As Naseef helped his parents toil in the fields of the family farm in Syria, he dreamt of a different life. Someday, he told himself, he would become finance manager in a corporation.
Naseef was well on his way to realizing his dream when he enrolled at university to study his passion: economics. But the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011 and shattered his dream.
The Syrian government began drafting young university men into the army. However, they did not draft men who failed in their studies. Some students deliberately failed for two years to avoid government military service. Not wanting to participate in the war, he made the painful decision to fail out of university.
Naseef took a job in a small glass shop and rejoined his family with their farm work. The war came to Naseef’s area of Syria in 2013. When the government sent about 200 troops to fight the opposition forces, the village showed them hospitality. Naseef’s family took 10 of the young soldiers into their house, fed them, and became their friends. They exchanged contact information so they could stay in touch.
After the soldiers moved on to a more intense area of the fight, Naseef and his neighbors could not get any responses from their new friends. They later learned the horrifying news: all the soldiers had been massacred in an ambush. Rumors and fears circulated about traitors.
Naseef says that this was the reason why many young Syrian men are so afraid to join the military.
“It’s not like I’m fighting for my country," Naseef said. "I’m going to die because of the traitors."
Naseef’s family decided to send him to Lebanon to save his life. He moved into a house with other refugee friends near the Beirut Church of the Nazarene. One day, Naseef was invited by a friend to the church. He was greeted with a warm welcome by the people. Fascinated by the teachings, he began attending regularly. Naseef was raised in another denomination. To Naseef, his family, and his village, going to church was simply a religious practice.
“In our village, even the priests do not know much about Jesus, like how many years He lived on the earth," Naseef said. "Many people living there in the village do not know about Jesus, so I got to know Jesus in the church. I learned more and more in the church... and I asked Pastor Andrew to get baptized."
Hungry to know Jesus personally, he began reading his Bible every day. Naseef's pastor, Andrew, noticed.
“One day, he shared with me how he woke up and experienced a wonderful joy in his heart, and he knew that the Lord has touched his heart, and he is God’s son now,” said Pastor Andrew. “He reads the Bible faithfully and knows verses by heart. He witnesses to his Syrian friends through Facebook, and he is helping us now with the follow-up of the Syrians who come to the church.”
Naseef joined the church as a member and was baptized this month with several other young people. Unfortunately, Naseef ran out of the funds he had brought with him to Lebanon. The Beirut Church of the Nazarene helped him find a place to stay, as they have done with other refugees. Unable to find a job because of his refugee status, Naseef spends his days in the church’s kitchen, assisting the three women who cook more than 100 hot meals per week for the church’s educational program for Syrian refugee children. He also helps clean the church and classrooms.
“I believe that the Holy Spirit lives in me and I’m ready to serve and tell about Jesus,” Naseef said.