August 30, 2013
When I prepare to conduct a radio interview on behalf of VOM I often type up “talking points” of the major information I want to share, to help me speak clearly on behalf of the persecuted church and the Christians that VOM serves around the world.
Yesterday I did a live interview on Moody Radio’s program, “In the Market with Janet Parshall.” The focus of the interview was to share about a recent trip to Turkey I took for VOM. Among those we met with and interviewed on the trip were Christians from Syria. (You can listen to the full interview here; my portion starts at about the 25:00 mark.)
In light of all of the media attention on Syria right now, I thought Persecution Blog readers might be interested to read some of my talking points about what we learned interviewing Syrian Christians during the trip.
Our team met with two Syrian Christians, one still working in Syria and one currently displaced and working among Syrians in Turkey. Some points from what we learned about Syria and the church there:
- God is at work. One of our contacts told us about an area in Syria where 18 months ago there were only 12-13 Christians. Today, there are more than 70 Christian FAMILIES! As has happened in other areas (Iran, Egypt), people are seeing the true face of Islam and it is generating a real openness for the things of Christ.
- We also heard reports of growth in the church among the Kurds.
- God is using miracles to bring people to Christ. This was a repeated theme of stories from Syria. One man was healed of cancer and came to Christ. A woman who’d been paralyzed for 10 YEARS after a stroke was healed and came to Christ.
- There is persecution…especially from within families. Right now new converts from Islam are most worried about how their families will respond. That is where the first line of persecution is happening. Many times Syrian Christians will not tell their families—at least for a while—and many don’t meet with other believers because of the risk of their families finding out.
- But..it’s also happening from the authorities. One pastor who lives in a government-controlled area said he gets called to the police station EVERY WEEK for a “meeting” where they question him about his activities, about his churches and about Muslim converts.
- Syrians are fleeing to the surrounding countries. We visited one Turkish city where we were told that tens of thousands of Syrians had come in the past 6-8 months. We also saw a refugee camp where Syrians are housed in Turkey. Interestingly, they separate Christians from Muslims in the camps, or at least in the one we saw.
- The hardship of just living in Syria right now is amazing. One of our contacts said he has electricity only three hours a day…and that is pretty good! There is almost no medicine available. The roads are cluttered with check points…we were told of one 60-KM stretch of road where there were 23 check points…manned by different groups with different priorities and different objectives. So having the permission of one group to travel might not matter at the next check point…and might even get you killed. Just driving from one place to another is a dangerous endeavor.
Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Syria, and pray for VOM international staff as they seek to support and bless the church there in spite of the danger and the upheaval.
Todd Nettleton has served the persecuted church and VOM 15 years. He has been interviewed more than 1900 times by various media outlets. He's the author of Restricted Nations: North Korea, and served on the writing team for FOXE, Extreme Devotion, Hearts of Fire and other VOM books.