A local church is serving Syrian refugees in their city. A small team joined in their work for two weeks.
After hearing about the more than 4.8 million Syrians who are living in just five countries in the Middle East, a team of 10 from Australia joined Dr Bernie Power on an expedition to a city in the Middle East. For 16 days they would explore, educate themselves and experience what God is doing among refugees. I felt privileged to be one of the 10. Over the New Year, the team flew out of Melbourne to see how the church is reaching out to assist refugees and share the good news. Many of the team went to learn more about the country, the region and Islam, and to begin a process of praying and seeking God about whether He would ask us, in the future, to move to the region for a season.
As I flew into the country and looked out at the desert and the now-dry streams, I thought of the words of Isaiah 41:18 and I imagined God pouring fresh rain in the desert and seeing all of those riverbeds flowing with water. Even more than that, I imagined God pouring out His love to the people of this land.
When we arrived at the church, Pastor Nihal* was so warm and welcoming and keen to share with us how they reach out to refugees and locals with the help of God. I was blown away by the faithfulness, passion and love of the local church members and the many international volunteers who work there. God certainly is pouring out His love through these people. The church meets families through registrations and gifts of practical household goods that open the door to people’s homes. They have also started a school for some of the refugee children who can participate in the soccer program. The adults can join English, computer or sewing classes and are visited fortnightly or monthly. The relationships that are established allow people, over time, to share the truth about Jesus.
The intensive English program that we ran as a team to five groups of refugees and locals was a stretch and a joy. Some ladies began to open up to us and share their stories over tea and biscuits after classes. We felt so encouraged when we were invited to the homes of two different students and were able to share with them and pray for them about their specific struggles. Both of the families we visited had fled Syria. We visited Fatima* who lives with her daughter Zahra* and youngest son Mohammad* while her husband, who had been sponsored to go to Austria with their oldest son, receives medical treatment for cancer. Changes in regulations have stopped Mohammad from travelling to Austria. Fatima chooses to stay with him in the Middle East, rather than leave him behind and go to Austria to be with her husband and other son. Challenges like this one and the daily struggle to cover bills are common within this group of refugees.
The most encouraging part of the journey was hearing testimonies from long-term volunteers. Some of the refugees have had dreams and visions through which God has spoken to them. In one instance a lady was visited by an angel in a dream to tell her that her son who had run away would return, which he did a few days later. Stories like this are a great reminder of just how much God loves these people and how He speaks to us in personal ways.
This trip stretched us, challenged us and showed us that God certainly is working in and through His people and pouring out His love in this seemingly dry and desperate place.
Anna was a member of the short-term team to the Middle East. If you would like to serve among people on the move, please visit interserve.org.au/onthemove
*Names have been changed.