*God is Love in Arabic
No one who watches the news reports on Syria would expect to meet a Syrian pastor almost bursting with joy and optimism in these times. Yet, that is exactly what happened when our local partner of Open Doors (OD) met with one of the Syrian pastors involved in the Open Doors relief work in Syria.
“In all my years as a pastor, I have not seen ministry in Syria with this intensity,” the pastor from the Western Syrian city of Tartus enthusiastically exclaimed. “Don’t misunderstand me-no matter how you look at it, the war is horrific and evil in every way possible. Yet, in parallel, the church is being changed and transformed.” In the midst of the horrors of civil war, God is doing a mighty work in Syria. “This crisis has brought revival no one could dream of,” remarked one Syrian believer. Another added, “It’s like the book of Acts all over again!”
Remarking on the church’s expanding ability to reach into the community, the Tartus pastor’s church says, “We have reached geographic areas that we have never dreamed of before. The number of families and homes we’ve reached, entered and engaged with is incredible. They are people from all religious groups and denominations. It is not that they don’t care that we’re Christians. They really appreciate who we are.”
Where serving was once confined to the pastor and a handful of people in the church, “now the whole congregation is on fire and all are participating in the ministry-of their own volition. This is not the situation in my church only. This is the situation of an increasing number of churches.”
The barriers between churches from different denominations have also broken down. From an evangelical denomination, this pastor previously had no contact with the traditional churches. “Our relationship with the historical churches is improving. I’m now in direct contact with two priests-a Maronite and a Syrian Orthodox. We meet and coordinate together regularly.” An Evangelical Christian who was once skeptical about the traditional churches adds, “There is no such thing as nominal Christians in this situation; hearts are turning to God.”
Relationships are, according to the pastor, also being strengthened within the wider evangelical church. “In fact, we have plans for a sort of roundtable meeting where we share about what we’re doing and find ways to complement each other’s work-rather than duplicate efforts.”
The pastor reports that Facebook has become an important contact point with Syrians throughout the Arab World who are looking for ways to help their fellow Syrians. As a result, Syrians in the diaspora are contributing to hardship cases that need medical assistance.
“Today the genuine and practical care that the people are seeing in our ministry is transforming people’s view of us as Christians,” notes the pastor. “Those who did not want to have anything with us before now trust us.” Government officials are also pleased with how the church is helping the people. “In the church I see the increase in voluntary spirit. For instance, in our church, we are now preparing for remedial classes at the church for the children of Internally Displaced People (18 years and below) who missed out on their school so we can help them get back on board. We also start offering health care at the church with volunteering doctors.”
Father, thank You for the profoundly inspiring testimony of these pastors! We are so encouraged by the astonishing work You are doing in Your church in Syria, a ray of hope in the midst of the atrocities of war. Thank You for the growing unity of churches there and for their commitment to minister together to the hurting around them. Grant the church leaders wisdom and discernment as they make decisions regarding their work of compassion and mercy. Bestow special strength and resources for those involved in helping the Internally Displaced People. Protect them in their travels and give them opportunities to share the good news of Your gospel to those they serve. In the name of Jesus, who lived an earthly life of humility and service, Amen.