year-old son, “Faruq,” was kidnapped in Syria.

“It’s been one year, nine months and 20 days,” he said, holding a small photo of his son.

Yusuf doesn’t know where Faruq is, but he believes that he is alive because of his potential usefulness to his Islamist kidnappers. Faruq has a background in computer science, and the Islamists often kidnap skilled professionals that they need for their operations. Like many others whose family members have been kidnapped by Islamists, Yusuf knows nothing about what has happened to his son. But his faith in Christ gives him a hope that few other Syrians have.

“I always pray, ‘Let Your will be done, Lord; You are a good God,’” Yusuf said. “David was not better than me. He lost his son, and I am encouraged by that fact when I go to the Bible. I am not the only one who lost his son. But other things I say, ‘Lord, You give him to us and You can take him whenever You desire.’ Those are the things that come to my heart when I go before the Lord.”

In 2012, the Syrian civil war forced Yusuf, his wife, their two daughters and Faruq to flee the Christian town of al-Hamidiyah, in the city of Homs.

“There is no human life in it anymore because of this war,” Yusuf said. “The rebel radicals came into the Christian town, but God was great and rescued us. The way God provided water for us, it started snowing. We began to gather the snow and bring water out of the snow so we could drink and use that.”

The family relocated to a new city, where their “journey of suffering,” as Yusuf calls it, began. It was this journey that ultimately deepened their Christian faith.

About two years after losing their home, Faruq simply disappeared one night. Yusuf and others searched area prisons and jails but didn’t find him. Then they received a call from the Islamists, demanding a ransom. Yusuf and his family have continued to hear mixed reports on whether he has been killed, but they believe that he is alive.

Yusuf said his greatest pain is caused by not knowing where Faruq is.

“Someone burst my heart,” Yusuf said tearfully, still holding the picture of his son.

He keeps a different, mental image of his son in his mind — an image of God’s hand covering Faruq. Yusuf also clings to scriptures that tell him not to trust in earthly kingdoms or powers, but to “trust in the Lord your God.”

“What breaks my heart is his mother,” Yusuf said. “She is not able to cope with the reality of losing her only son. We raised him, we walked with him every inch, every step of his life. We walked that journey with him as a family. Every minute was so valuable of his life and our lives, and then all of the sudden we lost him. He vanished.”

Yusuf uses everything from humor to faith to help his wife deal with her suffering.

“I try to take her away from that painful part of her life,” he said. “I encourage her to go to prayer service, to Bible study and to meet with and fellowship with the brothers.”

Yusuf admits that his relationship with God has suffered since his son’s disappearance. He said he argues with God, asking where He is in the situation and why he can’t know anything about his son. Between the arguments, however, he said he feels God’s peace.

“I wake up in the middle of the night, and sometimes I hear His voice and it comforts me,” he said.

Yusuf said fellowship with other believers has helped him stay strong through all of his family’s trials.

“They keep lifting me in prayer, and they always ask about me and they check on me,” he said. “That fellowship of encouragement is great for me and my family because even when I am not there, I know they are praying for me. They are praying for my son. One of the prayer gatherings they do for an hour and a half, and I know in that hour and a half my son and my family and I are being lifted. That is just encouragement for me and my family.”

Yusuf is also encouraged by seeing how God uses others to minister to him and his family.

“Out of nowhere they just come and help me,” he said. “It is incredible how God is providing. We have nothing, but we have something because of God’s provision in our lives through the fellowship of the believers.”

Yusuf recently attended a retreat for Syrian Christians conducted by VOM. The week-long conference provided believers with Bible teaching, encouragement and Christian fellowship. VOM conducts four conferences each year for Syrian Christians.

Yusuf continues to help Syrian refugees through volunteer work with his church. Having experienced the same hardships the refugees are facing, he knows that what will help them the most is coming to know Christ.

Even after losing everything — his possessions, his home, his job and his son — Yusuf said following Jesus is worth it.

“We have not sacrificed [anything compared with] what God has sacrificed for us,” he said.