As told by NT to YMI. Written by Huey Nin Woon.
The year I was expecting to graduate from university, Syria entered into a civil war.
Due to the great numbers of Syrian refugees fleeing to the surrounding countries, Jordan could not cope with the sudden influx of refugees. Soon, the Jordanian government announced a blanket rule providing that all Syrians were no longer permitted to work in Jordan since they had access to help from humanitarian organisations.
Although my mum was Jordanian and all my siblings and I had been born and had grown up in Jordan, my father was Syrian. Thus, we were included in the ban.
This meant we could not work, and we could not hold a bank account. We could not return to Syria either, not to mention that I didn’t even have a passport, which was difficult to get. If we did return to Syria, I and two of my brothers would have to join the military.
When I graduated, I felt like I had no future. Even before the war, you’d need lots of good connections (or go through corrupt channels) to get a job. For engineers in my field—mechatronics—it was crucial to be physically capable, as they expect you to do the labour, technician, and engineering work.
I came from a poor family and so didn’t have the connections, plus I also had many health concerns that affected my physical capabilities.
Seeing God step in
“The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:19)
I first came to know God personally in my teen years, after joining a Christian camp and attending the Baptist church in our community. After the pastor who had reached out to my family moved away, I eventually stopped going to church, but I never forgot my faith, and I knew God was still working in my life through all the challenges I had faced.
I remember one day I felt utterly depressed, so I went to the roof of our house with a broom in hand. As I leaned on the broom and looked to the sky, I remembered Moses with his wooden staff, when the enemy was in front of him and the sea at his back. I imagined that no one could hear a word from him, yet his heart was screaming to God in that moment.
I said to God, “I’m really exhausted. There is literally nothing here for me. Even the Jordanians struggle to find a job. People with corrupted connections can barely find a job. People with full health and strength. I went to all the factories in Jordan with no result. I tried everything. I have nothing more to give, no more options to try.”
God heard me. He mercifully opened a door for me to teach students from a range of engineering classes. This was considered private, in-cash work, and not official, but it helped sustain me. Even back in uni, I had already started tutoring some students, as I was doing quite well in my studies and so was able to help fellow schoolmates. This time, God exceeded my expectations and provided me with more students than I could have imagined.
At the same time, God allowed me to find a second job as a technical engineer for a foreign company. Some foreign companies had moved their offices to Jordan due to the situation in Iraq, and somehow, their arrangement with the government made it possible for them to hire me, even though they didn’t offer fair pay, nor did they have provisions for employee rights.
Nevertheless, with both salaries, I was able to support my family, and I thank God for the miraculous way He provided. After countless rejections, when I finally surrendered the situation into God’s hands, He showed me how He had already been working years before.
The guy who recommended me for the technical position was someone I met once in my second year in uni. At that time, I had been helping graduate students with their projects. When he saw my skills, he was shocked to know that I was only in my second year. I didn’t know his name then, but God kept me in his mind. Three years later, he saw my job application and put me forward.
Pressed to leave home
About a year before I landed the engineer job, my father decided he wanted to go to Syria to get me a passport. He hoped that I could travel out of Jordan to find better opportunities, as working two jobs was hard on me.
After he returned to Syria, we did not hear from him for 6 months. We later discovered that he had been inadvertently shot by a sniper in a firing act, but thank God he recovered and was able to return home safely.
After a few years, my father began to seriously consider pursuing an illegal boat migrant route for the family. By God’s grace, they confessed their plan to me at the last minute and I managed to dissuade my father from going through with it. I assured him I would start a business with my savings, promising him greater financial security if he would give me more time.
I opened an institution for teaching engineering uni students and helping them with their projects. I started the business with two friends and had it registered under their names because I was not allowed to open a business.
My dad was convinced whenever he visited me at the workplace where I pretended my work was going very well. In reality, I was floundering under the pressure of being the breadwinner. But no one could know, especially my family. I had to keep my struggles buried and push on.
Trusting God’s timing for us
I was certain that if God is for us, then nothing can be against us. I told my father, “If God wants you out of Jordan, you will be out of Jordan even if the whole world stands against you. If God wants you to stay in Jordan, you will stay in Jordan even if the whole world is with you. Either way, let God work.”
When the United Nations announced that they were helping Syrian refugees migrate overseas, my family sought their assistance. Unfortunately, the UN did not prioritise our case as critical because we opted not to receive financial help from them so long as God provided me with a job and income.
Thankfully, God opened the door for us through a caseworker who was helping Christian refugees with immigration issues. We applied directly to three embassies—America, Australia, and Canada.
While we waited to hear back, my mother rallied our church members to pray for us. As they prayed, she felt that Australia was where God was leading us to, so we committed the whole situation to the Lord.
At last, the long-awaited day arrived, and we received a call from the Australian embassy for an interview. As it turns out, the embassy had our case files mixed up and the file they had on hand was for a family in Iraq. The translation office had made a mistake and we were being interviewed about cities we had never set foot in. The more we spoke, the more frustrated the interviewer became; he told us we were wasting his time, that our folder was wrong, and that we needed to start from scratch.
At this point, my family almost gave up. We thought this was it. We had missed our one shot. There was no way out of Jordan. Even though God had paved a way for us to apply to the Australian embassy, everything seemed to be falling apart now. It felt like we had even managed to ruin the one shot that God had provided.
By God’s grace, the interviewer was patient enough with us. Although he was frustrated, he made the necessary changes to our file based on the new information we had given.
God had planted the right person there at the right time. After hearing our story, he told us, “It will be a miracle if you all get to pass.” I said, “We believe in miracles. So, can we do it?” He submitted our case again but warned us that we should not get our hopes up.
While we waited, I received strength and hope from God to cope with my situation. I told my family, “If our file gets accepted, then God wants us to go to Australia. And not because we did a good job in our application or because we were smart in our planning, which we were not at all. But because God delivers us. It’s not us, it’s Him.”
Somehow, our file kept progressing, even though every official we spoke to told us that our file was still awaiting a decision. The process should have been that the interviewer had approved our status before allowing our file to proceed. In our case, we weren’t even sure of the initial approval until the end.
Within 6 months, we heard back from the Australian embassy that we would be flown and settled in Darwin. I think we were the fastest file to progressed from one stage to another. We praise God. It was His hand that miraculously completed the whole process for us.
I made a promise to God that this would be a new beginning and a fresh start in my relationship with Him. Before this, I was too busy to be in church with Him. Now, I wanted to start a new life and future with Christ at the centre. The hunger I had as a child to be in God’s house with His people—this will be my priority. It will be a new life with God.
Looking back on God’s bigger picture
My family was first settled in Darwin, where we found a church and connected with God’s family there. However, I soon decided that it was time for me to leave, so I prayed and a door opened for me to go to Melbourne or Sydney.
As scary as it was for me to leave my family for the first time and move by myself to a foreign place with barely any funds, God provided kind friends and connections who helped me settle during my first couple of weeks into the beautiful city of Melbourne.
Looking back, I now see that God knew and understood exactly what my family needed, and He came through for us in His perfect timing and perfect way. Before deliverance from our troubles eventually came, God was with us amidst our hardships and used them to grow our faith in Him. He supplied me and my family with His power and strength to patiently endure every challenge.
Beyond removing my immediate troubles, God was testing my faith and teaching me to depend on Him in the good times and bad. Reflecting on God’s faithfulness motivates me to continually ask for His help with what I am currently facing.
Even when difficult circumstances drag on, all is not lost and we are never alone: God is with us, directing our paths, and giving us the strength to keep going.