top of page

The Day of Great Gladness


“Go out oh daughters of Zion, and look upon King Solomon, with the crown with which his mother crowned him on the day of his wedding, on the day of the gladness of his heart.”

Song of Solomon 3:11


When our kids first arrived, after their escape or release from the captivity of ISIS in Syria, it was hard to see, to feel anything but the gross darkness of gross evil that surrounded us. Our gates swung open to receive the dead walking. Daily I focused my belief, and still do on Psalm 2, 13, “I have no idea what would have happened to me had I not seen the goodness of God in the land of the living.” We knew with a certainty that the light would rise and shine on these kids who were crawling out of the shadow of death.

These were kids who had lost all, whose mourning for families and tribes slain and slaughtered, raped and murdered only began after their release and return to the quickly established refugee camps in Kurdistan. We did not know what to do, we did not know what to say but we stood there in the ashes determined to see the beauty arise from that place of smouldering death.

Our kids are now getting married. Girls who were raped and sold to countless ISIS captors, Iraqis, Syrians, Algerians, Libyans, French, Canadian, girls who had tried to kill themselves rather than lose their dignity, girls who were tortured, girls paraded as booty of war on the slave markets of Syria, these girls ignored by the world are finding the love of their life.

Young men forced into the army of the Caliphate. Young men who had not completed their education took up arms, killed, murdered, maimed, presided over Islamic courts of justice, built bombs, wore suicide belts every day for five years, were becoming whole and finding their bride.

The lost generations were continuing. Today’s offering is a tribute to our wonderful students who alone in the world, have gone from burying family members to finding their path ahead, whole and healed to bring life to the coming generations.

Sanhedrin 37A says that “whoever saves a single life is considered to have saved the world.” These are the kids who are saving worlds.


“Your lips drip nectar, my bride; honey and milk are under your tongue; the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon.”  

Song of Solomon 4:11



I will never forget meeting Fairoz for the first time in her tent, just days after her rescue. She beckoned me into an empty adjacent tent and asked me whether I wanted to see her stomach. I did not know the protocol. This is a society who will persistently invite you for lunch but the expected answer is “no thank you, another time.“ Lunch never happens. My reply was YES. Same philosophy, nothing will happen.

To my surprise she promptly lay down on a floor mattress, covered herself with a towel and lifted her stained dress to expose her stomach and upper body. Nothing could have ever prepared me for that moment. Her body looked like central London in gridlock. A total criss cross of raw scars deep and purple, stacked up one against the other infected, bleeding, protruding, ugly. There was no clean skin, just the engravings of savagery. Faiza had two questions, “How can I know what happened to me?“ and “Will someone be able to love me?”

And a very special someone loves her. His name is Saad and today they have a one year old boy called Ayar.



Viyan came to us angry. Full of rage. His triggers were massive. His violent eruptions were so frequent that we had to suspend him for a short while. His pain was raw. At that point in time he was the sole survivor of his family, two years later his sister was found in Syria and brought home ( at a ransom price that he is still paying ). He had no knowledge of the whereabouts of his family, slowly, slowly he discovered them all as bones in mass graves.


A few years back we enacted the Stone Table of Narnia which commenced by our tribe walking through the Wardrobe ( built by Shex Khalid ) filled with garments created by the sewing ladies. Another of the never forget moments. Viyan the broken warrior shouted “I will not walk through a stupid wardrobe.” My response was direct, “Then you will stay here, we are going.”


He angrily walked through the Wardrobe. He emerged as a different Viyan. “As I walked through the garments hanging there, my rage fell off as if I had removed a garment. My anger disappeared. What happened in there?”


Viyan then began his journey of restoring the generations, of returning to his family property in Shingal and beginning the process of piecing the destroyed house together brick by brick. He began to work in the fields, planting and a year later reaping.


He continued year by year to bury family members as their bones were identified. He buried and he planted. He mourned and he began to dance again as his heart’s desire came into his life.


In November last year, Viyan took Suhara to be his bride. They live in his restored family home in Tel Qasb. They will serve you lunch should you ever visit. 

Viyan rebuilding the family house and working on his family land.



Muna had been in captivity together with Fairoz, they had become close friends and were given adjacent tents upon their release. Muna shook like a leaf in a storm. She was deeply wounded and traumatized. In addition to the multiple rapes, she had worked as a shepherd guarding her captor’s sheep, barely eating, always on the alert for the visitors her captor who would bring “to inspect her”.

Within a year of her release Muna invited us to her wedding. To be honest we were more than surprised, feeling that she was highly traumatized and not ready for such a commitment. We were proved wrong. Shahab took her as wife, they are living happily ever after with two children, Shadad age 18 months and Livan age 6 months.


“And thus the inheritance which was lost by cruelty, was regained by love.”  

