syriaMy name is Arina. I was born and raised in Aleppo, Syria. This is my story.

I am nineteen years old, and a third generation Christian on my mother’s side.

Conflict and turmoil filled my country. My family made the decision to risk an escape. We knew it would be dangerous because many people had died trying. Despite the uncertainty, we gave almost everything we had for the promise of a new life in Europe.

On November 29, 2015, I joined my parents, Grandma Seta, ten-year-old brother, and twenty other people on an overcrowded boat. As we crossed the sea under the cover of darkness, the motor failed. Panic and confusion ensued as the boat took on water. It was then we realized there were no lifejackets.`

Screams punctuated the night as people scrambled to stay close to their loved ones. The silence that gradually took over was more terrifying than the screams.

My father struggled to stay afloat. I pleaded, “You can do it! You can do it!” But I was wrong. He disappeared beneath the surface, and the desperation that I felt cannot be put into words.

I swam for hours, making my way through the lifeless bodies that bumped against me. I was alone and my family lost. Only one possession remained—a small bag with no money and a book that I brought on the journey.

Each breath was a battle against death. Looking for relief from the pain and fear, I prayed to God. In that moment I thought, this must be what it is like to slip into the arms of Jesus.

At the brink of utter exhaustion, I was rescued: pulled out of the water by Kurdish fishermen and laid on a hard deck. I will never know how they saw me in the blackness of the sea.

I was the only one in my family to survive the accident. My identity papers were lost when the boat sank, and because of the war, it would take months to obtain new documents. Ten days later, my father’s body was recovered by fishermen.

My passport was discovered in his pocket; even in death, my father was looking out for me.

I still don’t understand why this happened to my family, but I will always remember their faith in Jesus and all that they meant to me.

Before we fled our country, the book Good or God? found me—it was the book that survived in my small bag. Its message will always remind me that I am meant for something great. I keep it beside me as a symbol of God’s faithfulness and how He saved me for His eternal purposes.

—Arina


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Earlier this year John and Lisa were able to spend time with Arina (right center) and her sister while they were doing ministry in Armenia. She is an amazing young woman with a relentless spirit and generous heart. The Good or God? book continues to be a source of strength for her and a reminder of God’s faithfulness and purpose for her life. (John could actually smell the sea when he signed her book.)

We’re committed to making messages like Good or God? available to everyone—including those in war-torn regions of our world. Would you help make this possible today?