Syrians Find Light amid Dark Nightmare

September 29, 2016

Syrian refugee child sleeping on dirt floor.
One of the nearly 5 million refugees from Syria, where an upsurge in fighting has also displaced 6.5 million people within the country's borders.

Even as civil war rages on in Syria after another failed cease-fire, those who remain in the country are finding the light of God, including one mother who benefited from dreams amid the ongoing nightmare.

The director of a ministry based in Syria said the woman dreamt repeatedly of a man who told her that three people would come and bring her good news.

"She continued to have this dream for six days in a row," said the director, who granted Christian Aid Mission permission to publish his comments. "On the seventh day, one of our teams was doing home visits and decided to visit a new house. The three of them sat down in this woman's house to have a short visit, but when they opened their Bible, she instantly fell to her knees."

When her husband and children came in later, she could not contain her excitement.

"These are the people that the man in my dream told me to meet!" she told them.

The Christian workers spoke to her about the saving death and resurrection of Christ and prayed with the family, and they all put their faith in Him, the ministry leader said.

"We have continued to disciple them since then, and they are like sponges - eager to learn and know everything they can," he said.

Refugees from fighting in Aleppo, Syria at a makeshift tent camp in Turkey.

Since the beginning of the year, native ministry workers have baptized more than 230 people, he said. On one occasion alone, 53 people were baptized, with each one telling how they came to believe in Christ.

"The local gospel workers have done an amazing work among their people, more than any ministry that is run by foreigners," he said. "That's why I totally believe that we should continue supporting the local church to go forward."

Carrying out baptisms at all, much less in such large numbers, presents a severe security challenge in a country where Islamist factions are battling each other for control. As a precaution, ministry workers only tell participants that they will be attending a meeting, with no mention that baptisms are planned. Only after they are gathered at the secret venue do workers offer them the opportunity to be baptized.

"This is one strategy we have to prevent word from getting around about the baptism and putting people's lives in danger," the director said. "Not long ago I had prepared another day of baptism, but some of the new believers did not show up. When we went to look for them in their homes, we found they had been killed. This is why it is best not to announce baptisms."

People are finding Christ amid a conflict high in civilian casualties and marked by shortages of food, water, fuel and other goods needed for basic survival. Fierce fighting has resumed in Aleppo after a frail cease-fire collapsed last week. In five years since rebellion began to unseat President Bashar al-Assad, it is estimated that 400,000 to 500,000 people have been killed, about half of them non-combatants.

The destruction is such that the ministry director said he no longer recognizes places he has seen dozens of times before.

"Destruction of every kind could be seen but without knowing which political or religious group was responsible," he said. "It's a massive humanitarian crisis, and finding basic necessities like water, gas, food, or medicine can be an ordeal. Additionally, as more people come to Christ, we have more people that need to be hidden and moved to safe zones because of the danger to their lives."

There is enough danger even for civilians who do not need to hide from Islamic extremists. At least 90 civilians were reportedly killed in what some believe to be deliberate targeting of non-military targets on Friday (Sept. 23), and the next day more than 100 died. The New York Times reported that half of 67 people treated for wounds at one hospital were children, and that the next day scores of people in rebel-held areas were killed.

Washington and London accused Russia of war crimes for backing the Syrian air strikes on Aleppo, which included "bunker-busters" that destroyed underground shelters, infrastructure such as water pipes and schools and playgrounds constructed below the surface to avoid the carnage above ground.

The director of the gospel ministry in Syria noted that Syrians who flee the country are also facing troubles. They are suffering mistreatment at the hands of police and others in Lebanon, Turkey and other countries where they are settling, he said.

"People are upset, and they aren't taking the time to differentiate between refugees and Muslim extremists," he said.

In Syria, the overwhelming needs and horrific conditions challenge the physical and psychological endurance of Christian workers, whose only source of strength is to keep their focus on Christ.

"They are also completely filled with joy; it's the only thing right now that makes them get back on their feet and keep going," the ministry leader said. "There is so much to be done that they are completely exhausted and continuously near burn-out by everything that is happening around them in their war-torn country. Our local missionaries in Syria are in desperate need of support - both emotional and financial."

To help indigenous missionaries to meet needs, you may contribute online using the form below, or call (434) 977-5650. If you prefer to mail your gift, please mail to Christian Aid Mission, P.O. Box 9037, Charlottesville, VA 22906. Please use Gift Code: 414EHCS. Thank you!