Syrian Refugees Hope in Christ as Nightmare Deepens
A 6-year-old Syrian refugee girl saw that her mother was desperate to feed her family. Then she saw “the prophet Jesus,” as He is known to Sunni Muslims.
In their tent at a makeshift refugee camp in southern Turkey, Amira* had been sad the night before as she lay down to sleep on a smelly rug. For days her mother had bemoaned their shortage of food, and for years – nearly as long as Amira could remember – her father had no feet. Every day, the sight of his two stubs reminded her that he had stepped on a landmine back in Syria.
Amira, her parents and three brothers would go long stretches without water for drinking or basin bathes, and the stench in the tent grew stronger each day. As she tried to sleep wrapped in a dust-laden blanket, Amira was hungry. She was saddened also that her illustrated children’s book about Jesus had gone missing. The men who came regularly to bring food and water to the refugees had given it to her.
“When these children grow older, may they remember that it was the Christians who gave them toys to play with as well as food and water,” the director said.
A cousin had shared some pickles and dates with her that day, and her mother had obtained a large bag of chickpeas that she had begged off one of the townsfolk nearby, but there was no oil for frying the mashed legume into falafel patties. Amira fell asleep to the sound of her mother weeping for lack of cooking oil.
The next morning, she told her mother that she had dreamt of a truck bringing goods to them. On the truck, she said, was a man in a long white robe “just like the Prophet Jesus,” who had said that today the truck would come to help them.
Later that day, after a truck from an indigenous Christian ministry arrived, Amira stood in line with her mother. They spoke of their need and her dream to a translator, who then told the ministry director. Grateful to receive cooking oil and water, as well as food, Amira’s mother invited the director and his translator to their tent.
The girl’s father was lying down when they returned to the tent, and as he struggled to sit up, he thanked the Christian for the survival package. Then he reached under the pillow he was sitting on and pulled out the children’s New Testament that the indigenous ministry team had given to his daughter.
“Why did you give this out?” he said.
Amira’s heart jumped, as did that of the director, who fearfully explained that God’s love compelled them to provide spiritual food as well as physical food.
“When I found this, I was about to tear it up and throw it out, but then I thought that maybe I’d better examine it first,” her father told the director. “It’s really good! I decided to read it and hide it under my pillow so that no one else sees it.”
He could not risk hard-line Muslims finding out that he was reading a Christian book, and he couldn’t risk his family thinking it was permissible to read it in case he found anything objectionable in it.
The director asked Christian Aid Mission to thank the donors who are helping to nourish the family, and he asked for prayer that team members have the strength and resources to provide both spiritual and physical food to them.
“In this culture, when the father or mother reads the New Testament and likes it, the family comes to Christ,” he said. “The daughter saw Jesus in her dream, and the father is reading the New Testament – surely God is at work.”
Water of Life
Refugees in the camp are telling ministry workers that they have no other source of clean water available to them.
“What we bring is very important to them,” the director said. “They use it first to make their baby food, or to give their babies a drink of clean water. We are thanked continually for bringing it to them, yet these thanks go to you who supply us with the funding to keep them supplied for this serious need.”
The indigenous workers are mere delivery servants for those generously assisting, so the ministry team also sends thanks to donors, he said.
“The children are now used to seeing us coming, and they run up to us with their arms out to hug us or shake our hands,” he said. “When these children grow older, may they remember that it was the Christians who gave them toys to play with as well as food and water. May the love we shared with them remain in their hearts so that they search for the truth about Jesus.”
Refugee needs are growing more acute as Turkish society becomes increasingly hostile to them. Please consider a gift to help indigenous Christians bring life in Christ to Syrian refugees.
*Name changed for security reasons