How does your church get set for Christmas? A massive tree, fancy lights – a nativity scene outside? Nice. We all love re-telling the Christmas story each December, and our churches become one of the key places of where that amazing story is told.
But in Syria, things are a bit different. Pastor B, who leads a church in Tartus has told us: “Because of the war there is no decoration in the church. There are no lights, no Christmas tree. There is pain in every mouth, even our neighbours, there is pain and a lot of grieving. So we as a church, because we respect their feelings, stop these celebrations.”
But that doesn’t mean they aren’t re-telling the Christmas story. They are:
So we as a church, because we respect their feelings, stop these celebrations.
“During Christmas time we go to the camps and we do a play for children. We talk to these children about how Jesus was born in a cave and how Jesus fled from one area to the other, like them, and how God protected Jesus the same way he is protecting them now. And this did not stop Jesus from loving God and obeying his commands. And this is how we should remain also, loving God and obeying his commands.
“When we present the gifts to them, the gifts are brought from the children in the church, and this brings also joy to the families in the church – they learn that the true meaning of Christmas is to go and help those who are in need. Our children they have clothes, but there are children who don’t have any clothes; our children have food and they have shoes, but there are children who have neither food nor shoes.
“We celebrate Christmas now by bringing our church members together and bringing things to give to the children who don’t have anything. This is one beautiful thing at Christmas.”
At Christmas we remember that God came to help us. God became like us to start a process that would end with the cross. He gave up himself to save us. And Pastor B’s church are living out that message of sacrifice and service.
Pastor B’s church in Tartus is supporting 2,000 displaced families every month with the support of Open Doors. He says, “The biggest need is to pay for the rent, and also the need for food supplies and clothes. These families lost their jobs, and lost all their belongings and their homes. And because of them being displaced to these safe areas, the cost of goods in Tartus has risen up ten times, including rent. And now we don’t have any houses for rent, and that has caused lots of problems.”
Open Doors works through local partners and churches like Pastor B’s across Syria. In 2016 we were able to provide support for 12,000 families each month, including food and hygiene packages, blankets, mattresses, winterisation materials, medicines and rent subsidies.
In the first nine months of 2016, Open Doors partners distributed 12,341 Bibles, 1,624 study Bibles, 6,834 children’s Bibles, 73,792 New Testaments and other Christian literature. Many displaced people fled their homes with only the clothes they were wearing, leaving their Bibles behind, while others are coming to church for the first time and asking for Bibles of their own. Pastor B says, “People are thirsty to know more about God.”
Alongside emergency aid and Bibles, Open Doors partners are also providing long-term support such as trauma care, training and micro-loans. Open Doors partners are also helping some families who have been able to return home to rebuild their houses; this is happening in Maaloula, Homs and Damascus.
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.