Visiting Syria in Times of War
Being present, visiting Christians where they live and encouraging them in their homes and churches. These are some of the things Brother Andrew, the founder of Open Doors, always tried to do. Presence ministry is still an important part of Open Doors’ work. Recently, one of our colleagues was able to visit Syria:
“I expected to see war scenes on my way to the Syrian capital. The only thing I observed were the many closed roads; it is nearly impossible to get to Damascus. It’s strange to be in Damascus, the capital of the country, a place that shows up daily in the news because of the war. The thing is that everything seems so normal. People walk on the sidewalks as they would have done before the war. They go shopping. I don’t see the destruction I had expected to see. The restaurants are full of people who are having a meal or a drink.
The next day, I was able to see the work of Pastor Edward’s church with my own eyes. I go first to the distribution center. The team there gives me a tour and shows me the items they are packing into parcels to be distributed to the IDP and poor families. I am touched by a Bible verse hanging over the window that says: ‘The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.’ (Psalm 145:15) I thank the Lord because even though these items are supported by many good Christians around the world, they are actually coming from the Lord Himself. And the volunteers there are aware of this – all glory to God.
One of the first stories that shocked me is the story of a mother. One day, she came to this distribution center and waited for maybe thirty minutes to get her parcel. On her way out, a bomb fell right in front of the distribution center and killed her. The workers took me out and showed me where the bomb fell. I stood there and prayed in my heart, asking for the Lord’s protection over the people, the workers and the distribution center.
The danger of a car bomb, a rocket or other explosives causing casualties and destruction is present every moment. The people seem to be used to it. I don’t see them looking up to the sky. I see the people laughing and talking. ‘We can be killed at any time,’ someone said to me. All of a sudden, I hear an explosion. I have no idea how far it is from where I am. Of course, I look around, but the Syrians continue what they were doing and I decide to do the same.
The pastors of the churches I met were doing well. I heard optimism when they talked with me. They were very much motivated by serving. Of course, many of the IDP’s are in a different mood.
When I visited the families, I saw a lot of sadness and poverty, but at the same time, I felt the joy of the Lord that the churches and our partners were able to put in the hearts of these people. I am visiting for just a few days; for them this is daily reality. They serve knowing that each day could be their last.”
*Names changed for security reasons