December 20, 2016
Jesus Christ, Our Refugee
Post by Brittany Tedesco
For me, Christmas is irreparably linked to refugees. When the wise men arrived in Jerusalem to find the Christ child, they unknowingly tipped off King Herod, who sought to kill Jesus. Though this was all part of God's plan and a fulfillment of prophecy, Jesus and his parents had to flee their home to live as refugees in Egypt.
While many of us are wrapping up the last of our Christmas preparations this week, thousands of Syrians are attempting to flee their homes in east Aleppo, which has been bombed beyond recognition. In an effort to retake the region from the rebel forces that have controlled it for the past four years, the Syrian government conducted a series of air strikes that destroyed homes, businesses, and every hospital in the region.
The UN has described Aleppo as a "complete meltdown in humanity." The leader of an indigenous ministry in Aleppo reported, "Words cannot express how horrible the situation is for many living without water, food, and shelter. The destruction in Syria is everywhere and children can often be seen playing in the rubble."
Since the civil war started in Syria, approximately 400,000 people have been killed and 12 million have fled from their homes. According to Pew Research, "about six-in-ten Syrians are now displaced from their homes, a number unprecedented in recent history for a single country."
Our Savior isn't just vaguely aware of the refugee crisis on our earth today, He knows exactly what it's like to be a refugee in a strange country.
And, no, I'm not just referring to His time in Egypt. I'm referring to the suffering He endured as a displaced person, if you will, on earth. He left all of the beauty, perfection, and majesty of heaven to live as an unwanted, homeless nomad on our planet.
He did it for you and for me. . .and for all of the people living as refugees in our world today.
He deeply cares for the Syrian people who've not only lost all of their worldly possessions, but also dear family members—the ones who shiver in tent camps, unable to warm themselves in winter, unable to nurse their babies because they are too malnourished.
And He's using supporters of Christian Aid Mission like you to convey His love for them.
"We have shared food items and firewood (used for warmth, cooking food, and heating water to bathe) with thousands of needy people with the finances you've sent to us," wrote the leader of a native ministry in Turkey that is helping Syrian refugees. " We try to visit every tent two times a month."
His report continued:
"Your generous help has made a great impact on lives here. As we distribute more flour and wood, they thank us saying, 'Last month's flour and wood has kept our stomachs happy with the bread we were able to make.' With these supplies, spiritual love seeds are being planted, not only in the refugees' souls, but also in those Turks observing what we do.
"Some of the police who go with us for protection also thank us, saying, 'Your giving to these poor people surprises us. You do not first ask if they are Muslims or Christians, but you give freely to everyone. We can then respond, 'The God we believe in has asked us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Now these are our neighbors. We love them because God loves them.'
"You who send aid to us are like God's holy hand reaching out to each of these dear people. As we are helping them get their bags of wood to their tents, they thank us over and over again. These Syrians not only need our help, but they need love, too. I thank you for not only giving us the opportunity to distribute goods to these people, but also to share God's love with them."
We checked which items in the November issue of our Prayerline calender were the most popular, and discovered that the top two items were food for refugees and blankets for refugees. Thank you for remembering them, especially now as winter unforgivingly rages on.
As the Middle Eastern ministries we support continuously testify, material aid is but a doorway to the hearts and souls of suffering people. An incredible number of Muslims are rejecting Islam to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.
"We are showing that Jesus loves everyone in this world, and we're demonstrating that the Turkish church is serving these Syrians with that love," wrote the ministry leader. "Your help doesn't only provide food for the needy, but the gospel is being heard through it all." He added: "Invitations to visit tents for prayer have increased."
A few years ago, the local ministry in Aleppo began holding annual training conferences for Syrians who desired to more effectively share the gospel with their friends and neighbors. This year, 128 people attended.
"The conference was a success and we continued to hear of many Muslims coming to Christ," wrote the leader. "One small group has now grown to over 200 people in just a few months. Everyone left excited to go back home and share what God has shown them. However, some of those who were baptized returned to their homes to find they had been broken into, and they were then forced to leave and find new places to live. Through it all, they continue to have such strong faith in Jesus and don't waver in their desire to follow Him completely, no matter the cost."
Syrian Christians have suffered immense persecution at the hands of the rebel extremist groups who target them. But their numbers continue to grow.
The leader described a typical underground church in Aleppo: "We stopped outside of an eight-story apartment building that had collapsed into a heap. But inside the rubble was a room on the bottom floor that was partially intact, and I was led inside. There is where we met to talk, to share, to pray. . .to praise Jesus for His goodness. This is where they meet, these secret believers."
Silent night. Holy night.
Outside the sky is gray with ash. Death hangs in the air. City streets are littered with charred debris.
Inside one of those charred piles, all is calm, all is bright.
In the midst of war grow pockets of peace on earth.
Christ, the Savior, is born.