Update from our partners serving Middle Eastern refugees in Europe.
Marwa is a Syrian woman we have befriended who began attending language classes in our center in 2015. She is a highly educated woman who belongs to a sect of Muslims that is a minority within a minority of sects of Islam. Her ethnic group is concentrated in a small region in Syria, a minority that is not appreciated by any of its neighbors. They have been caught in crossfire in the conflict in the Middle East. She lost some relatives before she had to flee the war zone, coming to Europe. She left a brother with a mortal chronic disease in the care of his son in Syria. The son was struggling to maintain the family business, the only source of income for his family with three young children; the youngest is 9 months old. In addition, he had to buy his freedom from the compulsory military service, paying some officials to delay his turn. Not long ago, his so called "friends" reported him to the authorities, who forced him into military service. His unit was stationed at the Al Shayrat airfield in western Syria. His first day in the service was the same day the United States launched 59 tomahawk missiles from two American destroyers stationed in the Eastern Mediterranean, destroying the military airfield. He was killed in the airstrike.
Marwa was devastated by the sudden loss of her nephew, and worried about the future of the rest of the family in Syria. She did not show up in her class for a few days; when one of our team members called to see why, we found out what happened. In that call, through her tears, she heard the first words of consolation, as she did not want to share with other Muslim women about her loss. She believed their bias against her ethnic group would not allow them to see her plight, but rather consider it justice from Allah for the unfaithful. Our team member reassured her, and asked her to join us in the center as soon as she could, so she would not be alone during this time.
To our surprise, the next day Marwa came with her husband to the center after class hours. She literally needed a shoulder to cry on, and trusted friends to whom she could vent her emotions. The visit extended for almost an hour. Words of consolation and truth from the Bible were shared and staff reminded her that God is love and it is man who chooses to act wickedly in the world. Despite her deep sorrow, Marwa heard that God is a redeemer and that he wants to take her grief and give her peace when she trusts in him.
Another team member who had just arrived the day before from a visit to the Middle East, brought with her a typical feast sweets made with Turkish Delight; she presented it with tea. As soon as Marwa tasted it she shouted at her husband, "Jalal, it is the dream I told you about this morning." Last night she was very sad when she went to sleep, but she had a dream that she was celebrating a feast with people she loved, and they were eating together sweets made with Turkish Delight.
War is a real thing for Marwa; a kind of reality that not many experience beyond reading headlines and watching televised news. But God's way of treating a hurting person is another reality that Marwa came to experience. For the last year, Marwa has been exploring with us new horizons of knowing who God is. She has attended many spiritual events in our center and church. She shared with us not long ago that in the Arabic church she learned for the first time that God can be her Father. She asked for a Bible and she reads it regularly. God is clearly working in her life.
When she left our center with her husband, they were different people; their faces told a different story. Instead of a story of loss and helplessness, there was a sense of anticipation and nearness to God.
Our staff spent a time of prayer and intercession for her and her family after she left. We continue to pray for her and her family—please, join us.
Names have been changed for security