Originally published in Charisma News
As the world watches Syria implode from a bloody and brutal civil war, missionaries are going to the front lines to try and bring comfort and healing to more than a million people who have escaped the fighting.
Many Syrian refugees are finding comfort in unlikely places. On a recent Saturday, more than 100 burqa-clad refugees filed into a church in northern Jordan for a two-day women’s conference.
It is a bit unusual to see so many Muslim women in church, but then these are unusual times in the Middle East and people are seeking comfort wherever it is offered.
The death and destruction in Syria is overwhelming. At least 80,000 people have been killed and 1 million have fled the country. Jordan is hosting almost half a million refugees and officials say that figure could double by the end of the year.
There is a mix of anger and sadness among these veiled women who have seen things no one should ever have to.
“There was an area beside us where they were abusing the girls and the women and killing their men,” refugee Oum Hassan said. “It was horrible. We had to leave.”
Most blame Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for their misery.
“I hope to go back to Syria and build again but we don’t want Bashar,” she said.
Nearly all who’ve escaped have a heart-breaking story. Sixteen-year-old Roba lost her father in the bloody civil war. She, her mother and younger siblings escaped to Jordan, but she misses her father and her country.
Today, at least for a few hours, they’ve been given relief from their pain.
“I feel like [here among the Christians] I’m with my family,” Roba said. “I feel better and I feel safe now.”
Washing the feet of Muslims
Missionaries from E3 Partners, based in Texas, invited them to hear about Jesus and even take part in a foot-washing ceremony.
As part of the mission team, this CBN News reporter took part as well. It was a moving experience and called to mind the words of Jesus in John, Chapter 13: “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (vv. 14-15, NIV).
For many, their feet have walked more than a 100 miles over desert, through gunfire, and under the cover of darkness to come to Jordan, where Christians are ministering the love of Jesus.
There were hugs, tears and smiles as differences in culture and religion seemed to vanish.
“Some had tears in their eyes even before they sat down,” JoAnn Doyle, with E3 Partners, said. “So we know they felt God’s love. Ultimately, we want them to know Jesus, not just as the prophet but as the savior.”
The women enjoyed a lunch of chicken and rice as their children played games and had their faces painted. Their sadness turned to joy as the day went on; many were profoundly moved by the experience.
“I thank God. It was difficult, but we found kind people like Christians helping us survive in Jordan,” another Syrian refugee said.
Loving the despised
No one knows how much longer the war will go on or if there will even be a Syria to go back to. Although Jordan has willingly opened its doors, not everyone here is happy about the refugees taking their jobs and housing.
E3 Partners Middle East Director Tom Doyle called it the worst humanitarian crisis in the Middle East in 20 years.
“The problem is overwhelming to the government,” Doyle said. “Remember, there’s still a war going on in Iraq and they have a lot of those refugees and a lot of Egyptians, too, so there’s been an opportunity to feed them, clothe them, reach out to them with Jesus’ love and they are seeing a difference.”
CBN News visited the ancient city of Jerash, part of the Decapolis mentioned in the Gospels where Jesus visited and did miracles. Today, in the modern city of Jerash, home to thousands of Sunni Muslims, Jesus is appearing again to many in dreams and visions.
“So they have a dream about Jesus, they see how Christians are treating them, and they can’t help but be drawn into Jesus,” JoAnn Doyle said.
“I think Christians ought to be known for their love. That’s the one word summary of the gospel,” Tom Doyle said. “Love is active and is going to reach out and show the people who Jesus was and in His life, which was even lived out and came in this area of the Decapolis.”
“He always went to the people that were despised, the ones that were the down and outers,” he continued. “The Syrians right now are very despised; the Sunni Muslims are being pushed out of the country. What better time for Jesus to show them His love for them?”
I (Wendy) was especially moved by Roba, who told me in perfect English, “I love you.” They were the only English words she knew.
Roba shared her food with me and on our last day, put a purple watch on my wrist that I know was dear to her. She listened, along with other Muslim women, to the story of Jesus dying on a cross so she can have eternal life.
Thanks to the love she received in Jordan she and many others are now open to a relationship with Jesus.