That was the first point of my message last Sunday morning, from Romans 8. Unfortunately, this was not just a theological, historical or theoretical sermon.
Earlier in the week, I had received a distraught Facebook message from a friend and member of my congregation. Much of her family lives in Syria. She’d been messaging with her cousin, when he sent her a description of what the Syrian people have been enduring there for far too long.
She forwarded the message to me, telling me how helpless she feels and asking me to pray. I assured her I would. And I did.
As I prepared for Sunday’s sermon, I wasn’t able to shake her cousin’s message from my mind and heart. I still can’t. I called her on Saturday night and asked her if I could share it with the church. She agreed.
Crying and Groaning
On Sunday I taught about how Paul in Romans 8 describes creation as being like a woman crying in labor over all the pain in the world. How the Holy Spirit groans in wordless prayers from within us when we don’t even know how to pray. And how none of the very real suffering in the world can separate us from the love of Christ.
Then we distributed the elements of holy communion and, as everyone held the bread and cup in their hands, I read her cousin’s heartbreaking message.
I asked her if I could publish her cousin’s message here and she encouraged me to do so. We have to see this as more than a political dilemma. These are real people and real families whose lives are being destroyed. And it directly touches my church family. I hope by publishing it here that it will touch you, too.
For their safety, I have edited out all names. And I have cleaned up some of the broken English. Otherwise, it is word-for-word as written last week from family to family.
Too much news.
Not having electricity, heat or water is nothing compared to what is happening.
Inflation went to 500% with no work. Bread is hard to get and so is medicine. Meat is a dream.
Your uncle’s house and some of his sons are gone, and no one knows whether they are still alive as the security forces are killing thousands of hostages. Some other relatives lost two sons when the army was killing people in the streets and their homes.
Your aunt’s husband, a taxi driver, was found slaughtered.
Over one million houses destroyed, ten million Syrians displaced, of which three million have fled to neighboring countries.
Many people sleep in the streets and are starving. Too many orphans. Lucky families have one room for the entire family to live in.
Too many checkpoints harassing people or taking their food away after shopping.
The most conservative estimate is 120,000 lost their lives and many more wounded, some who lost body parts.
Mass graves – who knows how many.
Prisoners – 230,000, mostly women and children.
Some towns do not exist any more and many more were wrecked.
Poisonous gas was used to stop the opposition advancing toward the center of Damascus, but hit thousands of civilians in many towns while they were asleep.
Many lives could have been saved if there were some medicine and water.
Last night, my friend forwarded me another Facebook message from her cousin.
Today in Syria, the security forces wanted to use 1300 opposition prisoners as a human shield at the expected targets USA intends to hit. While they were on their way out of prison, another group from the opposition were able to set them free.
When she asked her cousin how they’re hearing news like this, he replied:
Every community or group has created a Facebook page to post local news. The government always tries to crack down on such activists but there are many of them creating more sites on Facebook. Anyone captured passing news may pay with his life for that.
If USA strikes and civilians are killed by the strike, they may have been prisoners used as human shields to show that USA is killing innocent people.
The Syrian people are acting with profound courage in the face of pure evil.
Hope In a Hopeless Situation
No one knows how to fix Syria. Not the president, the congress or the United Nations. Not you. Not me.
But as I read this heartbreaking note to my church on Sunday I remembered something very important and it stirred my hope. Damascus, Syria was the city a murderous monster named Saul was heading towards almost 2,000 years ago, hell-bent on persecuting and killing Christians, when the risen Jesus stopped him dead in his tracks.
Because of that interruption, Saul’s heart was changed, murder was stopped and the Apostle Paul went on to write more bible books than anyone else.
Changed hearts are the only answer. If Jesus did it for Damascus then, he can do it for Damascus today.
Pray for Peace
On Sunday, our church did the only thing we could do.
We ate the bread and drank the cup of the Lord’s Table together. We prayed. We cried. We hugged. We sang. We worshipped.
And now I pass it on to you.
Pray for wisdom.
Pray for peace.
Pray for changed hearts.
Pray for the people of Syria.
So what do you think? Will you pray for the people of Syria?
We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
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