The dangers and damages COVID-19 brings to the Middle East mark a desperate time in need of desperate measures – but there are only ordinary Christian workers undertaking overwhelming challenges.
Countries with pandemic-gutted economies are now even less equipped to receive refugees from war-ravaged Syria, but armed conflict and conditions worsened by COVID-19 continue to drive Syrians out. A Syrian refugee arrived at one country in the region having lost his sight after a missile blasted his home.
Local missionaries striving to meet growing needs came across him at the ministry’s aid distribution center. He and his wife said they had fled dangers from Islamic State (ISIS) militants.
“We visited them to check on their situation and added them to our food distribution program,” the ministry leader said. “Later on, they started coming to church and attending most of the meetings. One day after visiting them at home, they were very much touched by the Bible message, and the husband gave his life to Jesus. In his testimony he says, ‘I was blind before, but now because of the love of Christ, I can see.’”
Encouragement amid Despair
Such conversions, increasingly common in the region, hearten local missionaries who are overworked amid staffing shortages and risk exposure to a potentially deadly virus and its variants.
“More and more people are falling into poverty, there is the unresolved situation of refugees, a health sector that is already overstretched and completely weighed down by the COVID-19’s rapid spread, and all of this has brought nothing but grief, sadness and despair,” the leader of a local ministry said. “But we find what is most needed in the midst of all that is to present people with a hope that is ‘out of this world.’ This is our responsibility, this our calling and our mandate. We have done a lot, and there is still plenty to be done.”
In all the food distribution, health care and community development projects, local missionaries present the hope of Christ, he said. Besides delivering 100 boxes of food per month to nationals falling into poverty in their own country, local missionaries also mobilized church youths to pack and drop baskets of food on needy people’s doorsteps.
“People are hiding in their homes because of the coronavirus. They have been in lockdown for months – no jobs, no money and no food,” the ministry leader said. “Our church youth drop the baskets of food at their doorsteps, and the needy people are so thankful, with eyes full of tears.”
Local missionaries also distributed 10 kilograms of potatos to more than 550 needy families – from the ministry’s own fields, a harvest of six and a half tons of high-quality potatos, he said.
Medical needs are also mounting. With the help of volunteer doctors, dentists and other medical professionals, the native ministry provided free medicines, checkups, tests and x-rays to more than 2,500 people over a six-month stretch, the leader said.
“Several patients received hospital care, which led to life-saving interventions in some cases,” he said.
Community development outreaches included education for more than 400 students and literacy instruction for adults and children, as well as vocational training for young men and women to generate badly needed income. Many of the services provided to nationals were also provided to refugees as workers set up sites near their tent camps, the leader said.
Restoring dignity and honor to the needy through compassionate aid and community development projects, local missionaries have built relationships of trust as both nationals and refugees are assured that workers truly care for them. Workers have natural opportunities to share the message of Christ’s salvation.
“Already we have seen a considerable number of refugees come to Christ, and the bulk of our compassionate ministry is now being carried out by new, born-again Syrian refugees,” the leader said. “The opportunity is before us today to disciple those and others and equip them to take the ministry to another level, both nationally and eventually back to their country.”
As such, local missionaries are training leaders who then help to disciple others, he said.
Economic collapse and, in some countries, political instability, have brought grief to the hearts of many along with the darkness the pandemic has drawn over them, the leader said.
“It is during those most difficult times that we are more than ever reaching out to the people and helping them in any way whatsoever. Thus, this has created a revival in the hearts of many,” he said. “We have seen tens of new believers from different backgrounds coming to Christ lately. They have experienced the loving touch of Christ, and we are meeting regularly with them for discipleship, fellowship, prayer, encouragement, and worship.”
Local missionaries are providing aid, comfort and eternal life in Christ to needy people throughout the Middle East. Please consider a donation today to help them show Christ’s love.