They shot him nine times in the legs and torso.
Faraj* shows the ugly scars to prove it. A bullet in his knee can't be removed. His crime? He was a teacher in Syria; he spoke out publicly against the regime of Bashar al-Assad when anti-government protests began last year. Thousands have died for less -- on both sides -- in a civil war now reducing large parts of Syria to dust.
Faraj survived his wounds and escaped with his wife and five children to Jordan, where more than 250,000 Syrian refugees crowd towns and dirt-caked tents in desert camps along the border. The family occupies a few dingy rooms in one such town. Wet cardboard hangs from the leaky kitchen ceiling, where the night chill of oncoming winter seeps in. Faraj wants to work, but there are few jobs for Syrians in Jordan's already hard-pressed economy. No education, either -- many Syrian children have been out of school for nearly two years because of the war.
Faraj's 10-year-old daughter Aisha* sits beside him, bright-eyed and eager. She dreams of studying English, but remains at home while her father teaches her as best he can.
"Every day my daughter is crying to go to school, and no one listens to her," Faraj says. "Every day I go to the school near here, but they tell me to go away and they will call."
No call comes. The schools are full -- reflecting how Jordan is straining under the load of refugees fleeing regional conflicts from Iraq to Libya.
But Faraj has new hope. A Sunni Muslim, he was welcomed to the area by Jordanian Christians at a local church. They helped his family find shelter and brought them food, a fan and a refrigerator. And they treated him like a human being -- a friend, even. They also gave him a Bible, which he now reads with growing interest because of what it contains: truth.
"It doesn't lie," he says, with an expression of near-amazement. "And Christian people are honest. They don't lie. This is what interests me."
Could he ever forgive those who tried to kill him? "Yes, I might," he answers. "Because I am reading the Injil [New Testament] every day, and I am seeing many things in it about forgiveness, love and peace. These are things I want to have."
Someone Who Cares
More and more, such epiphanies are occurring among the overwhelmingly Muslim refugees streaming by the hundreds of thousands across Syria's borders into neighboring countries. Several million more have become wanderers in their own country as the war spreads. Terrified, exhausted and angry, they need the most basic necessities. But they also need someone who cares.
Many are mothers with children. Their husbands are fighting back home -- or dead.
"I see precious women who love their children just like I love my children," says Christine Andrews*, a Christian worker in Jordan. "Just think how you would feel if you had to leave your home in the middle of the night because someone was burning it down. You had to run with your children and escape with your life and the clothes on your back. You had to leave everything behind and you don't know what's going to be there when you get back. This is what a lot of these women are looking at. They don't know what their future holds. There's a lot of fear and anger -- and deep sadness. If we can give them Jesus and a relationship with the Lord who holds their future in His hands, that would give them hope."
Munif*, a Jordanian Christian pastor who initiated much of the refugee ministry now flourishing on the border, aims to do just that. As Syrian families began to crowd into his town and the surrounding villages last year looking for basic shelter, he and his congregation refused to look the other way.
They didn't have much to give, but "we couldn't see people in need and not act if we could do anything," he recounts. "This is our message as Christians, not just to stay inside the church, but to go to the people and help them -- and now there's a big chance."
The small-scale ministry began with aid to about 40 Syrian families but has grown into the hundreds as refugees continue to flood the area. Munif and his helpers -- who now include Christian workers and aid groups from Jordan and beyond -- visit families, deliver food and provide other necessities, such as diapers and personal hygiene items. As winter approaches, the need for blankets, carpets, gas heaters and warm clothes grows urgent.
The priority on visiting families where they live, however, serves a greater purpose than just distributing aid supplies. It expresses love.
"We have a lot of volunteers and teams helping these days, especially in the area of visiting people in their houses, sharing life with them, eating with them, drinking tea, listening to them, speaking to them, hugging them," Munif explains. "By this we respect and honor them."
Hospitality means everything in Arab culture, and being visited in their homes, however sparse those homes may be, gives traumatized Syrians "a sense of normalcy," says Josh Andrews*, a Christian worker actively involved in the ministry. "They're happy to make tea."
It also opens unseen doors into hearts and lives.
"We're having the opportunity to share the Gospel clearly, boldly, just about every time we go into a house," reports Jack Logan*, another worker in Jordan. "It's amazing. It takes a while for the veneer to go down ... but when you start to speak about Christ, get into the Word and ask, 'Can I tell you a story?' the answer is almost always an enthusiastic yes."
Josh Andrews adds: "We can't visit every family, but we're taking one day at a time and honoring God in our actions. We're praying this is God's time [for Syrians]. They're open to hear. How do we get God's Word into their heads? That's all we need to do. God does the rest. We're expecting to see people come to Christ, form groups and, when Syrians begin to go back into their country, take this message with them and grow it from the inside."
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: Baptist Press