Nine years of ongoing war have in Syria have led to the biggest refugee crisis of modern times. The country is reeling, and no area of daily life has escaped unscathed. Mina Awny, Presenter of Family of Jesus on SAT-7 KIDS, travelled to Syria in an attempt to bring some hope to children still living there.
Mina (pictured, left), along with his wife and two ministry partners, visited Daraa and Suwayda, two cities in the south-west of Syria. “Despite hearing and reading a lot about the situation in the news, I wasn’t prepared for what I saw.” Mina shares. “We commuted by car between the Syrian provinces, and along the way all we could see were deserted roads and destroyed buildings.”
A WARM WELCOME IN A COLD PLACE
“As we entered Daraa, it felt gloomy. The city looked destroyed and smelled of death. There were remnants of burnt places and bodies buried in shallow grounds. Many shops and houses were abandoned, covered in holes from missile strikes.”
Armed conflicts ravaged the city back in 2011 when fighting broke out there. Many civilians witnessed bloodshed in the streets outside their homes. Despite the horrors of their recent history, Christians in Daraa have not lost their welcoming spirit. Mina remembers, “there were smiles of joy on the faces of the Syrian Christians who received us in their homes and churches.”
Many communities feel forgotten in their despair. Mina shares, “[they] feel isolated and unreached. They crave for visits like ours to their churches. They pleaded with us to stay longer because these visits give them hope to continue living. They yearn for even a short time of praise and worship together.”
There were tears flowing as Christians told Mina’s group about the conflicts they had witnessed. But, as Mina explains, “in the middle of all their distress they never lost their faith. They trust that God protects them.”
CHURCH STRUGGLES AND SURPRISES
Challenges abound for the Syrian Church, but there remain glimmers of light and stories of hope. Mina recalls, “One church we visited is now without a pastor, as the previous pastor fled during the conflicts.” But these Christians, quite wonderfully, have continued to “take care of the church and keep it open for the Christians living there”.
Mina also heard stories of “thousands of believers returning to Christ during the Syrian war”. Another Syrian church were experiencing a problem that many churches dream of facing: too many new Christians! “Due to the influx of non-Christians accepting the Christian faith, tensions erupted between the new believers and the first generation Christians, leading many church pastors to despair. Some pastors abandoned their churches completely, unable to cope with the changes.”
“WE FELT A DEEP THIRST”
Mina recalls that on a previous trip to Syria several churches were “overflowing with children thirsty for the word of God and full of hope and faith”. This time, Mina saw more destruction and felt a heavier atmosphere. “The church needs our prayers and help to survive in this tumultuous region.”
Psalm 34:18 (NIV) says, “the LORD is close to the broken-hearted”, and the SAT-7 KIDS team seeks to be the same. “Our ministry is compassionate about children,” Mina says. “We serve children through SAT-7 KIDS’ programme Family of Jesus. We visit children all over Egypt, and we try to reach out to children in other countries in the Middle East.
“In all those places we felt a deep thirst in the children and families for a message of hope from Jesus Christ.”
- Pray for God’s blessing on Mina Awny and his ministry as he presents Family of Jesus and reaches out to children in the Middle East.
- Lift to God the city of Daraa. Pray for peace there, and for the protection and healing of its residents.
- Pray that Syrian Christians would know the fatherly heart of God and be comforted by His love. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.” (Psalm 103:13, NIV)
- Pray that God would raise up influential Syrian Christians who can work for peace and security in the nation.
- Thank God for the spiritual thirst that remains in Syrian Christian communities.