December 20, 2013

Men of Whom the World Is Not Worthy

By Brittany Tedesco

The city of Aleppo. According to the Lebanese ministry leader, one of his volunteers who lived here left to go to church 10 minutes before his home was bombed.

This week in staff meeting, Steve Van Valkenburg, our Middle East Director, read us the most recent report from a native Lebanese ministry leader who risked his life to take food and supplies, provided by Christian Aid donors, to Christian leaders left in war-torn Syria.

The large majority of Syrian believers have fled to neighboring countries. . . and with good reason. They are hunted by rebel terrorist groups whose goal is to annihilate them. According to this ministry leader, many believers have suffered terrible deaths, fueled by extreme hatred of Christ.

When I think about the Syrian believers who willingly remain inside the country for the sake of winning Muslims to Christ, I can´t help but think of a passage from the Bible´s “faith chapter”:

“They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.” –Hebrews 11:37-38

They live with the understanding that, any day now, rebels could burst into their dwelling to rape, torture, beat, and kill them—but they stay anyway. Out of faith. . . out of love. And according to this Lebanese ministry leader, the Church in Syria is growing rapidly. Here is his report:

“I just came back today from Syria. The home churches are packed with people, most of them Muslims, coming to listen and be encouraged by the Word of God.

“A ministry in Syria that, years ago, had only 15 people coming to its meetings (most of whom were Christians) now has more than 850 people coming, most from Muslim backgrounds.

“On our way from Lebanon into Syria, we bought food, medicine, powdered milk, blankets, and Bibles on tape. We bought these in Lebanon because the cost is 10 times higher in Syria. Plus, many of these items cannot be found in Syria for any price.

“We could not travel on the main roads into Syria because they are patrolled by rebels and government soldiers. There are rogue militias that steal from and kill whomever they find. We took off through the rough rural lanes and pathways, driving at night without any lights on.

“Finally, we arrived at the first leader´s house, expecting to see him and some others we usually meet at his home. But as we opened the door, I was shocked by the number of infants, women, and young girls that were lying on the floor. We arrived early in the morning and most of them were still sleeping. The small group of believers living in this home had accepted more than 87 people to live and sleep in their small place. My heart broke as I saw this.

Fleeing their homes with only the clothes on their backs, many Syrians aren´t prepared for winter

“The temperature was very low, but most of them were sleeping only with a blanket. Some were without anything to cover themselves. Most of those people left their homes without taking anything with them.

“When the leader of the group saw me, he embraced me, saying: ‘You are an answer to prayer. We were all praying because we had nothing left to eat or drink. The children are starving. The water was cut off and the army has blocked the village from getting any food inside.’

“I took the leader outside, opened the van, and said, ‘This is from the donors of Christian Aid Mission. They would love to bless you and tell you that they are thinking and praying for you.’ He was so grateful. He said thank you more than a thousand times.

“He asked me how I´d gotten to him. And, honestly, I have no idea. We were lost several times because it was so dark, just trying to remember which way to go.

“I watched the kids eat and drink as if they´d never seen food before. I gave medicine to a lady that had diabetes and a heart problem—a Muslim convert I´d baptized a year ago.

“Before I left, I prayed for them. We all stood and grabbed each other´s hands. You could hear a pin drop.

“We wanted to help others but were out of food, so we drove back to the border. We filled our van again in Lebanon and took the same road back to the churches in Syria.

“When we reached Aleppo, it looked like a ghost city. Buildings, churches, and houses had been burned down. But we also saw some people working on rebuilding. It gave us hope to continue working on building God´s kingdom, even though it is difficult.

“In Aleppo, our brothers and sisters told us testimonies of people coming to the Lord—people they never would have imagined. A local pastor told me his last service was so packed there wasn´t enough room for people to sit.

“He told me they are in great need and anything helps--prices of things are so expensive. Food is difficult to obtain. ‘Imagine when someone buys a banana and he has to hide it on his way home so no one will kill him for it,’ he said.

“Now I am back in Lebanon, grateful to be alive, but mindful that there are thousands of Christians in Syria who have nothing and there is no easy way of getting help to them. These needy believers send their love and appreciation to each of the donors who sent help to them. We will continue to find ways of getting help to them. But the best thing is that God is very close to these Syrian Christians and many Muslims are now following Jesus Christ. In eternity it will be worth it.”

Because of gifts from Christian Aid donors, we've been able to send much-needed help to the leaders of indigenous ministries inside Syria and in surrounding countries who are reaching out to Syrian refugees. Let us continue to stand with them and encourage them.

Please, help us to provide aid and the message of hope in Jesus Christ to the lost and dying multitudes. Winter has arrived and some have already perished in the cold. To take part in God´s work among Syrians, click here.