Hearten, Heal and Help Christian Workers in Syria
August 31, 2017
Amid the heart-break, trauma and burn-out of working amid war in Syria, the leader of an indigenous ministry has another problem.
"It is a good problem, but it is still a problem," he said. "We have too many who are turning to Jesus Christ. We cannot disciple them all as we should."
While a surplus of Muslims responding to the Good News is a good problem, it does add to the burden of Christian workers burdened beyond belief. As more souls are born again in Aleppo, Damascus and other areas of Syria, the indigenous workers who feel responsible to nurture and disciple them are too few; they are suffering second-hand trauma from witnessing atrocities or hearing about them from victims; and they are working long days, usually into the night, seven days a week.
"There's the emotional toll," the ministry director said. "There was a 13-year old beaten up for her faith. When I close my eyes every day, I see them; I can hear them crying."
"They don't take time off, they just work, work, work, and they get so tired and depressed," the ministry director said. "The opportunities are huge, but we don't have enough workers. We pray for them and hope it's going to be better."
The ministry has 31 workers throughout Syria, including 18 in Aleppo, where they provide aid and gospel teaching to about 1,000 families in that war-ravaged city alone. Most of the people they're ministering to are unemployed, and the rest earn very little. The workers must decide who are the most needy as they distribute limited food, infant care items and other supplies.
"When the workers see lots of demands and poor people, it builds up," the director sad. "We encourage the workers, but when they see all the needs, when they see children sick, they become tired emotionally. They burn out."
Waiting To Be Baptized
Children's programs are a huge part of the gospel success. Hundreds of kids flock to the skits, songs and other activities that eventually lead many of them or their parents, most Sunni Muslims, to put their trust in Christ.
A leader of one of the ministry teams recently told the director they could use more workers and more training for the children's and other outreaches.
"We have 97 people waiting to be baptized," the team leader told him. "Our whole group has been praying that you come as soon as possible to finish up our training and do baptisms. We would love for you to come as soon as possible to give us more teaching."
Each day waves of families come asking for help, and workers face shortfalls for needs they yearn to meet – like funding to equip and train those who have come to Christ.
"We have seen so much fruit and growth from previous training sessions that it would be very disappointing if we were not able to continue the training this year," the director said.
Workers are struggling to keep up with the number of new Christians who need training in how to share Christ and how to follow up with other new-born believers.
"We have eager, Muslim-background believers who want to better reach their friends," the director said. "But there's the emotional toll. There was a 13-year old beaten up for her faith. When I close my eyes every day, I see them; I can hear them crying. It's very emotional. Pray for them, pray for encouragement."
"One worker has had to relocate 15 families, some of which were abused," he said. "He has seen it first-hand: He has seen them beaten up, he has seen women raped."
They regularly bear the burden of keeping new Christians safe from hard-line Muslims.
"One worker has had to relocate 15 families, some of which were abused," he said. "He has seen it first-hand: he has seen them beaten up, he has seen women raped."
With assistance from Christian Aid Mission donors, the indigenous ministry transported the 15 newly believing families to safe places where they are in hiding, but the director said funding for moving costs recently ran out. New Christians must be relocated every month, often costing $2,500 to $3,000 per family for resettlement.
New Christians in Aleppo cannot be relocated within the city because the hostile Islamists will find them; they must be resettled elsewhere. Transportation and rent costs are high.
"This is always an urgent need," the director said. "Words cannot express how much this is needed."
Workers have come to know and love two families who urgently need to be taken out of Aleppo because their faith in Christ has enraged area Muslims.
In one family, a woman who lost her husband in firefights in Aleppo is now receiving letters threatening heinous violence because of her faith. She is in serious danger. In the other family, children ages 2, 6 and 8 risk losing their parents to neighborhood Islamists who believe maiming and killing those who leave Islam is their Allah-given responsibility. It would cost $1,000 each to evacuate these families.
The ministry director requests prayer for the many former Muslims who have given up so much to bravely respond to the call of Christ, and he covets prayer for those who are discipling them.
"The ministry in Syria is because of Christian Aid Mission – it's only you who are helping us," he said. "Whatever you give us, we're doing as much as possible with it."
Will you consider a gift to encourage and enable indigenous workers to bring relief and salvation to suffering Syrians?