Syria (MNN) — Peace is still on the political agenda in Syria, following a cessation (a temporary pause of fighting) that entered the weekend surrounded by skepticism.
From Christian Aid Mission‘s Steve VanValkenberg comes a reminder of grace and eternal perspective.
“Even though in our minds we say it’s a great tragedy, still there’s a silver lining,” VanValkenberg states. “Many, many people within Syria are now finding the love of Jesus Christ.
“In the midst of the great crisis within Syria, you see God is still gracious to people.”
As explained here, one of the goals of the Syria cessation was to allow humanitarian aid to reach nearly 5 million Syrians who are in desperate need of help.
However, doubt that the cessation would hold remained high as military activity continued well into Friday evening.
In a press release issued last week, UN Special Adviser Jan Egeland observed that “active conflict in several areas…is preventing access…. The procedures are too cumbersome, and we are stopped at too many roadblocks.”
“The whole situation keeps going downhill,” VanValkenberg says. “[There’s] very little food, and they don’t have good water; they don’t have electricity, things like that.”
Deir ez-Zor “is the only location we cannot, as humanitarians, reach by a negotiated land access,” says Egeland. Approximately 200,000 people — mostly women and children — living under the ISIS-imposed siege in Deir Ezzor are experiencing severe water shortages and a total lack of electricity, the United Nations reports.
A large distribution of aid, organized by the World Food Program and delivered by air, reportedly wound up in the hands of ISIS.
As the five-year anniversary of Syria’s crisis approaches, peace talks don’t mean much to the 13.5 million people displaced within Syria and abroad. Most of them are trying to survive today; planning for tomorrow is a luxury they can’t afford.
“After five years of war, it keeps getting worse and worse… [there’s] a lot of great suffering inside of Syria, and that’s why people leave,” says VanValkenberg.
However, those who stay behind are seeing God move in mighty ways.
“These workers don’t have to stay there. They could easily get out, but they’re staying [in Syria] for a purpose, because they want to see a harvest.”
Grace in action
In a recent report, Christian Aid Mission shares testimonies of hope and healing sent by their partners on-the-ground:
The Lebanon-based director of the ministry in Syria said a team of 21 people faithfully serve predominantly Muslim communities in the embattled country at a time when the area is seeing unprecedented levels of people coming to faith in Christ.
“This year we have seriously lacked funding for all our Syrian ministries, and this weighs on me,” he said. “Because they don’t have the funds for transportation costs, they cannot travel to the villages or areas of ministry where they serve. They also plead for funds in order to take care of urgent medical costs or illnesses that come up. I hear a lot of desperation in their voices.”
One team member noticed a woman feeding an odd-looking substance to her 7-month-old baby during a church service and asked her what it was, he said. The mother began to weep, saying she had only yogurt diluted with water to feed her child.
“She explained that she didn’t have any money to feed her baby anymore,” he said. “Unfortunately, this sad story is very common in Syria right now; people are really struggling, and we often hear that there is simply not enough food.”
Another Syrian mother, identified only as Majida, went to God in prayer after her family ran out of food.
“She prayed, ‘Lord, I know You never let us down. We need food for our family,'” the director said. “As she was walking later that day, she found some money on the path in front of her. She was so pleased that God had answered her prayer in such a creative way that she started jumping up and down with joy.”
She rushed out to buy bread for her family, and when her neighbors asked where she had gotten the money, she replied, “It was sent to me from God.”
“They pressed her to tell them how that was possible, so she went on to share her faith and pray with them,” the director said.
Desperate Muslims in Syria who hear of miraculous healings are drawn to the Christian communities. A mother named Nivine brought her paralyzed, 2-year-old daughter to a meeting of one of the ministry teams for prayer. Wary of offending her, the area ministry leader warned her that they pray in the name of Jesus.
“Whatever it takes,” Nivine replied, in tears. “Just make her better!”
“Our ministry leader said, ‘When we pray, we pray to a living God,'” the ministry director said. “The team explained the gospel to her, and she accepted Christ. Nivine even started coming to the meetings along with her paralyzed daughter.”
The group continued to pray for the child in the following days.
“About two weeks later, when Nivine was worshiping during a meeting with her daughter next to her, Nivine looked beside her at her daughter and saw the girl smiling,” the director said. “Then she noticed that her hands were moving. Was this a dream? But her daughter continued to move. It was true — she was healed!”
Another mother, Aveen, along with her husband, Mohamad, and their seven children, are part of a church in an undisclosed town in Syria. Mohamad recently lost his job.
“They are weary of struggling through life,” the director said. “What surprises us most about this family is that Aveen and Mohamad both come from very fanatical Muslim families that wish to stone them to death, and yet they still fearlessly display their strong love for the Lord. Despite the difficulty of surviving without work and the threat of persecution, they have the courage and desire to share the Gospel with everyone around them.”
The accounts may seem unlikely; some may claim God doesn’t work that way. VanValkenberg offers a different perspective.
“[These are] people who have a very rich relationship with Jesus Christ because that’s all they have,” he states.
“We in the West have many things to meet our needs, but they have nothing.”
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