Skeptical Refugees Learn to Freely Receive

The refugee family of a young disabled girl was unable to bring her wheelchair to Turkey when they fled Syria, forcing her to crawl on the ground, but her grandfather refused to let local missionaries help.

Other refugees had told her family that there were people from a church who might help, but when her grandfather heard it, his face was flushed with anger.

“They never help anyone without expecting something in return,” he said. “Don’t begin any type of relationship with them, because they are going to want something from you.”

The girl, a pre-teen who also couldn’t speak, had crawled or been carried for months. Life without her wheelchair was one more pain atop others: her father unemployed, her family sharing a run-down apartment with other refugees after leaving their tent camp, and frequent hunger.

The girl’s grandfather had told family members that the Christians were bad people.

When authorities discovered her grandfather had entered under a false name and forced him to return to Syria, however, her father mustered the courage to go to the church site and explain his plight.

“With your help we gifted them a wheelchair, and twice we have helped them with their heating bill and prayed over them,” the ministry leader wrote to Christian Aid Mission. “We went over there again today to bring them some food, and the girl along with her father heard us talking and nearly threw herself down the stairs to come see us. Before we could get up the stairs to her, she crawled her way to us and wanted to hug us.”

The workers were sorry to refrain from hugging her as a precaution against the spread of the novel coronavirus – they had just visited more than 50 homes distributing food – but they sat and chatted at a safe distance. The mute girl signaled that she wanted them to pray for her again.

“Her father then explained that the first night we prayed over her, she didn’t wet the bed and was so happy,” the leader said. “Now she wanted us to pray like that again. This is what Jesus meant when he talked about childlike faith, and now there was a Christian praying over this girl in front of her Muslim father.”

The girl’s grandfather had told family members that the Christians were bad people; the ministry leader said he saw the opportunity to pray for her again as an impossibility the Lord had made possible.

“Now their lives had changed, their perception of us had changed, and the father asked us, ‘What time is the church open?’” he said. “We explained to him that right now we are doing all of our services online. I think he may watch us on the Internet, and we will certainly continue to visit them. I thank God for this miracle, and I thank you for making this miracle come to pass.”

COVID-19 Challenges

Normally refugees would obtain help in the course of visiting worship services or other large gatherings, but COVID-19 has put a stop to them. So local missionaries are making more visits to their homes to offer groceries and help with bills and medical bills, he said.

At the same time, as refugees are increasingly blamed for Turkey’s economic woes, the state has stopped providing health care assistance to them at a time when COVID-19 is spreading swiftly. A refugee who gets sick from coronavirus or other ailments spends an average of $50 or $60 a month for treatment on an average income of no more than $160, the ministry leader said.

“That means that after his medical expenses, he will pay $100 for rent, and his money will have run out,” he said. “He will have nothing left for electric, water, heat or, most importantly, food.”

Workers are finding fewer people in tent camps as families pool their money to find cheap housing, he said; three families, for example, will rent a three-bedroom apartment. About half the distribution of food and other aid now goes to refugees in apartments – which also makes gospel proclamation safer.

“When people live in homes, they feel much safer and ask questions about Christianity much more comfortably,” the leader said. “In one of the homes we visited, we dropped off a box of food and were beginning to leave when an old grandad living in the house called out, ‘Come! Come in and let’s have tea.’ We were already cold and, seeing an opportunity to share the gospel, we accepted.”

Soon about 15 people gathered, and the local missionaries explained to them that the aid they provided was not from any rich country but from ordinary people giving out of their own earnings, he said.

When a younger man said, “Your goal here is to convert us, but thanks anyway,” the grandad who had invited the missionaries chastised him in Arabic, asking him if the workers had forced him to take a Bible or become a Christian when he received their food and purified water.

“The younger man apologized and told us that it was ‘not what I meant to say’ and left the room,” the leader said. “The old man turned to us and said, ‘Give me an Arabic Bible, but it has to be large print; my eyes don’t see well.’”

Workers are providing such aid in Christ’s name to refugees throughout the region. Please consider a donation today to provide critical relief that saves lives while expanding the kingdom of God.

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