I've had a single word in my thoughts this morning, "Home"...
But it's not what you think. The usual warm fuzzy feelings that accompany my desire for home during the Christmas season have been replaced with a heaviness. It doesn't take much to trigger this sadness of the heart either. All I have to do is turn on the TV or open a news website. The world is hurting over a little country named Syria, a place many used to call home.
I've been overwhelmed with stories of families from Syria who have been forced to flee civil war, and more recently, persecution from ISIS terrorism. The world has not seen this type of refugee crisis since World War II. Over four million Syrians are registered with the UN as refugees. Another seven million have been categorized as IDPs or "internally displaced people," forced to leave their communities for remote parts of the country not yet under ISIS control.
Nearly half of Syria's entire population no longer has a place to call home.
Among them are our brothers and sisters in Christ, struggling to make sense of God's plan for their lives in the midst of this nightmare. Did you know that before the war erupted, an estimated 1.8 million Christians lived in Syria? The enemy is doing his best to eradicate those who remain and ensure that those who have fled sink in despair.
But is there anything we can do for our family in Christ?
I know I'm not alone in my burden for those displaced and homeless on the front lines. Many of you are hurting too. Facebook and other social media outlets are abuzz with strong opinions on whether or not America should open its borders, many expressing a desire to welcome refugees, while others stand opposed to the potential threats.
For now, the decision of homeland security rests far above the heads of most of us reading this letter. So the question remains..."What can we do right now?"
Last year, I was asking myself that same question. My wife and I were gathering with some local believers when our pastor paused in his message and asked us to pray with him over the ISIS genocide and the thousands of Christians facing horrific persecution. I found myself looking at the hundreds of bowed heads around me thinking,
"I work for a persecuted Christian ministry. If anyone in this room should be doing something, it's me! If this burden is from You, Lord, then I need You to open the doors wide."
Open the doors He has! It's amazing what a single prayer to join God's rescue story can activate. Through what can only be described as divine connections, long-time friends have surfaced in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and even deep inside Syria. The refugee crisis may have only just now reached the ears of the Western world, but these brave men and women have been offering aid and hope on the front-lines to displaced Syrian families for years.
I tell this story because I want you to recognize the unique opportunity we currently have in front of us. Most of our on-site partners operate covertly to avoid persecution. Their tactics allow them to go places other large organizations can't reach. But the down side is their stories are never told on a large scale. Resources remain sparse.
You can help change that!
Below are just two of our brave partners who have graciously invited us to share their work:
Paul has given his life to serve families who have sought refuge near the border of Syria. He and his small team find Christians who are isolated and provide food, living resources, and medical support. Though they risk great persecution and even prison, Paul's team cultivates small home church gatherings among the refugees, which focus on drawing Muslims to Jesus. Many have already given their lives to Christ.
Sami is a local pastor deep inside Syria who has taken up the call to aid and minister to more than 100 trapped Syrian families seeking refuge near his church. Every week, Sami provides aid parcels as well as hosts a worship service, tangible examples of Jesus's love and provision. Christians are finding hope, but many Muslims are also coming to the services and believing the Gospel message, proof that no darkness is as strong as the light of Christ.
We don't have to wait for refugees to show up on our shores. We can start helping our church family right now, right where they are, right where aid is needed most. Maybe you have prayed the same prayer I lifted up; "Lord, open the right doors so I can be involved." I hope this serves as an answer to those appeals.
The timing is urgent...the eight church plants Paul oversees are filled with those needing medical care and food.
The opportunity is unique...Sami is just one of 30 pastors inside Syria, their stories untold, the needs of desperate Christian families unmet.
The mission is underground...equipping these brave front-line partners covertly attacks the enemy right at his stronghold.
Need some additional encouragement to join the story? Well, a generous donor has offered a matching gift challenge up to $24,000 for those who want to get involved. That means every dollar you give this Christmas will be automatically doubled until we've reached the full amount.
Ready to live dangerously? Ask the Lord to "open the doors."
Ready to get involved today?...
The world may use the word "crisis," but I also believe what we are witnessing is an invitation. Friends, God is inviting us to provide food, clothing, medicine, discipleship, and best of all, a community of believers for persecuted Syrian families. Our friends on the ground are ready and waiting for the resources you can provide.
Until the enemy is defeated, our display of Jesus' love may be the only thing many can call "home." This Christmas, let's show our Syrian family in Christ just how big "home" can be!