Sandy Khabbazeh is a refugee from Syria who found a home in an RCA congregation. She wrote this letter to the 2016 General Synod about her experience as a refugee.
Sandy Khabbazeh is a refugee from Syria who found a home in an RCA congregation. She wrote this letter to the 2016 General Synod about her experience as a refugee. Her story was also featured in RCA Today.
Dear General Synod,
My name is Sandy. Fortunately, I am not Superstorm Sandy. I am Syrian refugee Sandy. I was born and raised in a nice neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria, where I was happy with my family and my friends. My family is Christian. My city was beautiful and it has architectural character and archaeological history. It’s an ancient city. I hope some of you had a chance to visit my country before the war.
During the war, it wasn’t an easy life. My family struggled to get food, water, and heat. I studied by candlelight to earn my civil engineering degree. ISIS constantly bombed our area. One day ISIS put two bombs in front of our building because they wanted to kill us, but we ran away to my grandmother’s house to be safe. We lived in fear of death. I myself missed death by ten seconds when a missile hit the bus that I was supposed to get on to go to school. Four years passed like a nightmare for me. During the war, I started to believe that there was no hope in Syria and decided that I wasn’t going to die with my family. ISIS is an organization full of hate and their major target is we Christians. They want everyone to be perfect Muslims. If we say no, they take women as sex slaves, and afterward they will kill us all. Because of the madness in my country, my mom reached out to my uncle who has lived in America for 35 years. He said he would help, so I came to America.
Coming to America wasn’t an easy journey. I didn’t have any experience with traveling, and because my family didn’t have enough money for all of us, I had to travel alone. During my stay in Beirut, I struggled because Lebanon is an expensive country. Everyday in Beirut, I prayed to God. I was exhausted and alone. When I finally got to the USA, the relationship with my uncle was difficult, and that had a bad impact on me. I didn’t feel relaxed or at peace; I felt sad and hopeless. Instead of being glad I was safe, I felt I’d rather go back and die with my family.
By that time, I felt that I absolutely needed to see God again. So one day, I went to Ponds Reformed Church. All I knew was that the church was open for anybody, and I only knew that because the librarian next door told me. I went inside Ponds to pray. I asked God for help, and God responded. As soon as I opened the door, I met the nicest people on earth. Pastor Nathan Busker and Ponds Church saved my life. Everybody stepped up and helped me in many ways. They are my second family.
I feel now for Aleppo. I saw the news story on TV about it recently; it broke my heart and brought tears to my eyes. I ask questions like these: Why that violence? Who is the enemy? Are those the children I knew?
Brothers and sisters, why is the world remaining silent? I lost everything in my city. My city was bombed. My childhood house was bombed. My school and my church were bombed. The only things left for me are my memories.
And on January 23, I lost my father to a heart attack at age 62. I’m not happy: I’m grieving for my country and my family.
I want to end my letter to you, brothers and sisters, with a story. One Sunday, Pastor Nathan brought a white egg and a brown egg to church. He cracked them. Their yolks were the same! We are all the same human beings no matter what religion we have or what skin color we are blessed with.
Please pray with me for my family in Syria, for unity of all Christians, and for peace on earth. Thank you for reading my letter.
God bless you all,
Refugee from Aleppo, Syria
To learn more and find ways to get involved, visit www.rca.org/resources/refugees.