Middle East church shares its heart with refugees

Aerial view of a refugee camp.

Christians often talk about “neighbors” almost in the abstract, in response to Jesus’ command to His followers to love their neighbors the same way they love themselves. For a Church of the Nazarene in Jordan, loving their neighbors is not just figurative or symbolic.

When the civil war began in Syria in 2011, refugees poured across the border. A refugee camp with nearly 80,000 people was established some miles away from the church Pastor Bahram* leads. Those with some money rented homes or rooms in the neighborhoods surrounding the church. By now, he says, more than 250,000 Syrians live near the church.

The congregation could not ignore the great need surrounding them. The church is open 24 hours a day so neighborhood women can wash their clothes in the church’s laundry room. In the next room, church members play the JESUS film and invite the women to watch while they wait for their clothes to wash and dry.

Volunteers also go out from the church.

“We started visiting the people, we started getting to know them more and more,” Bahram said. “We started helping them to fulfill some of the needs. Then the ministry is getting bigger and bigger.

“We’re helping now around 1,500 families. We started a school for them. We have 25 kids in the first level, which is KG1, and we have afternoon school from 1st grade to 6th grade. We have around 120 kids.”

The church has shown the JESUS film to more than 8,600 people — mostly children — and distributed Bibles and copies of the film.

After one such showing, the team asked a man if he would like to pray the prayer of repentance. He said, “Of course I want to do this,” and he also led his children in the prayer.

“When we wanted [to leave] his house, he said, ‘Can you write down this prayer? Because I want to keep praying this prayer.’”

Praying for miracles

Bahram and several volunteers once visited a woman whose daughter was traumatized by their experience of the war in Syria. At night the girl was too terrified to sleep and could not speak to anyone. After the group prayed for her, the woman called to say that her daughter was now speaking, playing with the other kids, and sleeping well.

A Syrian family that fled their country with their five daughters desperately wanted a son, so the church prayed for God to grant their desire. They became pregnant, and after nine months passed, the mother delivered a healthy baby boy. The church hosted a celebration for the family, and many other Syrian refugee families attended.

“An amazing thing happened,” Bahram said. “The mother and the father and the kids, they came in front of everyone. They gave me the boy, and said, ‘Pray for our son. We are going to surrender this boy for Jesus in the church.’”

When the team visited a man who had lost his leg in the Syrian war, they noticed that he had hundreds of DVDs in his house. He accepted a copy of the JESUS film for his collection, and a week later all the DVDs were gone except the JESUS film.

When they asked him what happened to his collection, he said that he threw away all his movies because he only wants to see the JESUS film each day. The man began asking questions, such as “What do you mean when you say Jesus is the ‘Son of God?’”

The man has accepted Christ as his savior. His family members later said to the team, “He’s like you. He talks like you, he acts like you. What did you do?”

Iraqi refugees plant churches

The church has added a ministry to Iraqi refugees who are primarily Christian. A number of the Iraqi families attend the church now, bringing their kids to the kindergarten. The church also hosts English classes for the adults.

Many of the Iraqis apply for and eventually receive visas to resettle in other countries, and Bahram hopes that wherever they go they will start more churches. The church tries to provide them with theological training and several of the Iraqi refugees are now pastors in Europe, including one who was not a believer until he fled to Jordan. His church in Europe has 30 people attending. His son, who resettled in a different city, started a church that now has 200 people attending, reportedly.

“These people were in the church; I trained them,” Bahram said. “I believe if we help these people now, when they go out they will be servants, also. They will have great ministries even greater than our ministries.”

Bahram said the needs of the refugees are immense. The church needs additional financial support to effectively assist the refugees and meet their needs. They also want their volunteers to receive training to counsel the people psychologically. Many have experienced emotional and psychological trauma.

To support the compassionate work of this and other local churches on the Church of the Nazarene's Eurasia Region who are ministering among refugees, click here.

--Church of the Nazarene Eurasia

*Name changed and some details omitted for security reasons

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