John Ruskin, The King of the Golden River


Azad and Awas

Azad and Awas fell in love as students, kids alone in the world, at Springs of Hope Foundation . We had the joy of watching their friendship grow, watching Azad as he pushed ( with his cousin Adnan ) to set up a carpentry business, and encouraging Awas as she learned cosmetology.

These two had been determined to learn and get ahead, from their first day of release. Azad walked into our office demanding to learn English and faithfully practiced every word he learned with us. He learned the carpentry trade being trained by a French volunteer residing in a nearby village. We were one of his and Adnan’s first clients, purchasing the endless benches we needed from him.

Then came the day of his proposal to Awas, we all rejoiced with them and for them. It was a day of immense joy as we watched God give these two alone kids a new family. All of Springs of Hope turned out for their engagement and wedding a few days later. Friends helped them to finance the event. Awas’s best friend rented her dress for her. It was a family helping family. Our joy was full.

As they live in a nearby camp, we still see them and walk close. Their friendship has continued to grow, they are truly best friends. Two survivors who have no one but themselves. And they are enough. The laughter of the bride and her groom continue.



Adnan soon followed in his younger cousin’s footsteps. Adnan is a man of dignity and honor. A man who retained his joy throughout his suffering. A man who although he had lost all his immediate family, had lost his life, saw gain ahead. A man who bore no anger, no bitterness, he focused all his attention on hope and future. Open and forthright he came to us time after time to talk, to weigh things up, to ask for counsel and advice.

The day came when he bounced into the office with the announcement of his engagement. Whoops of joy bounced all over our campus and we rejoiced with him. His season of mourning had ended and he had embraced a season of joy and restitution from which multiplication will come in its due time.



We are blessed with stories, with testimonies ( before heaven and before earth ) of the Goodness of God in the Land of the Living. There is one story that in our human weakness we thought was doomed to fail. Ashrawi met his wife, Daila, whilst both were in captivity in Syria. As there is no religious ceremony or vows taken in that context, he took her for his wife. Both were kids. Both were lost, alone, captives.

Upon their release from ISIS, the honor of the families demanded a formal wedding. Their wedding was in their tent. Not one of the rescued kids has access to money, which is one reason why we ask you to financially support them. They all return from captivity with a heavy ransom fee to pay, which they will be paying back dollar by dollar for the rest of their lives. When it’s time for a wedding, all the friends and family get together to make it happen. Ashrawi’s family could not “make it happen”. They had no ability to ask for more, they had no family left, no friends who could give even 50 cents. Ashrawi’s wedding was in his tent, with the only set of clothes that he and X had to their name. Their honor and dignity however was now established as husband and wife.

A few years have passed. Omer was born and is now part of the Springs of Hope family, frequently coming with Dad Ashrawi. Ashrawi got his act together and has shown responsibility, love and care for his family. He is faithful and dedicated in his studies but lacks a sharpness that will propel him ahead. He lives on day work as a manual labour which is scarce. But he hangs in, taking care of his family as best he can and a super proud Dad to Omer.



Hala, one of our Sewing Hope team, fell apart once rescued from Syria. She was one who immediately realized her need for psychotherapeutic intervention, and faithfully committed herself to the programme that gently led her through Narrative Exposure Therapy where she would place stones of different sizes on a rope lifeline, indicating major/ minor traumatic events, and wax roses indicating triumphs and happy memories. Throughout her therapy she indicated her fear of marriage, terror of sexual relations and fear of becoming pregnant.

She came one day bearing a plate of candy, she was getting engaged. This was a rare time where I intervened, requesting that Naser, the fiancé come to joint sessions prior to marriage as he needed counselling on how to walk the intimacy of married life out with this broken girl. Amazingly, in this male dominated culture he was determined to learn how to help her, he was gentle, he listened and he gave her the time and space that she needed to heal, throw off shame and gain confidence in her worth and value.

She left us for a while, then realizing that she needed to continue her journey of trauma counselling, and missing the camaraderie of Sewing Hope, she returned. She became pregnant whilst expressing her fears about carrying and caring for a baby. Norsin was born six months ago and is the light of their lives.


There are more names, more stories. Maqbola, Dilsoz, and others. There are those who are heading higher on the waiting list, busy rebuilding family property and then. We are waiting expectantly to hear good news from Alo, Azher, Daoud to name but a few.

Why do I share these stories with you today? Because as the book of Ecclesiastes says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart, yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to the end.”

These kids, rescued from ISIS, refugees, orphans are living proof that “Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning." Psalms 30.5. Such is the mystery IN catastrophe. If we are willing to walk into the darkness, to stand on the warm ashes, to live in the shadow of mourning, the Day of Gladness of Heart does come, with great rejoicing and celebration.








Can you help?

With your help we are walking with these couples from the shadow of mourning to the Day of Gladness! 


Every donation makes a huge difference.


bottom of page