Story Egypt | 30 June 2023

From blaming to praising God—a quarry worker in Egypt finds new life


Show: false / Country: Egypt / Egypt
“Where is God in my life … Why has God chosen me to suffer so much pain and become disabled?” 

For almost 10 years, Baher, a young man in his mid-20s from Upper Egypt, lived in this anger and hopelessness. He brings us back to the day when it all began. He was only 13, working in the local stone quarry. In the 102-degree 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 floor, severing his arm. Later in the hospital, he would wake up to find 65 stitches in his leg—and that he had lost one of his arms. In the space of a single 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 realized 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 you do this to me? I did not do anything wrong! I just wanted to help my family! Why did you 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 quarry struck another blow. His older brother also suffered a work injury, but his would be fatal. Baher’s brother was in good health when he went to work 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 were 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 center. However, they were not equipped to deal with emergencies. The doctor got out the stethoscope to examine him but then realized my brother had died.”

Baher’s own accident had already led to a crisis of faith. But losing his brother was like a death knell. 

“My heart was torn apart, and I lost all hope in life,” Baher 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. Often this means they have few options in life, left to take dangerous, low-paying jobs like working in the quarry. And because these families can’t afford school fees, children never get the education they need to qualify for higher-paying jobs or career positions. The tragic cycle continues.  

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.

“While [my parents] might understand the importance of education, sometimes life forces us to work to survive,” Baher says sadly. “My young years were a terrible time. It was difficult for me to see other peers going to school while I could not.

The quarry deathtrap

For young Egyptian boys and men like Baher and his brother, the quarry 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 labor. They also lack legal protection of their rights and aren’t covered by any sort of health insurance.  

Most of the children and youth in Baher’s village grow up knowing they will work in quarries, loading stones until they are no longer physically able to do so—because this was the job and plight of their fathers. For many, it’s all they know.

“Our community’s young men are always under intense pressure,” Baher says. “We are obliged to work at the quarry since 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. We always have the feeling of being reborn each time we leave the quarry.”

As Baher’s experience shows, it’s common for quarry workers to lose a limb due to old and poorly maintained machinery with no safety precautions. “Another danger we constantly face is the dust caused by the drilling and stone-cutting machines. Inhaling these fine particles causes serious lung damage and eye diseases,” Baher explains, as tears fill his eyes. 

After his brother died, Baher became the sole breadwinner for his family. Unable to do physical labor, 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.”

A life-giving connection

A Christian works in sheep-breeding micro-loan project.

Just as hopelessness had almost engulfed Baher and his family, God mercifully intervened through one of our local partners. Feeling a burden for persecuted and marginalized 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 quarry workers in Baher’s area.

Fady*, a staff member of an Open Doors partner organization, remembers the first time he met with Baher inside the mountainous village where the family lives. Baher looked miserable and anxious, he says. “The houses were remarkably close to each other, and Baher’s house was dark without much furniture,” Fady says. “His heart was full of resentment and bitterness towards God. 

“When I entered the room, 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?"

“I am blessed with the micro-project the ministry provided me. If you had not backed me, I would not have changed. You lifted my morale and helped me to restore my relationship with God."

Baher in Upper Egypt
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.”

But Baher continued to fight: “Is it not clear to you by now that God does not have any control on anything, and that we are just like puppets in His hands?” 

Again, Fady encouraged Baher: “That’s really horrible. I understand your feelings, your depression, but please, don’t lose hope. God is not far away from our troubles; He hasn’t forsaken us. He has full sovereignty over all creation.” 

From that day since, our partner organization has walked alongside Baher and his family, offering practical, emotional and spiritual support that includes presence, prayer and a sheep breeding micro-project. 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 is working very well, 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 dramatically 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. 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 quarry workers. And our partner organization ministers to almost 270,000 people through their discipleship program. About 1,000 of them are quarry workers like Baher.


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