Monday, 09 March 2020 10:45

A closer look at the pulse of the times—the voice of the Middle East

Written by  Pastor Maymie Lau
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Imagine asking a fish, “What do you think about these waters you live in?” If it could respond, I think it would say, “What’s water?”

Fish don’t consider the water because that’s just the world they’re in. And when you’re just in it, you don’t think about it, until the fish jumps out of it. They you start to notice it.

In 2016, the Lord took us out from familiar waters and brought us to new waters – Middle East.

Through the gates of Lebanon, our Lord opened door after door for us – connecting with the local Lebanese churches there, sponsorship of the Syrian families, and ultimately bridging the gap for us to do both local PEACE and global PEACE together serving the Arabic community both in Toronto and in Middle East.

In Lebanon, we saw how strategic this place is as it is one of the very few countries that allow Christian events and trainings to be publicly held. Lebanon thus becomes the hub for church planters, pastors, and workers from neighboring countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria…etc.) to travel to receive further training. We are thankful that the Lord has given RHCCC the opportunity to partner with the Holy Spirit Church in Beirut to build a Mission Base Centre for the refugees.

In 2018, God opened the door for us to enter into Syria. We went to Damascus, Homs, and some of the neighboring cities. Even though many there would tell us the war has come to an end, and certain levels of stability have returned to the land, we see vividly the marks the war has left behind. Since the beginning of the war, Western countries have imposed sanctions on Syria since 2011, the results have hit hard on the country and it’s often the citizens that suffer most. Once an oil exporter, Syria now relies on imports, and higher fuel costs caused by the sanctions have pushed up prices in nearly every sector. The currency lost a third of its value in 2019 alone, and  eight out of ten Syrians live below the poverty line, making less than $100 a month, according to the U.N.

This has created a lot of pressure on the Syrian churches across all denominations. Churches have experienced decreased attendance of 70% in general.  Pastors are not only faced with much less offering but also increased burden to care for the remaining 30% congregation plus needs of the community. We have met many pastors from different cities in Syria and they all tell of the same anguish and destitutions. One of the pastors we have built relationship with is Pastor Emil. Pastor Emil had the opportunity to flee the country with his family during the war. He even thought of sending his children to another country while he and his wife stay to care for the flock. The children refused to go and at the end the whole family stayed even though the hardships were great.

I had the opportunity to ride in Pastor Emil’s ministry car which he uses to travel between cities to pastor the different congregations. One may think it is the remains of a damaged car from the destructions of the war. Nothing on the dashboard works, the doors on the right cannot open from the inside, and there’s a big hole on the front passenger side of which he covers with a cardboard so that water from the streets will not spill in. Due to the sanction, a new car would cost 5-6 times the amount we pay here in N. America, and even the second/third hand cars are 3 -4 times the amount our price here. Such are the conditions the Syrian pastors live under. My heart goes out to all of them.

In 2019, a team of four from RHCCC visited Syria again in November. One of the key purpose of this trip was to attend a Prayer Conference where pastors and ministry workers from over 25 nations would gather together to intercede for the land. We would also travel to different Syrian sites and intercede on premise there. One of the locations we visited was a Christian town called Maaloula - it's one of the few places on earth where Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ, is still spoken. This town was occupied by terrorists and liberated by the Syrian government forces. The believers there shared with us the dreadful stories of what happened to them (especially the women) when the terrorists took over.  In Maaloula, there’s a hotel that was once conquered by the jihadists. The hotel now is in ruins. As we walked through the wreckage of what used to be the hotel lobby and individual guest rooms, we could sense and picture the wickedness of what took place here. Indeed, there was great evil.

One afternoon, about 30 of us from different nations gathered at The House of Saint Ananias.

This Chapel is an ancient underground structure right in the heart of the old city in Damascus, Syria, that is said to be the remains of the home of Ananias of Damascus, where Ananias baptized Saul (who became Paul the Apostle). The building is at the end of the Street Called Straight (Acts 9:11).  In there, we felt a special holiness of the place – this is where Ananias and Paul met, this is where global missions began. Paul’s mandate was to share the good news of Jesus to the nations. And now, 2000 years later, the fruits of these nations have returned to this place where it all started. We – the fruits of the nations – have come back to testify the power of the Gospel and the faithfulness of our Lord Jesus. This is only a foretaste of what will come – we look forward to that day when ALL the nations will gather in Jerusalem at the mountain of the Lord’s temple to worship Jesus as Lord!

Indeed, Jesus is coming back soon. Our God is faithful and His missional heart is that He does not want even one to perish. God is at work and many pastors and missionaries have shared with us testimonies of multitudes of Muslims coming to faith in Christ. In Syria, due to the war, though many remain as cultural Muslims, their hearts are open and searching for the true God. The House of Islam is emptying and we are seeing the global harvest of souls in Middle East unfolding right before our eyes. Yes, darkness still roams in the land, and the cries of those in need are great. But our God reigns above all. The believers of Maaloula - they are the symbol of endurance. Pastor Emil and his family – they represent the Syrian pastors who are faithful even until death. The worship of the nations at the Ananias Chapel – it is the heavenly echo of what is to come soon.

God has brought us to new waters for a special purpose. He shows us the work of His hands amongst the Muslim world and reveals His heart for the salvation towards the sons and daughters of Ishmael. This is the time – for us Canadian churches to stand with the persecuted churches in the Middle East. This is the time for us to awaken to the heavenly rhythm that foreruns Jesus’ re-entrance to the world. The time is ripe.

(Mission Pastor of RHCCC)

Last modified on Monday, 09 March 2020 10:52

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