Have you ever experienced a good Oklahoma thunderstorm? I’ve lived all over the U.S. and different parts of the world, but I’ve never experienced anything like the thunderstorms here. Each clap of thunder reverberates through the house and in your chest. It’s like a mini earthquake with pyrotechnics (the flash of lightening before each rumble) and a short stint at a concert when you’re right next to the speaker and the drums are booming.
My three-year-old is terrified of thunder. Last week we had a line of storms roll through, and one night before 10 p.m., I heard him screaming in fear from his bed as the thunder boomed outside. Upstairs I gathered his trembling body into my lap. His little hands were pinned to his ears as he tried to keep the noise out, his eyes squeezed shut and pouring tears.
I held him tightly while we listened to the storm spend its strength and move past us. I knew we were safe, but he didn’t feel safe. As we sat there, a tangle of mother and son limbs, I thought of my brothers and sisters in Syria right now. They are reliving similar frightening middle-of-the-night moments, but not because of thunderstorms. Their children are frightened by the sound of bombs in the night.
When those parents rush to comfort their children, they don’t know if they’ll be safe. They don’t know if the next bomb will hit their apartment, as it did to the apartment of one Christian woman a few days ago. They don’t know if the sound of gunfire outside means that Sunni militants will burst through their door momentarily.
This is a daily reality for our brothers and sisters there. They could leave and find their way to refugee camps as so many have. But for many, the choice to stay is a conscience one. They know if they leave, Christ’s living witness will be gone from Syria. Our friends and contacts inside the country say the chaos and heartache of the war is drawing many people to him, especially Muslims. Churches are doubling and tripling their services.
Still, as they are seeing great spiritual fruit, it’s not an easy life inside Syria these days. One contact reported that they’d been without water for 14 days in his city. That meant no water for washing clothes or bathing, and long lines of 2-3 hours to fill up as many containers as they can carry. But they stay, even though leaving would be much easier in many ways.
Tonight when I tuck my 3-year-old in bed, I know he’ll be safe, and I hope he’ll sleep peacefully through the night. My Syrian brothers and sisters may not, so as I wipe down counters and wash dishes, I’ll be lifting them up in prayer. And if they can choose to stay in a war zone where Christians are being targeted for their faith, I can choose to be a little bolder in talking about my faith with my neighbor and the other moms at preschool.
Dory P. has worked with VOM for seven years. She grew up in Ecuador, met her husband while working with another mission organization, and now lives in Oklahoma. Between Dory, her husband, three-year-old son and infant daughter, the family shares seven passports. Dory helps tell the stories of the persecuted through VOM's newsletter, and her husband serves with VOM's international department.