Hasan Qasim* was a young, well-off businessman in a major city of Syria when police stopped him at a checkpoint five years ago.
At that point a 2011 uprising had escalated into civil war, and the government wanted him to rejoin the Syrian army. Qasim had completed his mandatory military service 11 years before.
“They pushed me to fight again,” Qasim said. “And I didn’t want to fight. This is the story of every single youth in Syria – it’s the two sides, they kidnap the youth and force them to fight with them.”
Within months, the single man raised as a Muslim had fled his country, leaving behind a large constellation of friends, colleagues and relatives, and was just one of more than 2 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. The comfortable home he left behind would soon become, like so many buildings in the country, a bombed-out shell.
A childhood friend in Europe suggested he come to his country, unidentified for security reasons, and gave Qasim the phone number of a local Christian ministry there whose leader spoke Arabic, Qasim said.
“The first time I came to the ministry center, it was on Sunday, and the leader was preaching the gospel,” he said. “I had the opportunity to meet with another leader who started explaining it to me, and I started feeling like, ‘Whoa, this is it – I need to go step by step with these people.’”
“It” was the forgiveness and salvation of a Messiah sent by a loving God.
“When I heard the first time that God is love, I needed to know more about this,” Qasim said. “I was very ready to accept Christ.”
Baptized in 2017, his spiritual journey took him into full-time service to other refugees with the local ministry. Immediately, however, Qasim felt Europe was not his final destination.
With a vision for planting churches in other parts of the world, the native ministry trains refugees who receive Christ to make disciples in their final destinations. For many that is Germany, the Netherlands or other parts of Europe, but for Qasim it was Saudi Arabia.
“In December 2017, I was reading my Bible, and it mentions some areas in the Arabic world, and I said, ‘This is it – I want to go there. If it is God’s will for my life, I want to go to Saudi Arabia and preach the Lord there.’”
He and local missionaries continue to pray for his ministry vision.
Praying in Faith
In another country in Europe, a local ministry is also expanding the kingdom by virtue of its position as a crossroads for people fleeing their homelands.
The native ministry in the country unidentified for security reasons has extensive services for refugees, including recent development of its outreach to trafficked women. After freeing an African woman from the organized crime syndicate exploiting her, local missionaries helped bring emotional healing to the traumatized woman, a Muslim who had arrived with her young daughter but was distraught at having to leave her 14-year-old son alone in their homeland.
“She would continuously ask, ‘Can Jesus help me bring back my son?’” the ministry leader said. “And our response was always the same: ‘You must ask in the name of Jesus.’”
Initially she refused to pray in Christ’s name, but while praying with workers one day she asked Jesus to bring her son to her, he said. A week later, a government policy change in an African country gave thousands of refugees access to a point from which they could travel by sea to Europe.
The mother was certain her son was among them, and she continued asking for prayer.
“It was a very difficult prayer request – first to find her son, and then for authorities to allow us to bring him here,” the ministry leader said. “We asked several organizations helping in that place, and two days later one of them called us. They had found him.”
Even more difficult would be securing permission to look for him and bring him to his mother, the ministry leader said, but they kept praying. At length they obtained permission to search for him; a local worker accompanied the mother.
“When they arrived, she saw a boy from afar – it was him,” the leader said. “They hugged each other, cried, and gave thanks to the Lord. Now they are learning about our Savior, she has faith in Jesus, and she has also started a discipleship with us.”
Many other refugees from Africa are children, he said.
“Many of them lost all their relatives because they were killed,” he said. “At first they are afraid of all people, but after a few days they start trusting us, and we can share about God’s love. We also offer language classes and training in different jobs, mainly cooking, waiter, etc. When we start sharing Jesus, most of them are opening their hearts to God.”
Local missionaries in Europe consider such openness to the gospel among refugees an unprecedented opportunity. Please consider a donation today to equip them for the task.
*Name changed for security reasons