Nineteen months of incessant fighting with no sign of an end to the bloody civil war ravaging Syria – that is the reality for the millions of Syrians waking up every day in the country where Saul experienced the power of God on his way to Damascus. Two thousand years later, surrounded by chaos and violence, the Syrian church yet hopes in the same all-powerful God.
“I spoke to a little girl yesterday in Damascus,” our contact reported. The girl’s story, shared with a mix of seriousness and humor, paints a powerful image of the terrible situation facing Syria’s children. “The little girl told me that they got rain and thunder in Damascus as the fall season is approaching. Then she continued to say with a small laugh, ‘it’s raining and thundering… not just what God is sending us.’ Children call the sound of bombings, attacks, gun shots and cannons ‘music.’ ‘We wake up with this sound of music, live with it during the day and go to sleep with it.'”
The girl also shared how she experienced God’s grace when shelling happened near her school. “All windows broke, but I wasn’t hit by the glass. While students were running around crying, I and a friend of mine were not afraid. We felt how the peace of Jesus fell on our lives.” The contact commented on the deep lessons that are being ingrained in these children through their struggles.
“Bombings, missiles, shelling, attacks are happening all over the country and are increasing in Aleppo, and Damascus,” our contact says. “But God’s favor is over His church. Pain and suffering are seen daily, but the church is keeping its hope in Jesus.” The reality is harsh, but God’s miraculous presence is bringing peace and grace into the darkest of situations.
During a recent bomb attack in Bab Toma, a Christian neighborhood in the old city of Damascus, thirteen people died and over seventy were injured. But God’s hand was at work even in the middle of tragedy – one of the survivors shared how God saved her by a miracle. She walked past the car with the bomb a mere three seconds before it detonated; those three seconds meant the difference between injury and death.
In the midst of the horrific reality facing the church that Sunday morning, the peace of God enveloped the congregation and many believers even had the courage to return for the evening service.
With the economy at a near standstill and distribution blocked by fighting, basic resources like food and water are scarce. A pastor from Aleppo reported that in spite of constantly skyrocketing prices, God is responding to their needs. “We are in a very tough situation and we don’t know where we are heading. But thank God, after one week without running water, we just have water again. Having water is a luxury these days.”
People in Damascus too share testimonies of God’s hand at work. One woman recounts how she experienced God’s protection, “My bedroom was destroyed by a grenade fallen nearby. My bed was split in half. Because I was that night taking care of my mother-in-law who is very ill, I did not die in my bed.”
Compounding the trauma of the constant fighting, kidnappings are becoming a frequent occurrence. According to our contact, a priest and his wife in Katana were among those kidnapped. “Bold attacks on Christians and Christian areas are increasing.” She says that in spite of their own difficulties churches continue to do their best to reach out to people and take care of them.
In the midst of the horror, God gives them glimpses of His presence: a foretaste of the eternity they will spend with Him. “They focus their eyes and hope on Christ and on His plans.”
Father, we pour out our hearts to You on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Syria. We pray especially for the church leaders who are weary from responding to the crises that happen daily. Refresh and strengthen them with Your Word, and show them Your presence in tangible ways. We pray Your safety upon Your people there and boldness as they remain steadfast in faith in the midst of the storms. And we pray for peace in this land. May there be a vast turning in repentance and faith. In the name of Jesus who is their only true hope, Amen.