BY LAURA HOKANSON
“Why, God? I am dying, my family is hungry, I cannot work! Why is this happening to me?” Renas,* a Syrian refugee in Lebanon did not consider himself a religious man, but in his desperation, he cried out to God. Sadly, his story is a common one. The political-economic situation in Lebanon is critical for all nationalities living there. Seventy percent of gas stations have closed, and government electricity is shut off ninety percent of the time. Hospitals have canceled all procedures not considered life-threatening. Pharmacies have run out of basic medications. The Lebanese, sometimes frustrated by the number of Syrian refugees in the country, make employment and education nearly inaccessible to them so they will not feel comfortable enough to stay. Most refugee families are two to six months behind on rent and eat only one meal per day.
“Renas, don’t be afraid. I will be with you,” a Voice spoke. Renas turned to see a band of shining angels standing in the alley beside him. From that moment he began seeking God.
He found help at the Adventist Learning Center (ALC) where his children attended school. Established in 2013 to help meet the needs of Syrian refugee children in Lebanon, ALC shares the gospel through daily morning devotionals, weekly Sabbath services, an active teen ministry, and Bible study outreach to families. Last year, through miracles of Providence, the ministry was also able to provide food support for families, rent for families on the verge of eviction, and medical assistance for medications and emergency surgeries, including two open-heart surgeries.
Prior to COVID-19, 300 members were attending church services, and they are still being nurtured through Zoom fellowship and small group meetings, as government quarantine restrictions allow. For the last three years, ASAP Ministries has partnered with the General Conference, providing financial support for two ALC teachers. One ASAP-sponsored teacher reported, “We pray with our students every day and the children are recognizing answers to their prayers.”
The Adventist church members, through the ministry of ALC, embraced Renas with love and acceptance. Within a year he was sharing Jesus with all who would listen, “If you want to know who the real people of God are, they are the Seventh-day Adventists,” he says. “They helped me when no one else would.” God miraculously healed his terminal lung disease, and today, Renas is a Global Mission pioneer, leading the first Adventist Kurdish fellowship of about 80 members. Each week he conducts online Bible studies with over 100 Kurdish people around the globe. His wife, