Since March 2011, more than 800,000 war-weary Syrians have poured into the neighboring countries of Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, and Egypt. Over 300,000 have come to Jordan to seek sanctuary. The town of Mafraq is swollen with refugees, often with two to four families sharing one small, cramped apartment.
Christian Aid Mission helps indigenous mission agencies in Jordan reach out to traumatized families. With financial support provided by donors, these agencies deliver basic supplies, offer prayer and encouragement, and give out gospel literature. The following account, as quoted in a letter from one ministry leader, illustrates the peace one family received when they heard the good news of the Prince of Peace:
Ali’s story is just one of thousands that could be told by a Syrian refugee. The street in Mafraq where his family lives has a terrible smell. Trash, flies, and a child wearing shoes several sizes too big greeted us as we were welcomed and ushered into the house. Ali, 43, lives here with his wife, Sehm, and their six children, ages 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, and 1. Ali was an art teacher in Dara’a, a city in southwestern Syria, before he fled the bombing.
There wasn't much in the room where his family lived, one very old TV set and one fan. We all sat on thin mattresses around the outside of the room. I guess these were their beds when they were not their daytime sofas. I think there was a kitchen through a little door in the room. They set a jug and two glasses of water in front of us, but the water didn’t look clean, so I pretended not to notice it was there.
He had other guests who were in despair over all that had happened to them. Mohammad and his wife, Thur, friends of Ali’s who were also from Dara’a, had just arrived. In tears, Thur explained that her son was an officer in the Syrian Army, but had deserted to Turkey. Her other son had a bullet in his body that doctors couldn’t remove. Soldiers came to their house, burned it down, and beat Thur badly on her legs. Mohammad was crying, too, as his wife spoke.
“You see dead people everywhere,” Thur sobbed. “Men lying against walls with their hands tied behind their backs, dead. Everywhere women are being taken and raped.”
They needed a place to live, but Ali and Sehm explained that they could not house them because they already had their family of eight in two small rooms. They would, however, give them lodging for the night. Ali explained to them that if they register with a refugee ministry in a Mafraq church, they will be notified when a room becomes available. The ministry can also help with a mattress, a cooking stove, and food basics from the ministry warehouse.
Christian workers do not view their efforts as just randomly giving out aid. They like to target a refugee family and visit them twice a week for six weeks. At each visit they find out how they are doing, getting them to talk to help them deal with the emotional pain of having left their homes and seen so much killing. The workers give them something they need, such as food, clothing, medicine, a toy, or diapers, and leave a gospel tract or New Testament. After six weeks, they will usually be greatly helped and want to get into a Bible study.
Ali also told his story. While still in Syria, he was injured and had to have a metal rod inserted in his leg. It became infected and he had to go to Jordan for medical help. After returning to Syria, he heard that he had three death sentences passed on him. Ali fled to Jordan on April 27, 2011. He first fled to one Jordanian city, but it was hard for Syrians to stay there, and he was constantly afraid someone would catch his wife and children and force them to return to Syria. They were continually hiding, moving from house to house. He needed passports for his family, but it was hard to get passports from Jordan. People kept taking his money and cheating him. Eventually a Christian heard about his plight and helped him. That was March 25, 2012, the day he came to Mafraq, and the day he met the local aid worker who gave him all the furniture he has in the house. The worker gave him food packages and brought him more supplies every week. This same worker also arranged for other Christian friends to help him with the rent.
When Ali first arrived in Jordan, he was obviously spiritually depressed. Sadness engulfed him and his family. The Christian worker asked him what his spiritual needs were. He prayed with him and sensed his sadness was lifting. Ever since the prayer, Ali’s life has been blessed and he has been helped by Christians. His attitude towards Christians has changed. He became more tolerant, understanding, and loving of Christians when he saw that they were supportive and honest. They made him want to know Jesus more. Ali states: “I thank you and I thank God for you. You helped many, not just me, but many Syrians. The Lord sent you to me.”
He has called the Red Crescent, which is the Muslim version of the Red Cross, several times. They said they would call him back, but in seven months they have not called him once.
Life is hard. He has no work to do. The family goes for 20 days eating just rice, no meat. They wash clothes by hand. The only school the children can go to is an Islamic school, where the school is paid to teach children the Koran, but not real education.
“I pray for peace and love between the people, and I am wishing all the success to the Christian ministry that is helping us. Our country was once our paradise. It is now destroyed, but we want to go back and tell about Jesus!” Ali exclaimed.
As we left, the worker who had come with me offered to pray. He always asks people for their prayer needs. Everyone gathered in a circle and we prayed together. As we were leaving, the oldest girl pleaded for a story book. At first I did not understand what she wanted, but then realized she was begging for a bible story book. We gave them a few of the bible story books we had. As we drove away, she stood straight, clasping the books tightly to her chest.
I truly thank the Lord for our friends from all over the world, who constantly lift us up in prayer and support us in every possible way to keep the Lord's ministry going. If it was not for that support, we would not have been able to minister to the Syrian refugees and show them God's love and provision in such turbulent times.