A Syrian refugee mother arrived at a church in Lebanon after fleeing Islamic State militants and giving birth amid bombings.
Haya* said that in her native city, undisclosed for security reasons, she had been raised an Alawite, an offshoot of Islam that Muslims regard as heretical. She had to hide her religion from the Islamic State (ISIS) troops in control of the Syrian city a few years ago, she told church leaders in Lebanon, or else they would have killed her.
ISIS carried out public executions of heretics, apostates and other “infidels” each week after mosque prayers to make an example of them, Haya said.
“Every Friday all the people in the area were obliged to attend the weekly gathering,” she said. “During that day, ISIS would organize several executions so that they put fear in the hearts of people.”
Haya was nine months pregnant when ISIS soldiers began going door-to-door in search of opponents and those non-compliant with Islam. She was terrified and immediately fled with her family to another part of the country.
“They fled in a truck carrying goats,” said the director of the native ministry that leads the church in Lebanon. “They got through many check-points and miraculously made it out.”
The family made it to a hospital in a city hours away just as Haya went into labor – where fighting was so fierce that hospital personnel were too busy caring for the wounded to tend to her.
“It was only after a few hours that the doctor was able to come to help her,” the ministry leader said. “She was in a lot of pain. In just 10 minutes, the doctor helped her deliver the baby.”
Soon nurses were telling her that the bombing was so heavy that everyone had to leave the hospital, he said. But the exhausted Haya said her temperature was dropping fast, and that she could not move.
“She told the nurses that she was dying and asked them to give her baby to her husband and leave her behind,” the director said. “Suddenly she felt a very warm hand touching her. She had just given birth and was extremely tired, but her temperature started going back to normal, and she could feel the warm hand carrying her and moving her down the stairs of the hospital. She heard a voice telling her, ‘Do not be afraid – I am the Lord Jesus Christ, and I am by your side.’”
Upon arriving at the exit doors, she felt a surge of energy and was able to flee the bombing with her newborn child and family, he said.
“When she shared this testimony, she said that on that day there were two new births – her baby and herself, as she became a strong believer in Christ,” the ministry leader said.
Native ministry workers are seeing other miracles as the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad try to dislodge the remaining rebel armies in the country’s northwestern corner.
A Russian-backed government offensive that began in December has displaced more than 900,000 people from Idlib and outlying areas in northwestern Syria, according to the United Nations. Hospitals have reportedly been bombed, and the vast number of displaced people has so surpassed the capacity of camps to take them that homeless families have seen infants die in the cold.
Other civilian sites targeted in the bombing reportedly include schools, homes, markets, church buildings and mosques. Outbreaks of disease were expected, and bombing even of settlements for displaced people has resulted in deaths and injuries, according to a press statement from Mark Lowcock, U.N. head of humanitarian affairs and emergency relief.
Workers and their disciples see God working even amid such violence. A member of the native ministry’s church in Lebanon was recently stopped at the Syrian border when he tried to bring several boxes of Bibles into the war-torn country.
“The officer at customs made it clear to him that he is not allowed to carry the Bibles into Syria, as it is a country with an Islamic majority,” the ministry leader said.
The Christian, unnamed for security reasons, told the customs officer that he needed to give the Bibles to a high-ranking military officer. The customs officer left with one copy of the Bible, and when he returned several minutes later, he told the driver to come to his office. The officer told him that within a minute of starting to read the Bible, he began to shed tears.
The Christian told him about Christ as found in the Bible.
“The more the officer listened to him, the more he cried,” the leader said. “At the end of the conversation, the officer told him that he will send his name to the Syrian check-points at all borders. He gave him his personal mobile number and said to him that he is welcome not only to bring a few boxes of the Bible but a whole truck load and, if anyone gives him trouble, he can call him immediately.”
Seeing people they’ve discipled have such impact, native missionaries see the hand of God as they serve both the displaced within Syria and refugees in Lebanon. One Syrian refugee said she used to go from one church to another just to get food, and that she believed along with other Muslims that whatever they got from Christians, even if by deceit, was acceptable.
“However, time after time as we heard the messages, I felt something touching my heart,” she said. “These messages made me discover that God is real, and Jesus is alive and hears our prayers and answers them. I became a true believer, and now I know that I have been taken from darkness and see the real light.”
The ministry leader said she secretly holds Bible studies in the camp where she lives. Native missionaries serving and reaching refugees like her are overcoming obstacles throughout Lebanon. Please consider a donation today to help them expand God’s kingdom.
*Name changed for security reasons