Story Advocacy | 26 September 2022
Pastor Edward from Syria: "We didn’t feel left alone"

 

 
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The middle classes in Syria are now close to starvation.

Pastor Edward walks into his office where we’re already waiting for him with a cup of coffee and some Syrian sweets. Hospitality never stops in Syria. During all the years we supported the Syrian church to stand strong as a beacon of hope and to help the needy, pastor Edward is one of the amazing steadfast church leaders who mobilized his congregation to help. He is still doing so. He is tired, after 11 years of working hard.

 
Looking back on those years, including the seven of the Hope for the Middle East campaign, he uses words like challenging, scary, frustrating. “It’s a prolonged crisis, without seeing an end. We had positive and negative experiences. There were painful situations, people got killed, injured. On the other hand we experienced divine light amid darkness. The Lord was there. There were so many stories of divine protection.”

He is pastor of the Alliance Church in Damascus and head of the Alliance Church in Syria, one of the Centers of Hope in Syria. “We enjoyed peace [of heart] amid darkness. The church was bleeding, we lost over 60 per cent of our members; they left the country. It was so hard, many of them had positions in the church, the burden on the leadership of the church grew. We need new workers in our church.”

 ‘The Lord allows crisis in our lives because He offers at the same time huge purposes’

Although the crisis is far from over, he says, “When the storm is over and we look back, we will see how the hand of the Lord was moving. Some places were hit very hard, but the result was a great expansion of the Kingdom. God for example opened doors for the gospel. The Lord’s sovereignty allows crisis in our lives because He offers at the same time huge purposes. Yes, it is tough, the experiences are painful but, at the same time, the Lord has His divine project, we are somehow instruments in His hand to complete this project.”

He describes how the church tried to stand with the people. “The church has distributed relief items to the neediest. There were months with over a thousand packages. We brought love and care to the people in need in the name of Christ. The help has been very purposeful. We are the ambassadors of Christ in the country, we stayed with the message of light, where the embassies of the nations closed their doors. We gained a lot of respect from the whole community. People were touched by what we did as a church.”

“The situation in the country is worse than before. The economy collapsed. It’s the first time in our country the middle class is now close to starvation. They wait for a food parcel. It is so painful to see, that graduates from university wait for food. The people were waiting for the war to be over. And now, two years after the war is over in most areas, we don’t hear explosions and there is no more fighting [fighting continues only in the Idlib area and in the far north of the country where the Turkish army and its allies have occupied big areas]. We’re in a devastating situation in Syria, more people try to leave. Last week a family of our church left - very frustrating - this broke us.”

As said more than 60 per cent of the members of Edward’s church have left the country. “They were replaced with new members who find hope and peace in the church. But, of course, they are different. If feels as if we as a church adopted half of the family in one day. It takes time to train new leaders. In a sense this leads to fragmentation.

'I don’t promise a better future. I believe it is not so much about promises, but about trusting God's sovereignty'

“I preached during the crisis a lot about the promises of the Lord. People now say ‘these promises are only theories, they have nothing to do with real life.” He pauses, his eyes filled with emotion. “For me as a pastor it is a hard challenge. I’ve learned my lesson, I don’t promise a better future. I believe it is not so much about promises, but about trusting God's sovereignty and experiencing His presence. We need to focus on working out Gods purpose in our life.”

“Personally the pastor says he doesn’t struggle with that issue. My challenge is to experience that the hand of the Lord is with me. When I experience that, to me that is more than enough. That makes up for any other losses in life. When the hand of God is with me, I have everything.” He continues with a very personal story: “My wife and I, we sometimes feel we are close to burn out because of the many responsibilities. I must give credit to all our people who do the job, they are not working as employees, they have a calling to do what they do. If we didn’t have them, we never could have done what we did.”

On a personal level, Edward and his wife Rana had a hard time the past two years with so many travel restrictions in place. They couldn’t visit their children in the USA. He sighs a few times before he continues, tears filling his eyes. “The children were deeply concerned about us, that was very painful for us. We got a new baby granddaughter in the beginning of the covid crisis but we couldn’t visit her yet.”

Through the whole crisis, pastor Edward and his church felt supported by the worldwide Body of Christ. “We didn’t feel left alone. Through your support and prayers we really felt part of that one Body of Christ. The support made it possible to bring the light of Christ further, to meet the peoples’ needs. Thank you for your support. We have an excellent relationship with you, an old relationship that goes back to the days of the Iraqi refugees in Syria [2008-2010]. We appreciate this partnership. Thank you for example for supporting our medical clinic. We need the clinic more than ever as many people can’t afford medical services. You also support the rest of the Center of Hope and its activities.”

 
please pray
  • For God's grace and guidance to shine upon the Syrian church as they continue in serving God and His people through the ministries God has called them to do. 
  • For the Lord’s presence to be with them, giving power, hope, and peace.
  • For God's provision and favor upon the different ministries through churches to reach out to the community, not just in preaching and teaching, but also in helping the needy and touching the pain of the people. So we definitely appreciate the support and prayers of the church globally.
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Today, if you are able, will you make hope last – by strengthening the church to be a centre of hope? 

Every PHP 1,980 supplies vital food, winter clothing and blankets to a Christian in Syria this winter.

Every PHP 2,750 enables two vulnerable believers to access basic medical services.

Every PHP 3,575 provides trauma support and counselling to a believer attending a retreat.

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