By Claire Evans
01/09/2018 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – For years, Syrian Christians had been praying for a revival. “But never did we imagine it would come because of war,” said one church leader. Seven years of civil war has left Syria in ruins. Many of those who came from Christian families left early on in the war, a cause of great despair as church leaders watched their congregants slowly disappear.
As their country was slowly reduced to rubble, pastors did their best to help those in need. Many churches offered donated clothes and food packages to anyone who came to their doorstep in need of assistance. As time went on, the unexpected started happening. Muslims who came to churches for aid continued to sit in the pews, and they had many questions about Christianity. Hungry for the Gospel, many began to convert. A revival had arrived among Syrians.
Like many other Muslim-background believers, Kalia had come to church looking for aid. She said, “We were given aid and prayers. [At first], I rejected the prayers. But later I wondered, how do Christians pray? So, I came again, with my sister, this time just to see.”
Kalia’s conversion story is a remarkable one of God’s grace. Her family was comprised of shepherds living near Raqqa, her husband a “terrifying man from an extremist area” according to one eyewitness. They only fled when other armed groups, seeking to retake Raqqa from ISIS, began roaming the countryside. As they watched the groups kidnap women and conscript men, Kalia’s family knew they had no choice but to flee. After moving from place to place, the family finally made it to Lebanon. Desperate for help, Kalia started attending church and in time would convert to Christianity.
Like many female Muslim-background believers, her husband responded with physical violence. But later, a serious illness left him on the verge of death, and the prayers of the church led to his healing as well as to the rest of the family’s conversion. Their son-in-law, who was studying Islam in Saudi Arabia, came to Lebanon to convict them of apostasy. Instead, he heard the Gospel and came to know Christ. Later, Kalia would say, “When we accepted Jesus, we knew that God had been working for us to meet him. He was talking to us, but we did not know.” If it were not for the civil war, they would never have been exposed to the Gospel.
Before the war, there were many nominal Christians who had, as time went on, stopped going to church. But like their Muslim neighbors, they too sought out churches in order to receive aid. One such individual was a young man named Joseph. His family was made up of Orthodox Christians, but they had never heard the Gospel before the war nor did they regularly attend church.
But one day, armed forces came to their village. His family was specifically targeted by the soldiers and his father was gunned down at their doorstep. Joseph, his mother, and his younger brother were forced to flee the village in order to save their lives. They arrived in Damascus, homeless and in complete poverty. They went to a local church for help and, as they received aid, heard worship music playing from the sanctuary. For the first time, they heard the Gospel.
Today, the trauma of his father’s death has left Joseph unable to speak directly of the incident. But his face shines through the tears when he thinks of God’s grace throughout this experience. “God is so good, I am so thankful,” he whispers, his words full of emotion and conviction.
For another family of Muslim-background believers, they came to know Christ because a stranger took interest in their welfare. Ali and Haya had fled Ghouta, Syria and came to Lebanon, only to be enslaved by their Shi’ite landowner. “He made us pick crops, but when we tried to leave he stopped us at gunpoint. Shortly after, my husband looked up in the sky and saw the shape of the cross in the clouds,” said Haya. It was foreshadowing of things to come.
The stranger, who was a Christian, discovered the harsh and dangerous conditions of their enslavement, and helped them escape. By showing them the love of Christ, they became interested in the Gospel. Today, they host a house church for Syrian refugees who are Muslim-background believers and help disciple those who are newly converted.
Without a doubt, the Syrian civil war has left a terrible impact on the country. The ruins lining the streets are a metaphorical image of how the conflict has completely transformed the lives of all Syrians. However, as these stories illustrate, the transformation within the hearts of so many Syrians is something quite different. Their joy at their salvation stands in stark contrast to the rubble that now lines the streets of Syria. Without a doubt, God has answered the Church’s prayer by bringing revival among Syrians.