A Day in Egypt’s Death Traps: How God Entered into the Darkness of Baher

“Where is God in my life? Why did He let me get hurt and suffer so much pain?” Baher*, a 25-year-old from Upper Egypt, lived for almost ten years struggling with these questions of anger and hopelessness swirling in his head.

Baher talks about the day it all started. He was only 13 years old and worked in a local stone quarry. He cut and hauled bricks in forty-degree heat.

After a week of work, his star blade dissipated for just a moment, and the cutter hit his shin, cutting the wound to the bone. He fell to the ground so unhappily that the cutter also cut off his hand. He later woke up in the hospital with 65 stitches in his leg and without his other arm.

Within a day, Baher became crippled and could no longer support his family with his elder brother.

“I hated myself and I hated God”

“I realized the true scale of the disaster when I returned home as a crippled man,” says Baher.

“I lost all hope. I hated myself and I hated God and I blamed Him: “Why did You do this to me? I didn’t do anything wrong, I just wanted to help my family! Why did You decide to cause me this suffering? Why must I be the object of pitying glances everywhere?”

“Just a look at my only hand made me depressed.”

Six years later, however, another blow struck. Baher’s older brother had an accident at work where he was electrocuted by an unprotected power line.

“[They] wouldn’t let him stop his work because the work had to be done. But my brother could not bear the pain and his heart rate rose menacingly. He couldn’t breathe. His lungs were full of fine dust.”

“We rushed him to the nearest health center. However, there were no resources to treat the acutely ill. The doctor grabbed the stethoscope to examine him, but then realized that my brother was dead.”

A tragic turn

Baher and his brother fell victim to the eternal cycle that plagues Christians in countries like Egypt. Deciding to follow Jesus limits your choices in life.

Baher comes from a Christian family and lives in an area of Egypt where Christians can be treated as lower second-class citizens. They often have few options in life and are forced into dangerous, low-paying jobs such as working in stone quarries.

Because these families cannot afford school fees, the children are not getting the education they need to find better paying jobs in the future and be successful in life.

Baher’s family was unable to pay school fees, so his schooling ended in the fourth grade. Along with his older brother, he felt obliged to take care of his family and dropped out of school.

Baher’s father is terminally ill and unable to work. His mother has diabetes. Her four sisters were not allowed to go to school or work because the strict Islamic community in which the family lived did not allow girls to receive any education or work.

“Although [my parents] understand the importance of education, sometimes life forces us to work just to survive,” says Baher sadly.

“My youth was a terrible time. It was hard for me to see my peers going to school when I couldn’t do it myself.”

Quarry death trap

For young people like Baher and his brother, the quarry means slow decline at best and inevitable death at worst. The workers know that they have to work in poor and dangerous conditions and are poorly paid for their work.

In addition, they have no legal protection provided by law and are not insured in case of illness or accident.

In the village of Baher, most children and young people know from an early age that they will work in quarries and carry stones until they are physically unable to do it anymore. Their fathers have always done the same job, and many can’t wait for anything else.”

“Young men in our society are constantly under a lot of pressure,” says Baher.

“Just the thought of having to do the same job as my brother scared me, but the decision wasn’t mine. Every year, workers die or become disabled due to dangerous working conditions.”

After his brother’s death, Baher became the sole breadwinner of his family. Since he could not do physical work, he looked for other ways to make a living. So he bought a cart that could be pulled by a donkey.

“I started hauling gravel, sand and other light construction materials with a wheelbarrow. But no one wanted to hire me, everyone just rejected me.”

A saving connection

Just when hopelessness had almost overtaken Baher and his family, God intervened in His mercy through a local partner of “Open Doors.” This partner feels the burden on the shoulders of persecuted and marginalized Christians in Egypt and offers them spiritual, social and financial support.

One of those sponsored targets happened to be quarry workers in Baher’s hometown.

Fady*, an employee of the Open Doors partner organization, remembers his first meeting with Baher in the mountain village where his family lives.

“Baher looked unhappy and distressed. Our houses were right next to each other. Baher’s house was dark and there wasn’t much furniture,” says Fady.

“His heart was full of anger and bitterness against God. When I walked into the room Baher didn’t want to talk to me at first.”

On the edge of the problem of suffering

Suddenly, Baher’s anger flared up: “Does God exist? Where is He in my life? If everything is under God’s control, as you say, and if He means everything for us, why has He forsaken me? Why did He let me get hurt and suffer so much pain?”

Fady’s answer was gentle but true: “God will never leave us because He is our Heavenly Father and the Father never forsakes His children. None of us were born by accident. God has created everything on earth and everyone’s life has a unique purpose.”

But Baher continued to insist, “Has it not become clear to you by now that God has no power over anything and that we are but puppets in His hands?”

Again, Fady encouraged Baher: “It’s really terrible to hear. I understand how you feel and are discouraged, but don’t lose hope. God is not far away when we are struggling. He has not abandoned us. All creation is under His control.”

Since that day, “Open Doors'” partner organization has walked alongside Baher and his family, offering practical, emotional and spiritual support that has included presence, prayer and a sheep farming microproject.

As Fady continued his visits, Baher’s trust in him and the organization’s relief work gradually grew. He soon enrolled in the organization’s discipleship program.

“If you hadn’t supported me, I wouldn’t have changed”

According to Baher, the micro project is doing well and allows him to support his family. He knows that without it, he and his family would be living in poverty or worse. He also knows that his heart would still be bitter and cold.

Baher and his family’s life has changed decisively.

“The micro project that the organization helped me start has been a blessing to me. If you hadn’t supported me, I wouldn’t have changed. You encouraged me and helped me improve my relationship with God.”

Although Baher cannot read, his support group showed him how God’s Word can be a part of his life.

“With the Audio Bible, I can listen to God’s Word every day and experience a connection with Him. Even in the midst of worries, God’s Word gives me peace because Jesus is everything to me.”

Baher is one of many persecuted Christians that “Open Doors” helps with small projects and a discipleship program. In Egypt alone, last year we supported 969 projects, 120 of which were specifically aimed at the benefit of people working in quarries.

Our partner organization serves nearly 270,000 people through the discipleship program. An estimated thousand of them are career workers like Baher.

*Name changed for security reasons.

Source: Päivä Egyptin kuolemanloukuissa: miten Uluama astui Baherin pimeyteen | Open Doors Finland

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