As a network of churches we are committed to the training and sending of people to plant churches in the Middle East. This includes Turkey, Central Asia and Arab nations. Andy Martin, based in Birmingham helps bring oversight to this work.
‘We are sitting on cushions on the floor, three stories up in an apartment block in a crowded and poor district of a city in the Middle East. Our hosts are refugees from Syria. They fled their homes only with what they could carry. Each of them are mourning the death of family members or friends, and some are waiting and hoping that relatives will be able to escape and join them.
We are guests at their homegroup where, as new believers in Jesus, they take it in turns to read the same story from one of the gospels, repetition aids memory, and then they tell each other what they have learnt. Following this we share a generous meal. Their hospitality is amazing, but this is the Middle East after all, where you receive guests as if they are lifetime friends despite the language barriers.
I saw three things that day in a new way.
Jesus is working in the darkest of situations in remarkable ways.
One lady told us that Mary, the mother of Jesus appeared to her in a dream and asked her to look for her son as she could not find him. In the dream the lady went looking for Mary's son and went through a border crossing into a new country which is where she found Jesus. A few weeks later when she was fleeing Syria she came to the border crossing she had seen in the dream and in that moment she knew that she needed to find Jesus in that new land - she did and she told us that now all her family are believers.
Jesus really is everything.
As these new believers read scripture and prayed together their joy was remarkable. They had seen and experienced terrible things but were filled with peace and deep happiness at knowing Jesus. In fact one of them said to us 'When I was in Syria I had a home and possessions, now I have nothing but I have Jesus and I thank God for this war because without it I would not have Jesus.’
Jesus wants us to join him in the dark and difficult places.
We know Jesus has called us to go but not only to easy places or places where we feel safe and comfortable. As we sat together on the floor that day, refugees fleeing war and visitors from a peaceful country in the West, it was deeply humbling to see that the time we spent together and the prayers we shared were an enormous encouragement and comfort to the new believers.
Jesus is making himself known through dreams and visions, but he’s also asking some of us to go and demonstrate his love and be his body. For some that’s a short visit and for others it’s a relocation, to go and live in these communities to make disciples and start churches.
We can all take part by praying for the Middle East and the amazing things Jesus is doing amidst all the brokenness and loss.'