Syrian Church in Damascus: Four of Every Ten Members Have Left
“The situation is very grim. There is deep sadness and much stress and anxiety.” That is the summary pastor Edward from Damascus gives on the situation in the Syrian capital. According to him, about 40 percent of the members of his church have left the country since the conflict in Syria started two-and-half years ago. Imagine: four of every ten members of your church leaving in such a short period. That means a major loss for every congregation. And that is the reality churches in Syria now face as this example from Damascus shows. People who have the financial means and especially who have contacts abroad are leaving the country. Pastor Edward knows that in his church some members still are waiting for the opportunity to leave Syria, too. “They are still trying to find a place to go.” However, all the people that left didn’t leave the church services empty. “No, we see new people coming to church. Many of the families that we visit and help with a monthly food supply, for example, come to our services now.” Although there is no fighting going on in the central area of Damascus, in several suburbs fighting is a daily reality. No one can escape from the distant sound of explosions and shooting. “It seems that there is no end in sight. Christians are like all other people concerned for their safety and the future of their children.” In a way life goes on for many people in the capital. People who work in the public sector still go to work. “But their income is worth less and less as the Syrian pound lost 75 percent of its value which caused huge inflation. After two-and-half years of civil war most people are suffering economically and are traumatized emotionally.” The pastor also mentions “a brighter side” in the gloom. “Church people are closer to the Lord and to each other.”
Syria – Open Doors Making Impact with Bible Distribution
While the main focus of Open Doors in Syria this year is on the relief operation inside the country, Open Doors’ normal projects such as book distribution and training continue. Recently Open Doors distributed thousands of “Action Bibles” in Syria. The demand is so great that Open Doors received a request for thousands more. Syrian teenagers especially want the illustrated “Action Bibles.” “Through one of Open Doors’ partners working in the province of Homs, Open Doors distributed hundreds of Bibles and Christian books to Christian families, a dangerous work in the midst of a civil war. “It was not easy to deliver the books,” one of the men involved in distribution describes how difficult it is to get to the places where the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are located. On our way to the city we had to pass checkpoint after checkpoint. We always are on the outlook for kidnappers. I was really worried being on the road with money and books. Please pray for us. The Syrian families we help are Christian families. We support them with monthly food packages. We build strong relationships with the families and we enjoy mutual respect and trust. The families are all visited regularly. During these visits our teams share from the Bible and pray with them; trying to bring comfort and encouragement.” The distributers find the books are well received by the families. “A 12-year-old girl, for example, is now regularly reading in the Bible. We heard of a 7-year-old boy who started memorizing several Psalms,” the contact says. “A 37-year-old man fled from Al Qusayr to a safer place in the province of Homs with his wife and two children. He became a Christian through the visits to his family. He led all his family to the Lord. The man now has started reading and studying the Word of God. He is also very happy with the books he received about family issues from a Christian perspective.”
Philippines – Open Doors Comes to Aid of Starving Family in Zamboanga City
Over the weekend Open Doors rescued a literacy learner and her six children walking the streets near the government evacuation centre in Zamboanga City, located in the southernmost Philippine island of Mindanao. “We bumped into her while distributing food to believers,” said an Open Doors worker involved in relief operations. “Her husband was mistaken for a Moro National Liberation Front (Islamic group seeking an independent state) rebel. All her children were starving and her youngest, a 2-month-old baby, was already at the point of dehydration. She was immediately attended to. Please pray for the little child.” The towns of Rio Hondo, Sta. Catalina, Sta. Barbara and Talon-Talon have been much ravaged by the on-going Zamboanga siege. “Four house churches in Talon-Talon were reportedly reduced to ashes but we have yet to confirm this,” the Open Doors worker added. “The parsonage of our local church partner was hit by a mortar Saturday.” The church itself was spared from the blast. However, six families belonging to the local church lost their houses. “As of today we are helping more than 300 believers in three refugee centers. Please pray as some are already showing signs of trauma, especially those who have lost their properties. Pray for us (Open Doors workers) too; that God’s wisdom and strength will be upon us in this time of crisis.”
(For more information or to set up interviews, call Jerry Dykstra at 616-915-4117 or email [email protected]).