Aleppo, Syria Aid Resumes Despite Opposition
March 30, 2017
Government forces in Syria retook Aleppo in December, but pockets of resistance have emerged in the past month – as has Islamic resistance to the gospel.
The leader of a ministry based in the Middle East said security has worsened as rebels have reappeared to menace government forces in Aleppo and on its outskirts. As a result, indigenous workers who once transported aid through five government checkpoints a few months ago now face 25 in a span of fewer than 25 miles, he said.
"People are angry," he said. "They don't know what's going on. People are unsafe; they never know when a bomb will come in and kill them. There's still no electricity, no water. We take fuel in for the generators – it's hard to find, very hard to find. For people to buy food is like mission impossible, it's so expensive."
The ministry has resumed distribution of food, clothes, shoes, diapers, baby food, medicines, blankets, Bibles and gospel tracts, and ministry activities curtailed when government forces seized the city in December – prayer and Bible groups, worship, evangelistic meetings and children's programs – have begun anew, he said.
"I told them to leave as soon as possible, because they were going to come and kill them or do something bad to them," the ministry director said.
"There were lots of threats to our groups when the government took over," the director said. "We had some conflicts; some people said we were converting Muslims. So I asked the team to step aside for a bit, to close for a while, but now we're back again."
As the gospel has proliferated, the number of those hoping for aid has swollen to 900 families, many of them former Muslims who have put their faith in Christ.
"We feed our people, and as much as possible others, but with current resources we don't even reach 10 percent of our group – Christians and Muslim background believers," he said. "We can provide for only 90 of the families."
As the gospel has grown, so has resistance to it. Four families in Aleppo have faced such hostilities from Muslim relatives and neighbors, he said, that the ministry has had to relocate them to other parts of Syria for eventual passage to another country. The father of one relocated family came to Christ in December in a prayer group, with his wife and children receiving Jesus in January.
"Since then they were coming regularly, and the neighbor saw that they were coming there not for aid, but for something more serious – and when they asked them, they shared the gospel with their neighbors," the director said. "The word got out, and some other people who knew them from their family sent them text messages that what they were doing was wrong, and they cannot keep on doing this."
One threatening Muslim delivered the message personally at their house, the director said.
"I told them to leave as soon as possible, because they were going to come and kill them or do something bad to them," he said.
Another Muslim family that recently received Christ was disturbed to find a relative had told the government about their faith. Authorities summoned the head of the family for interrogation, asking him if he had changed his religion.
"They'd been putting so much pressure on them, so we decided to move them as well," the director said.
A third family that put their faith in Christ had devoted themselves to praying with people. Muslim relatives and neighbors told them to stop their Christian activities.
"We know some people who work in the government, and somehow they knew that this family was being watched," the director said. "These guys were actually in big danger, so we had to react right away on that. Someone from the government asked us if we could take them out of Aleppo as soon as possible, and we did."
Recently a former Muslim on his way home to see his family one night was beaten for his faith. They also were transferred out of Aleppo. The ministry director said such cases are common.
"Their relatives and neighbors find out, and there are dangers," he said. "We see it almost on a daily basis; every week there's something new. Most of them want to leave, most of them are scared. There are a lot of them that are scared."
As the ministry has distributed food, water and other relief items from a tent in Aleppo, team members prayed with those who desired it, and eventually residents began coming only for prayer. So many people, mostly Muslims, came for prayer that they began calling it a "prayer tent." That ministry had to stop during last year's battle for Aleppo, but now it has resumed and even expanded to a second prayer tent, he said. The ministry also has a place of prayer at its "meeting place," the ground floor of a bombed-out building.
"They come in, they ask for specific people, like some women ask for women to be with them, to be prayed for with them," he said. "Every day we have somebody walking in just to ask for prayer, maybe they lost somebody and they don't know where they are."
A mother and her toddler recently walked into the prayer tent saying she didn't know where her husband was, and she wouldn't say for which side he was fighting. The team prayed for her. Another mother, the director said, came in with her sick 3-year-old.
"They don't have money to take him to the doctor – there are no doctors there in that area," he said. "She asked if we could pray for him, and we did. Two days after that, she came back and her kid was feeling better. She was so happy. She's still coming, and now she's helping in the tent."
The ministry was recently able to provide heart medicine – unavailable in Aleppo – from outside sources.
"We get this from another place – again, this depends on our budget, because we cannot afford to do that on a regular basis," he said. "But they are expecting to find at least food there; they're expecting to get something to eat because they need help. But it all depends on what we have. We're helping as much as we can with whatever we have."
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