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The worst and best of times

A Syrian family board a ferry traveling to Athens, at the port of Lesbos Island, Greece, an island of 100,000 residents that has been transformed by the sudden new population of some 20,000 refugees and migrants, mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, September 7, 2015 (Credit: AP Photo/Santi Palacios)It is the worst of times in the Middle East.

Consider the horrific, brutal stories of war and terrorism happening in that part of the world. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights counts a minimum of 250,000 killed, 2 million wounded, and 11 million displaced from their homes since the start of the Syrian Civil war in 2011.  The Gulf War and resulting turmoil in Iraq also killed hundreds of thousands. Tens of thousands more have died in "Arab Spring" conflicts in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and other countries.

It is the best of times in the Middle East.

These awful human tragedies are opening doors for many Muslim people to hear and experience the gospel for the first time.  "As terrible as the war is, we thank God for the war. If it were not for the war we would not have met Jesus." What an amazing statement from a former Muslim woman whose family fled their homeland in Syria.

One man named "Binyamin" *(name changed) was in charge of giving food packages to newly arriving refugee families. One day, as he finished giving out all the packages, the woman next in line realized there was no more food, and she began to weep. She pled for help for herself and her hungry children, sharing how she had to keep refusing men who offered her food in exchange for sex. Binyamin told her that, while he was out of food, he could pray for her in the name of Jesus. He told the story of how he had grown up as a Muslim but had become a disciple of Jesus. As soon as they finished praying his phone rang with an offer of more food packages. This refugee woman praised God for answering their prayers and began telling everybody she could about how Jesus answers prayer.

A few weeks later, this woman's husband— an Islamic fighter— showed up at Binyamin's door. He said, "I heard about how a Muslim that now follows Jesus prayed for my wife, defended her honor, and took care of my family. When I heard this, I thought about how I am in Syria killing people here in the name of religion but you are loving people in the name of Jesus.  The next three days I could not sleep, and then I kept having dreams of Jesus. I left the other fighters to come here to meet the man who loved my family and to learn about Jesus from you." Now this man has given his life to Jesus and has started a house church, sharing about Jesus with many others.

This same type of experience is being repeated hundreds and thousands of times, as Muslims realize that they do not want to be a part of a religion that has led to hate and violence. They see many Christians in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Germany, and other places helping and loving them and are shocked that their "enemies" would show such love to them.
They hear about a God who is not distant and unknowable, but close and personal. They are deeply touched when they realize God loves them so much that even though they were His enemies, He would become a sacrifice to reconcile them eternally (Romans 5:8). We can praise God that he is using these circumstances to bring many people to salvation.

Our response as followers of Jesus must be His way of love. Instead of fearing and hating Muslims, we need to love them. Jesus tells us: "But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you" (Luke 6:27-28).

How can you show kindness and love to a Muslim in your workplace or neighborhood? Here are some good ideas.  How can you help the widows and orphans in the Middle East? One great way is through the Syrian Circle where you can learn, pray, and act.



William Allen Crews has lived and served among and appreciated the warm hospitality of Muslim people for 25+ years. He has a great desire for his many Muslim friends and all Muslims to realize that Isa al Masih (Jesus the Messiah) is the Straight Path they seek everyday in their prayers.

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