The following story comes firsthand from a Pioneer serving among Syrian refugees in the Middle East…
It is Wednesday morning and my van is loaded up with food packages and bundles of diapers. My dear ministry partner – a new believer from the majority background – sits beside me, calling out a long list of newly arrived Syrian refugee families as she directs me through the maze of narrow streets in our ‘little town’ of half a million people. As we park in front of a rundown apartment building, we pray and ask the Lord to strengthen us and lead us to make him known among this family, to see his healing break forth in their lives. We hop out of the car and lug the package up several flights of stairs. Garbage blows down the steps and curious little faces peek out at us from the numerous doors we pass.
After arriving at the home, we slip off our shoes and sit on the thin mattresses that cover the floor. This morning we are visiting the home of Safiya*. Lots of children come in and out of the tiny room with cracked walls, and an empty grain sack covers the floor as a carpet – a sure sign that this family has escaped the border camp.
It only takes one question (which city in Syria did you come from?) for their story to come pouring out. The wife is my age and her tired face begins to tell us of their plight while her mother-in-law weeps as she rocks herself back and forth in the corner of the room. This young mother escaped to our country in the middle of the night after hiding her children in an empty water tank on the roof of their building for days. They were afraid of the army, and the bombings and shootings didn’t cease. Neighbours threw bread and canned goods to each other through windows. The children were so afraid they couldn’t cry anymore. Safiya thought her husband had been killed after being dragged out of their home by security forces, but after almost forty days of mourning his death he miraculously appeared on her doorstep in our country. He is alive, but barely. He can’t walk because of terrible pain in his back from being beaten, and he can’t sleep because every time he closes his eyes he relives the terrors he has seen. Safiya’s children still weep in the night and her four-year-old has stopped talking. They mourn the loss of their homes, their loved ones and their dignity. Now, more than ever, they are asking if God really sees them in their suffering.
We listen, we cry, and we sit with them. We share stories of Jesus’ love, his compassion and his promises of healing. We pray with them in the only name that can save, and our hearts plead for Jesus to help us make sense of the suffering.
After drinking the strong coffee offered to us from shaking hands, we bless them and leave. Then we are onto the next home, and the next. In our community there are 5,000 families just like Safiya’s. Each one has suffered more than I can fathom and each one is precious to Jesus. Most are hungry and eager to hear of Jesus’ love and to receive prayer. Some are actively seeking to know him. Some already do.
During the years we spent in Syria, we and many others prayed for an open door of opportunity among Syrians. I never would have imagined that a few years later we would have the unprecedented opportunity to minister openly to Syrian refugees in Jesus’ name. The burdens they carry are too heavy for our hearts to bear, so we leave them in the hands of our heavenly Father. My prayer is that they will also leave their hearts in his mighty hands.
*Name has been changed