Miracles Sought, Found in Crisis in Syria

February 25, 2016

 A displaced Syrian mother and her children.
A displaced Syrian mother and her children face a frightening future.

Amid a humanitarian crisis that European leaders say is the worst since the end of World War II, civilians struggling to survive in Syria have been surprised by miracles — while observers believe it will take a miracle for a planned cease-fire to take hold.

U.S. officials this week announced the White House had reached agreement with Russia on a plan for a partial cease-fire between Syrian opposition groups and the government of Bashar al-Assad, though few had hopes that it would end violence. Conditionally approved by Assad and an opposition umbrella group, the plan excludes terrorist groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS), and terms and conditions remained undisclosed — such as how it would resolve the U.S. demand for Assad's removal while Russia continues to support him.

The plan calls for a cessation of hostilities this weekend.

After weeks in which fighting cut off humanitarian aid to hundreds of thousands of civilians, some 13.5 million Syrians are in need of assistance following five years of civil war that have battered the country's economy and infrastructure, according to a recent European Union report. Among those in need, 4.6 million people are in hard-to-reach areas, including more than 480,000 who are besieged, according to the report this month by the EU's European Commission. The United Nations last week began delivering critical food, medicines, medical equipment and other items to four besieged areas for 90,000 people.

Native Christian ministries have supply networks in place to continue providing aid and the message of Christ's salvation in spite of the dangers of remaining in the country, but funding has not kept pace with the growing needs.

"I can't take it," said one ministry worker in Syria. "We're borrowing money from everywhere in order to eat, and we're not getting paid."

The Lebanon-based director of the ministry in Syria said a team of 21 people faithfully serve predominantly Muslim communities in the embattled country at a time when the area is seeing unprecedented levels of people coming to faith in Christ.

"This year we have seriously lacked funding for all our Syrian ministries, and this weighs on me," he said. "Because they don't have the funds for transportation costs, they cannot travel to the villages or areas of ministry where they serve. They also plead for funds in order to take care of urgent medical costs or illnesses that come up. I hear a lot of desperation in their voices."

One team member noticed a woman feeding an odd-looking substance to her 7-month-old baby during a church service and asked her what it was, he said. The mother began to weep, saying she had only yogurt diluted with water to feed her child.

"She explained that she didn't have any money to feed her baby anymore," he said. "Unfortunately, this sad story is very common in Syria right now; people are really struggling, and we often hear that there is simply not enough food."

Another Syrian mother, identified only as Majida, went to God in prayer after her family ran out of food.

"She prayed, 'Lord, I know you never let us down — we need food for our family,'" the director said. "As she was walking later that day, she found some money on the path in front of her. She was so pleased that God had answered her prayer in such a creative way that she started jumping up and down with joy."

She rushed out to buy bread for her family, and when her neighbors asked where she had gotten the money, she replied, "It was sent to me from God."

"They pressed her to tell them how that was possible, so she went on to share her faith and pray with them," the director said.

Desperate Muslims in Syria who hear of miraculous healings are drawn to the Christian communities. A mother named Nivine brought her paralyzed, 2-year-old daughter to a meeting of one of the ministry teams for prayer. Wary of offending her, the area ministry leader warned her that they pray in the name of Jesus.

"Whatever it takes," Nivine replied, in tears. "Just make her better!"

"Our ministry leader said, 'When we pray, we pray to a living God,'" the ministry director said. "The team explained the gospel to her, and she accepted Christ. Nivine even started coming to the meetings along with her paralyzed daughter."

The group continued to pray for the child in the following days.

"About two weeks later, when Nivine was worshiping during a meeting with her daughter next to her, Nivine looked beside her at her daughter and saw the girl smiling," the director said. "Then she noticed that her hands were moving. Was this a dream? But her daughter continued to move. It was true — she was healed!"

Another mother, Aveen, along with her husband, Mohamad, and their seven children, are part of a church in an undisclosed town in Syria. Mohamad recently lost his job.

"They are weary of struggling through life," the director said. "What surprises us most about this family is that Aveen and Mohamad both come from very fanatical Muslim families that wish to stone them to death, and yet they still fearlessly display their strong love for the Lord. Despite the difficulty of surviving without work and the threat of persecution, they have the courage and desire to share the gospel with everyone around them."

Syrian boy smiling.
A children's program organized by an indigenous ministry in Syria brings a smile to a little one.

The incidents of healing and salvation shine against a dark backdrop of increased violence. ISIS claimed responsibility for bomb blasts in Damascus on Sunday (Feb. 21) that killed at least 87 people, according to the United Kingdom-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and car bombs in Homs killed at least 59 civilians. On Monday (Feb. 22), Russian forces were suspected in an attack on a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders that killed 25 people. Russia denies responsibility.

In the midst of such atrocities, a Muslim named Amad heard about a place in his town where people pray and some are healed. The worsening skin disease of one of his children drove him to visit.

"In a moment of bravery, he brought his son to the meeting place, and the believers there prayed for him," the ministry director said. "The next day the child woke up with nothing on his skin! It was undeniably a miracle. The whole family has come to believe in the Lord, and they want to be baptized."

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