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How a quarry worker in Egypt found new life (slegs in Engels)

“Where is God in my life? Why has God chosen me to suffer so much pain and become disabled?”

For almost ten years, Baher, a young man in his mid-20s from Upper Egypt, lived in this anger and hopelessness. He was only 13 when he started working in the local stone mine. In the extreme summer heat, he was cutting and hauling bricks. Only one week into the job, in a split second of distraction, the cutting machine hit his leg, breaking into bone.

What happened next, is now visibly noticeable. Baher fell to the ground, severing his arm. Later in the hospital, he would wake up to find 65 stitches in his leg – and he discovered that he had lost one of his arms. In the space of a day, Baher was disabled, physically unable to help his older brother provide an income to support their family.

“I hated myself, and I hated God”

“I truly realised the size of the disaster when I came home disabled,” Baher shares. “I gave up on life. I hated myself, and I hated God and blamed Him. Why did He do this to me? I did not do anything wrong! I just wanted to help my family! Why did He choose me to go through this agony? Why should I receive a pathetic look from everyone around me? Whenever I looked at my one arm, I got depressed.”

As if the accident wasn’t difficult enough, six years later the mine struck another blow. His older brother also suffered a work injury, which would be fatal. Baher’s brother was in good health when he started working in the quarry – until an exposed power cord sent an electric shock through his body. Instead of seeking immediate medical help, he continued to work at the insistence of his supervisor.

Baher shares the details as if it happened yesterday: “They did not want to let him leave the job for the sake of getting the work done. But my brother was not able to stand the pain, and his heartbeat accelerated; he could not take a breath. His lungs were filled with the fine dust.

“We tried to save him and rushed him to the closest medical centre. However, they were not equipped to deal with such emergencies. The doctor got out the stethoscope to examine him, but then realised my brother had already died.”

Baher’s own accident had already led to a crisis of faith. But losing his brother was like a death chime. “My heart was torn apart, and I lost all hope in life,” he remembers. Heartbroken and angry, he turned his back on God and the Church.


A tragic cycle

Baher and his brother were casualties of the never-ending cycle that plagues many Christians in places like Egypt, where the decision to follow Jesus often removes their options in life. Baher’s family are Christians in a region of Egypt where believers can be seen as inferior and second-class citizens. This often means they have few options in life – left to take dangerous, low-paying jobs like working in the mine.

With his family unable to pay for school, Baher’s education ended in the fourth grade. Together with his older brother, he felt obligated to take care of his family and dropped out of school to provide for his family.

His father is terminally ill and unable to work; his mother is a diabetic. His four sisters were not allowed to attend school or work because the strict Islamic community where Baher’s family lived did not allow any girls to get an education or a job.


The mine death trap

For young boys and men like Baher and his brother, the mine represents a slow decline at best – and an inevitable death at worst. Workers know they will face appalling health and safety conditions and earn low salaries for their labour. They also lack legal protection of their rights and aren’t covered by any sort of health insurance.

“Our community’s young men are always under intense pressure,” Baher says. “There are no other job alternatives. I was afraid just at the thought of joining my brother’s work, but the choice was not mine. Every year, we see several deaths and injuries due to the difficult and hazardous working conditions.”

After his brother died, Baher became the sole breadwinner for his family. Unable to do physical labour, he looked for other ways to provide, such as buying a donkey-drawn cart. “I began to transport gravel, sand and other light building supplies in my cart. Yet, no one wanted to hire me and I was rejected everywhere.”


A life-giving connection

Just as hopelessness had almost engulfed Baher and his family, God mercifully intervened through one of our local partners. Feeling a burden for the persecuted and marginalised communities of Christians in Egypt, our partner reaches out to provide spiritual, social and financial support. One of these communities just happened to be the mineworkers in Baher’s area.

Fady*, a staff member of an Open Doors partner organisation, remembers the first time he met with Baher inside the mountainous village where the family lives. He says that Baher looked miserable and anxious. “His heart was full of resentment and bitterness towards God.

“Baher didn’t want to talk with me at first. Suddenly, he exploded in anger: ‘Does God exist? Where is God in my life? If God is in control, as you say, and works everything for the good, why has He forsaken me? Why has He chosen me to suffer such pain and become disabled?’”

Fady’s response was gentle yet laced with truth: “God never leaves us because He is our heavenly Father and the Father never forsakes His children. None of us is born by accident. Everyone on this planet was created by God and has a unique purpose to accomplish.”

As Fady continued his visits, Baher’s trust in him and the whole ministry gradually grew. Eventually, he enrolled in the ministry’s discipleship group.

“If you had not backed me, I would not have changed”

Baher says the micro-project of sheep breeding, provided by Open Doors’ local partners, is working very well and allowing him to provide for his family. He knows that without it, he and his family would be destitute or worse. He also knows that his heart would still be bitter and hard.

Life has changed drastically for Baher and his family. “We have shifted our focus from blaming God to praising Him, and now we go to church on a regular basis,” he shares. “I am blessed with the micro-project the ministry provided me with. If you had not backed me, I would not have changed. You lifted my morale and helped me to restore my relationship with God.”

Although Baher cannot read, his discipleship group showed him how to make God’s Word part of his life. “The audio Bible allows me to listen to the Word of God daily and experience an intimate relationship with Him,” he says. “Even though my mind is preoccupied, I feel serene when I engage with God’s Word because Jesus is everything to me.”

Baher is one of the many persecuted Christians whom Open Doors stands with through micro-projects and discipleship training. Last year in Egypt alone, we supported 969 projects, including 120 initiatives for mineworkers. Our partner organisation ministers to almost 270 000 people through their discipleship programme. About 1 000 of them are mineworkers like Baher.

Click here to help believers like Baher in Egypt, who continue to stand strong despite all the challenges that they must face.

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