Soon after the first people from Homs came to the coastal area of Syria, Christians from that region felt urged to help them. “We started with 16 families in Safita,” says Pastor Boutros* as he reflects on the situation in 2012. Now, four years later, his church helps some 3,500 families. “My church has changed,” he says.
The pastor serves a church in Tartus. “It started like the first church. We began visiting families in their homes. We formed a team, including a doctor, a Sunday school teacher, and women. The sisters were able to take care of the women and the Sunday school teacher could care for the children while we visited the families.”
The people were surprised. “We always said to them that we helped them because of what Jesus had done for us.” The numbers of families supported grew rapidly. Facing this growth and seeing the need of many more families, the team had to face the question of whether or not they should continue. “The Lord confirmed to us that He, the Lord of heaven, would give us the strength to continue the work.” The pastor started partnering with Open Doors and other organizations to support the growing ministry. “That was a big jump in order to help many more people.”
It’s not enough to stay inside the walls of our churches; we should go out, we should meet people, and we should go in the name of Jesus and do miracles.
Growth continued. The church is now helping 3,500 families with an average of five members for each family. That makes a total of some 17,500 persons. It is a huge task for the church of Pastor Boutros. “Stories like that of the Good Samaritan and the multiplication of bread motivate us. Jesus said to the disciples ‘give them something to eat’. ‘We have nothing to give them’ was their answer. We feel that Jesus Christ is telling us the same words. We trust that the Lord is the one who is providing.”
“People are emigrating on a daily basis, but we don’t consider that a loss because they will take the message of Christ wherever they go.” Many of the young generation have left. “Men older than 18 normally have to join the army. The militant groups also want to enlist them into the war. Many don’t want to get enlisted, that’s why they are leaving the country.”
“The war changed the church. We understood that we as a church should go beyond the walls of the church. It also emphasised to us that God wants mercy. So it’s not enough to stay inside the walls of our churches, to pray and practice our traditions; we should go out, we should meet people, and we should go in the name of Jesus and do miracles.”
He mentions some examples of change. “The church building is open for all kind of activities, not only for the worship service. What also changed is that it’s not only the pastor who does the work, we now have teams. Each family, each member is involved in taking care of other families.”
The pastor thanks the people who supported his ministry up to now. “I thank each person who is praying for us, I thank each person who has donated to us. On behalf of 17,500 persons who don’t know you, I’m telling you thank you in Jesus’ name. The Lord surprised us. We never expected such growth of the ministry. The Lord is doing a great work.”
Pray for pastor Boutros and his team. The challenge of taking care of so many families is a big one. They need discernment from the Lord about what to do and what not to do. Please ask the Lord to help them deal with the difficult stories they hear. Pray that the Lord will strengthen and heal them and will do so with the people they help too.
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