The Syrian War’s toll of death and displacement has been horrific, but it has also opened new opportunities for the saving story of God’s redemption to spread.
Shumaila* watched as refugees stumbled down the dusty road into her hometown. Syria was on the horizon, and a stream of human misery and grief seemed to flow freely from those hazy, dry mountains. Most were women, sheathed in modest black burka or niqab, clutching the hands of their children. A few carried small bags. Most had nothing but the clothes on their backs and whatever remained of their families, daughters too young to be married and sons too young to be conscripted into the war.
Shumaila began gathering food and approaching some of the women. When was the last time they had eaten? Usually days, since they had started walking. Fears arose that the border between Jordan and Syria would be closed, cutting them off from family and possibly from returning when the fighting died down.
Little did they know this dislocation from home and often from family would be far longer than just a year or two.
The Syrian Civil War has been ongoing for the last 10 years, and the death toll and devastation has been catastrophic. Those most impacted are often women and children who already have limited human and civic rights. If their husband or male family members have been killed in the conflict, there are few resources available for them.
While facing this wave of sorrow and loss, Shumaila didn’t expect to experience her own.
Her husband suddenly announced that he was leaving her. He was moving to America, and he would not be supporting her. So many of the Syrian women had last seen their husband and brothers as they were loaded up into trucks and sent to the front lines; they didn’t know if the men were alive or dead. If any letters had been sent, those frail pieces of paper had been sent to hollow homes with dark windows staring out into the desert night. Shumaila knew life was fragile and uncertain, held together by God’s hands, but she hadn’t expected to lose her own husband. Not this way.
Still, God had called her to serve, and she would remain. She would continue to visit the widows of the civil war.
She came into contact with World Challenge’s team who offered to help her and the women she was ministering to. Funding came in for monthly food packets and baby formula, so neither they nor their children would go hungry.
The war stretched on and on. Some of the women had been in the town for years by this point. When the team asked Shumaila how they could help the refugees long-term, she had an idea for a community center, World Challenge sent support for them to rent a place for women to gather. This was becoming their home, and in the community center, Shumaila and volunteers taught classes on knitting and embroidery so the women could have goods to sell in the marketplace and a source of income.
As she sought to make a place for these women, they drew around her. Those who had also known loss and grief then grieved with her. They came to trust her, and a few began to trust the God who cared for her and them as they lived in the shadow of an uncertain future.
The mission field of Jordan, frankly anywhere in the Middle East, can be both challenging and dangerous.
When World Challenge’s regional director and coordinator visited Shumaila, she invited them around the community to meet some of the women who were part of the community center embroidery classes. These home visits helped the women feel less alone and also gave Shumaila opportunities to share about Jesus. While they were visiting one woman, our coordinator asked if she could pray for the woman and the troubles she was facing. The woman began to manifest an evil spirit, clearly tormented. Our coordinator took her aside to another room to pray over and ask that God would grant freedom and clarity to this soul.
In this land, spiritual oppression and resistance to the gospel can be fierce, and sometimes progress can seem to come very slowly. A few days ago, however, our director heard good news from Shumaila and her team. They were rejoicing because the same spiritually tormented woman had been set free by the Spirit and had come into a new relationship with Christ.
Across the hard stretch of their lives, God is stitching a story of redemption and restoration.
*Not real name. For our ministry partners’ security, we don’t release names or locations in highly sensitive areas.