FROM THE DIRECTOR'S DESK

Just a Minute is Mike Burnard’s monthly column

OCTOBER 2017: WHEN SOWER AND REAPER MEETS

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This inspiration comes from the lips of heroes.

I am writing this from Lebanon, where we are meeting Christian leaders from different regions in Syria. They are not refugees. For seven years, they have faithfully served the people of their regions through deep despair, severe suffering and extreme sacrifice. There are no words to describe the conditions that millions faced, and are still facing, in cities like Aleppo, Homs, Damascus and Jaramana.

But the message we heard was not the one we expected. It was not by people who lamented and bemoaned the fact that they are victims in an unjust society. There was a contagious excitement among those we met. Without exception, the one message they all shared was simply: NOW IS THE TIME!

“Aleppo is God’s paradise,” one leader explained. “This is where souls are coming into the Kingdom and where sower and harvester meets today.” “There is a new Syria in God’s heart,” declared the other pastor. “God has a great plan for the Middle East and we experience that this is the ‘Golden Age’ for evangelism.”  “In the core of the pain exists hope,” shared another pastor from Aleppo. “The greater the pain, the greater the search for hope. This has made the Church the only legitimate solution to what people are searching for.”

In listening to testimony after testimony, we realised that the hardship and suffering in Syria not only prepared the soil for harvest but also prepared the souls of the harvesters. Seven years of war transformed the Church. One of the pastors from Homs shared the following ten lessons:

  1. We learned more about JUSTICE AND RIGHTEOUNSNESS. The war in Syria was never about who was right and wrong, but about justice and righteousness. This is what people seek, and this is what we offer.
  2. We learned more about PRAYER. Previously, we had learned how to pray, but during the past seven years we prayed.
  3. We learned more about GOD’S PROVISION. We learned that the key to experiencing God’s provision is to give away what you want to keep.
  4. We learned more about UNITY. We had to put our theological differences aside, which we had enjoyed when we had relative freedom. We knew that in order to survive, we would have to unite and work together.
  5. We learned more about MATURITY. There was a systematic work against the Church since the Arab Spring started and Christians were persecuted by rebels and the Islamic State, all at the same time. We were forced to shoot our roots deeper into God and the Church matured.
  6. We learned more about GROWTH. People are running to the Lord. Churches are overflowing. The harvest is ripe. The Church has gone from victim to victory, from hopeless to hope-givers. There is no doubt that the greatest revival ever in the Muslim world is currently taking place, and Syria is home to the biggest part of this revival.
  7. We learned more about GOD’S PROTECTION. We had nothing else to hold on to, so we memorised Scripture and would repeat it over and over. We also learned that if you have lost everything but you still have Jesus, you have enough.
  8. We learned more about PERSEVERANCE. We knew God was listening to our conversations. We knew God was watching our actions. We knew that God was waiting for our response. We had no option but to keep on, and to keep on keeping on.
  9. We learned more about DREAMING.  Vision is often born in blindness. A physically blind pastor from Jaramana shared how sickness brought blindness, but his blindness produced new visions from the Lord and new activities in the community. We stood amazed at the visionary leadership of the Syrian Church: water projects, medical programmes, food schemes, and outreach to Muslims, youth, children, elders and communities with the Gospel. There was no doubt that the death and destruction of seven years of war did not result in death of vision.
  10. We learned more about LOVE. We work day and night among the refugees and continually ask the Lord what we should do. The answer is always the same: “LOVE THEM.”

We closed our meetings with the obvious question: “Where did you get the strength to continue?”

The answer was gratifying: “Your prayers sustained us.”

Thank you once again for being instrumental in introducing the sower to the harvester, and for sharing in the fruit of their obedience and His faithfulness.

 

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