USA (MNN) — They gather each week in the Food for the Hungry offices, ready to pray together and share stories from the field. For the staff of the ministry that works to end all forms of human poverty in more than 20 countries around the world, each story is a testimony of the impact of a tangible Gospel. And for many Food for the Hungry staffers, the stories are personal testimonies of life change as well.
“It was November of 2016,” shares ‘H’, who has seen the transformational work of Food for the Hungry in a number of countries. Her story is of a recent trip to Jordan to assess the trauma needs of refugee families. While Jordan is not an area currently served by Food for the Hungry, her words resonate with those who work with refugees in Lebanon and other parts of the world. “Our first day out in the field was spent meeting families that were helped and were safe and were doing well, considering what they had been through.”
A woman, her husband, and their two children were at the first house visited by H and the team. They were Christians from Mosul. “She told us how her father had died,” reflects H. “Her dad was a guard at the local church in Mosul. The pastor had been beheaded by local insurgents, and his response was, ‘I have to make sure the church is safe and protected. We’ll go when it’s time, but if I die for Christ, then it’s my honor.’”
For the woman who was raised in the church but didn’t profess faith in Christ, her father’s convictions were confusing, and his death was heartbreaking. Rebels had shot him, and then threatened to blow up his body if anyone tried to remove it from the church property.
The loss of a father was followed by the sudden death of a grief-stricken mother, leaving the family in a state of shock as they fled Mosul. They first hid away in a secluded location next to a graveyard, and then crossed into Jordan.
“It was in Jordan where the woman met a local church pastor,” H continues. “He came to her aid and was able to assist her with counseling. He also had other people from the church visit her and her family. The woman had tried to commit suicide, she had lost all hope, she was in complete despair – but she would say, ‘I felt like God didn’t want me to die. It seems as though He sent Jesus to comfort me.’
“She came to know the Lord through a letter that was written by someone from the church. She actually wrote a prayer in the letter, and the woman remembered the word ‘salvation’, and then she knew she needed Jesus as a savior. Now her story has hope. She and her family live in a two-room concrete apartment where all the supplies are brought in by the local church. It’s not legal to work in Jordan, so they live with their basic needs being met through the local church.”
The second family visited by H and the team was also being cared for by the local church. “The difference in this family is that they were Muslims from Syria. They had so much joy, and they didn’t spend a lot of time telling us the story of leaving Syria. But they told us the story of how they came to know Jesus – how He came to them in dreams. One woman said as she patted her hand on the sofa, ‘I had a dream and Jesus came to me and He was comforting me. He was sitting right here on this sofa and He was comforting me.’”
The woman didn’t understand what the comfort meant, and a local pastor introduced her to the Bible, and she embraced the love of Jesus. Another woman also dreamt that Jesus was holding her and her child to protect them, saying to her, “You are my daughter.”
The tone of the trip was decidedly different when H and her team traveled north for their next family visit. Her voice softens as she shares, “There was so much despair, the weight in the room was so heavy. The father’s tears were inconsolable.”
The family had come from Syria, and thought they had found safety in the borders of Jordan. They were staying in a building called a caravan – simple rooms with no indoor plumbing. All but one child perished in a fire there. The father, mother, and their 15-year old son then moved to a refugee camp, where the son met and married a young woman. The family has now left the camp, and struggles to survive. In December, food rations provided by the UN ceased, so the burden has fallen on the local church to provide support for refugee families.
But even in what seemed to be a desperate situation, hope is rising. H says, “The good news for the 18-year-old girl is there’s a community center that’s been established by NGOs and the local church where she’ll be able to go learn to sew, to read, to hear the stories of other women.”
H’s personal passion to care is a reflection of Food for the Hungry’s mission. “That’s Jesus’ call for us – to love the foreigner, the orphan, the widow. I do feel a sense of urgency to get them what they need. The church is trying hard to get out blankets and heaters and food supplies. To have child-friendly spaces and to have resources available for the local church to help minister to these refugee kids who are acting out trauma is helpful.
“The greatest need right now is winterization. Where Food for the Hungry is working in Lebanon, there are stories just like these. The families have crossed over a mountain range where there is now snow. It gets below freezing, and people are living in tents and things created out of tarps. The basic need right now is food and shelter and warmth.”
There are many ways to help those on the front lines, and Food for the Hungry offers opportunities to donate time, talent, and resources. And H asks that prayer remain a priority.
“Pray for comfort, pray for warmth, pray for resilient spirits, pray for healed heart and minds, pray that the Lord would reveal Himself through dreams and through the kindness of His people.
“Pray for strength in the local church. Pray that the Lord would give them supernatural ability, and also for those who are providing care directly through social and emotional support as well as tangible needs. Pray for the front-line people, that they would have a place to turn, that they would find a safe place to fall in the arms of Jesus. As they take in the grief and the loss of the refugees, they suffer alongside of them. So pray for the hearts of those serving, that they would be comforted as well.”