Though she experienced some freedoms in her youth, Sylvana grew up in an unhappy home and was eventually forced into marriage. When Jesus appeared to her in a dream, she was inspired to seek out a bible. After reading it for a year, she chose to follow Jesus, but attending church brought persecution from her husband. Her endurance was rewarded by God’s faithfulness, seeing several family members find salvation too.
Sylvana’s story is featured on Women Of God, a TV program produced and funded by Horizons International. Women of God features interviews with Muslim women who share their experiences of persecution and suffering under Islam, and their stories and testimonies of how they have found freedom in Christ. This 13-episode show is aired in Muslim-majority countries through satellite TV, so that these women can share their stories with millions of people who also need Jesus.
Sylvana: As you said, my parents were open-minded religiously and socially too. They didn’t impose anything on us. For example, concerning the Hijab, they wouldn’t say “God requires this”, but allowed us to do what we wanted.
However, something was missing in that home. I always felt that something was missing. I felt that God was not present in our lives. My father was a very angry man. He’d abuse my mother physically sometimes. I’d ask, “Why? Why isn’t there love between my dad and mom?”
I used to attend school and learned Islamic studies. They frightened us with their view of God. I had to do so many good deeds to enter heaven. After a while, I got my high school degree and it was time I got married. I strongly rejected the idea of marriage.
As you said, in our home, there was never joy. There was emptiness in my life, and I did not feel that marriage was able to fill that void. But my father told me it would. This is when my father started forcing things on me.
Eventually, two men came. He forced me to choose either of them. But I… I just obliged myself to accept one of them. My choice was totally random. But my choice was bad. I lived my life with him and had 4 kids with him.
But during my pregnancy with our fourth child, I had a dream. In that dream, I saw a person who was all made of light. In the dream, they were saying “This is our Lord, Issa”. “Didn’t you Jesus is our Lord Issa?” Jesus is Prophet Issa. In our religion, they told us that Prophet Issa performed miracles. They told us He came to earth but didn’t say He came to save us.
When I woke up, something weird happened within me. I wanted to know who this Prophet Issa was. So, I started following the Christian channels, because, back then, I couldn’t get a Bible. I started knowing a bit more about Him, yet I had a thirst to read in the Bible. But it was out of reach.
In Syria, it was difficult to read the Bible. After a short while, I traveled and visited my sister. She lived far away. I shared my dream and told her that I really wanted to read a Bible. So, she told me that her friend who lived nearby was Christian. She said she’d contact her and ask her to get me a Bible.
And so, she did. Two months later I received my Bible. The moment I held it I felt I was holding a treasure in my hands. You can’t believe the joy that I felt when I opened the Bible and started reading it. The more I read, the more I felt that something was changing inside. This is why I told you that I felt the emptiness in my heart fading away.
I kept on reading in the Bible and a year later I gave my life to Jesus. I was still in Syria back then. I said, “You are my Lord and Savior, I accept You in my life”. I repented before Him. “Change my old life”. My past life wasn’t only empty, I was an angry person too. I had no patience for anything.
We came to Lebanon. My husband was against it but I came here anyways. It was a result of all that was happening. We moved to Lebanon but my husband was correct; the situation was really difficult. Once I was going to the Center to receive help. I was surprised that it wasn’t just a humanitarian aid center, but a church too.
In my heart, I felt that the Lord brought me here. So, I started attending the regular Thursday and Saturday services. I wouldn’t skip any Thursday or Saturday. My husband, surprised, asked if I’d just skip Saturdays, but I refused. Then I started taking my children along.
After this, my husband started to oppose me. At the beginning, he was okay with it since I was receiving the food portions. But when he saw that I became a regular, that our kids were enjoying it and that I had already become attached, he said, “That’s it. I don’t want to see you or the children going to church again”.
After that, I cried a lot. I started asking God to put mercy in his heart to allow us to go. If he didn’t allow us to, we wouldn’t go because it would cause more problems for us. I kept on praying for this, for mercy in his heart. About 2 months later he came and said, “It’s fine. You look so sad and depressed. It’s okay. Go”.
After a while, my son requested to get baptized. Here we faced another problem. The father started talking to his son and abusing him physically. He hit him and fought with him. My son would leave the house and keep on insisting on his baptism.
So, I kept on trying with my husband, talking with him, “If this is what he wants will, why are you opposing him?” I kept trying for a while until I softened his heart a bit, till he accepted. After that, my son got baptized.
Host: Your family, and your husband’s family, they knew that you changed and were attending church?
Sylvana: My eldest brother heard that my son got baptized. He called me and said, “I’m going to catch a flight right now and bring you with me to Turkey”. They moved to Turkey after the war. When they heard that my son got baptized they strongly refused it. They started persecuting me a lot. My brother threatened to take us from Lebanon and hinder us from attending any church at all.
I told him, “We chose this path. This is our journey, and I would like that the Lord would open your heart so that you’d accept the Lord Jesus in your life too”. Back then, my brother stopped talking to me. He was upset with me. Till now, I still pray for all of my siblings.
And when I started praying for them, after a little while, my other brother called me and told me he got baptized in Norway. He moved to Norway after the war. This assured me that the Lord does answer our prayers.
Sylvana: I had thought that it was impossible for my brother to get baptized because he was totally against it.
Sylvana: So, this amazed me, I couldn’t believe that a brother of mine got baptized and is walking on the right path. The Lord does truly change us, and whatever is impossible to us is possible for God.