Middle East: Rest in Christ

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” --Matthew 11:28-30

Today we headed to the south of the country for our final day of ministry.  In our morning devotion we studied and prayed Ephesians 6:10-18, focusing on the armor of God. Our job in the morning was to assist our partners with food distribution to Syrian refugees; most who have been displaced by the war that has been raging in Syria since 2011. A war that has already claimed 171,000+ lives. The women of the team spent the morning praying for the women who were waiting in line for food distribution. They heard many stories of heartache. They prayed with widows, and they prayed for sons and family members left behind in Syria, either in prison or not heard from. They prayed for women with serious medical conditions; conditions that could be treated if they had money, or access to adequate health care. It was a privilege for the ladies to pray for these women in need, to show them love and affection, to hold their children and bond as women.

While the women on our team ministered through prayer the men ministered through labor. When we arrived at the distribution center a large crowd of people was already waiting.  It was our job to carry the food packages (weighing just over 50 lbs.) for the women, the elderly, and the infirm. As we carried those heavy packs through the throng of people in the blazing heat, our shoulders aching from the exertion, it occurred to us that these refugees labor under another burden as well. They labor under the burden of earning their salvation. They labor under the burden of following the tenets of Islam correctly, and doing more right then wrong. And then maybe Allah will choose to show them mercy.  ow thankful we are that Jesus offers "rest for our souls".  How thankful we are that Jesus invites those who labor to come to Him.  And how thankful we are that Jesus took the burden of our salvation upon Himself when He died on the cross for our sins. And how thankful we are that we are now clothed in the righteousness of Christ! Would you join us in praying for the 350 families that received a food package today? Would you pray that these people, who have suffered so much already, would hunger and thirst for Jesus Christ who is the Bread and Water of Life?

In the afternoon our team split up to visit two families. One family receives assistance from our ministry partners because the husband is blind and unable to work. Our team was able to hear their story and Stephen boldly shared the Gospel with them. Although they chose not to follow Christ our interpreter told us they were very close to believing. When we asked them what we could pray for they told us they had all they needed. They live in a tent, but they told us that the food package they receive monthly is enough.  What a reminder that in America we have an abundance that many in the world could hardly fathom.  Let us not get complacent in that abundance and forget the very real physical and spiritual needs that exist throughout the world in general, and the Middle East in particular.  Would you pray that this sweet family would choose to follow Jesus Christ in faith and obedience, and that God would continue to provide for their needs?

A smaller group of men had the privilege of meeting with a Syrian man who had recently chosen to follow Christ. This man, AK, had an amazing story.  He was a fighter in the Syrian conflict. He has spent time in prison, surviving beatings and solitary confinement. God was working on his heart, drawing AK nearer to Him. AK started to become dissatisfied with Islam.  He witnessed atrocities committed by Muslims against fellow Muslims. When his family fled Syria months before he did the only organization that would help him is the ministry we are partnered with. The fact that a Christian organization was the only group of people helping his family spoke loudly to AK and made him more receptive to the Gospel. When he finally arrived he met with our ministry partners who shared the Gospel with him and AK chose to believe. Of course, his decision was not without consequence. Since he had made his decision to follow Christ he has been persecuted by his extended family and neighbors.  He is thirsty to learn and had a joyful countenance. We encouraged him with Scripture and Brian shared his testimony.  We closed our time by laying hands on him, praying bold, intercessory prayers and read Ephesians 3:14-21:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Would you join us in praying that prayer for this new believer and his pregnant wife and three beautiful children?  Would you pray that for our ministry partners, Arab Christians who labor daily on the front lines with compassion and mercy?  And would you ask how God can use you, your gifts, your talents, your time, your resources, your service, and your testimony to take the Gospel to the nations?

Tomorrow is our last day in country as we do some traveling and shopping.  We have all been changed by our experience in this country and cannot wait to share what we have learned with family and friends.  We have grown as a team and benefited from the fellowship, the prayer, the likemindedness, and the love we have for each other, our partners and this country.  Please pray that we spend our final day "spurring one another on towards love and good deeds" as we enjoy a day of relaxation.  Pray for a safe flight home, and pray that we would be forever changed by what we have seen and experienced on this trip.  Thank you for faithfully joining us in prayer!

Chris