For many years now, the Middle East has been on my heart. Newer to my line of sight is the current refugee movement. I say refugee movement, rather than refugee crisis, because as a community, we feel strongly to refer to this as such. We have been inspired to use this wording because we do not want to give agreement to the alarmist worldviews but instead are agreeing with a Kingdom-view, that God is on the move, and He is creating a movement of peoples for His greater glory! And this past month I have been privileged to not only witness, but to also play a part in that greater glory as we reached out to the refugees in Greece.
For me, this was also an incredible experience of stepping into another piece of my calling as it pertains to the Arab and Muslim world. One of my highlights was being able to practice my Arabic everywhere I went. Many were shocked when they heard this white girl from America speaking their language! But it opened doors in their hearts. One woman in almost disbelief and a little confusion, asked why did I want to learn their language? With a smile, I answered her in Arabic: “Because I love the Arab people.” I don’t know if it touched her or not. But it was a poignant moment for me. I love them enough to want to reach them in the language that touches their heart strings, and I desire to communicate how valued they are.
On this trip I met Syrians, Kurds, Iranians, Afghanis, Georgians, Nigerians, Kenyans, Sri Lankans, and a handful of other nationalities. But one Syrian Kurdish woman named Awal stood out above all the rest. The church we were connected with in Thessaloniki brought in some refugees for the Sunday service and she was one of them. They released us to pray with people and I was drawn to her. I saw a large softball-sized lump protruding from her side. I didn’t know what it was but I asked if I could pray. She allowed me to, but afterwards was very quick to inform me with vigorous hand gestures that she did not believe in all of this. She believed in Mohammad and Allah; she was a strong Muslim. I smiled back. My God is not intimidated by this.
As we traveled to the refugee camp in Idomeni, we were first equipped with Arabic Bibles to hand out, but we were also strongly urged to use wisdom and be led by the Holy Spirit in knowing who to give them to. Our first priority was simply to shine the love and the light of Christ through our fellowship, our service, and our faces.
Here at the Idomeni camp I would again meet Awal. This time, she invited me into her tent to meet all of her extended family and join them for tea. After a while, she pulled out a single white paper and handed it to me, the doctor’s diagnosis. Her ailment was actually cancer in her lymph nodes and spleen. It was a challenge to my faith. Do I pray for her again now that I know the diagnosis and how severe it is? Did I have faith for this? I faithfully prayed once already. Isn’t that enough? While I have prayed for the curse of cancer to be broken in many others, I don’t recall ever praying that to someone’s face. It often seems we have more boldness when the person struggling with that debilitating disease is not present.
But in God’s eyes cancer is no more difficult than a deaf ear, or a leg that’s too short, and I’ve seen those healed. I desire to see God heal people of cancer through me. The scriptures say, “You do not have because you do not ask.” So I asked. Filled with overwhelming compassion for this precious woman, I explained in broken Arabic that I believed in a God who still heals today. And again she let me pray.
I didn’t see a miracle happen right then. But when I stood to leave later, I felt impressed to hug her and not let go. As I did, the Holy Spirit came on her and I felt her softening in my arms. Walls were beginning to come down. Tears pooled on my shoulder. The door was cracking open and she at last was ready to receive. In Arabic I whispered the words over and over, “Jesus loves you, He loves you!” Still she clung to me. Then I heard her whisper back in my ear, “Benti,” ‘my daughter’.
I was overwhelmed. Family is the center point of all Arab culture. For her to call me daughter, a stranger she had only had two interactions with, is significant beyond words. She saw that I genuinely loved her. And she was beginning to see that God loved her, and even gratefully accepted the Bible that I handed her. I don’t know if she was healed that day or not. The lump did not dissolve, but the hard walls inside of her did. As great as a physical healing would have been, I witnessed something far greater in that moment—the victory of a woman whose heart was now opening to receive the love of Jesus!
“And if I have all prophetic powers, and understand
all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith,
so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”
By: Alicia Grove
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