From Home Burnings and Violence in Syria, Good News Arrives in Turkey

December 18, 2014

Perhaps, especially for children, a refugee camp is like a prison.

Among the anguished throngs that have fled Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists trying to take over the strategic city of Kobani in northern Syria, one refugee has good news.

As reported here on Oct. 16, when ISIS fighters invaded Kobani three months ago, a man in his 50s was forced to choose between fleeing the area to save his family´s life or waiting for his oldest son to return home. His son was out taking care of their sheep. In tears, the father left his son and took the rest of his family across the border to Turkey.

The director of a ministry providing aid in the refugee camp told Christian Aid Mission that on a recent visit to distribute aid, the smiling father hugged him.

“He told the story that I was waiting impatiently to hear, but I dared not to ask,” the director said. “He said, ‘After you had gone, in eight days my son came! When he saw the smoke of our village at our house that ISIS burned, he did not go to our house, but he ran away. He lost the sheep, but came by himself.’”

The ministry director in Turkey thanked supporters of Chistian Aid Mission for praying for the father, adding that he was happy to hear the refugee tell him, “God saved our son.”

The director prayed with the father and gave him a copy of the New Testament. Many people from various religious backgrounds at the camp were witness to the exchange, and after receiving aid and taking it to their tents, they returned and asked the director´s team to pray for them.

“They took their little children in their arms and came back to us,” he said. “They asked us to pray. ‘Our children are sick’. ‘Our old parents are sick’. ‘We want to go back to our country; pray that the ISIS terror will end’. ‘We want our children to eat well.’”

The team prayed with them over these concerns but told them the power for help did not come from themselves.

“We told them, ‘Jesus Christ has all the power. Pray to Him. He will help. Here, we brought you His Word,’” he said. “Actually, when I was distributing the aid, I was wondering about how I could distribute the New Testaments. But God had already prepared all the things spontaneously that needed to happen for the people to be open to receiving the New Testaments.”

ISIS has reportedly executed hundreds of Kobani residents as “infidels,” and the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees estimates 400,000 mostly Kurdish people have fled to Turkey from the city and surrounding villages. As Kurdish forces continue to hold off ISIS fighters in Kobani, at refugee camps across the border illnesses are spreading. Most of the children and many of the elderly are sick. Baby food is lacking, and many children are without socks and shoes.

“At one time these people had houses, gardens,” the director said. “But now, unfortunately, they have nothing. For a kilo of mandarins, people are crushing each other and trying to get it.”

As the ministry team delivered aid, the director wondered what it must be like for children to be enclosed in a tent camp.

“You see the children who are standing by the wire fencing. They used to play in front of their houses easily, but people took from their hands their toys, their warm house, their food, their school, their hospital,” he said. “They are living as prisoners in fenced-in enclosures.”

Before the attempted takeover of Kobani in ISIS´s attempt to establish a Sunni Islamic caliphate in a region across Iraq and Syria, Kobani itself had been one of the centers of refuge for the estimated 6.5 million Syrians internally displaced by war. Of the more than 3 million Syrians who have fled to other countries, more than 1.6 million are estimated to have fled to Turkey.

A refugee child has only parsley to put into his bread.

“Children need boots for the cold months,” the director said. “We need many tents, electric heaters, quilts, beds and food. It is winter here, so they need so many fruits. While children in the free world were eating chocolate cakes, the refugees were putting only parsley into bread and eating that.”

Children are playing with rocks in the winter cold, and the ministry team supported by Christian Aid Mission would like to buy toys for them. Giving shoes to children, he said, makes you a hero, and they run to their parents to tell them so.

“The children who understood that we are helping them through your support, they ran to us and showed their love to us,” he said. “These children will never forget these painful days. At the same time, they will never forget that some Christians came and gave them boots, candies, and blankets. I am thankful to you. Thanks to you from those children for making them happy.”

The kids also have prayer requests. They asked the ministry team to pray for God to give them dolls and balls to play with, as well as coats.

The ministry provided tents to four families who were sleeping in the open air, and dozens of families still needed shelter. Some refugees have invited the ministry team to their tents to pray for people unable to walk because of their advanced years or sores on their legs.

“Every tent that we visited, we gave a little financial support to the oldest person of the tent secretly. In this culture, to support them openly would make them feel shame,” he said. “We told them, ‘God loves you so much, and these troubles are going to end. If you would like, you can read these love letters from Jesus from the New Testament.' Many young people took New Testaments to read.”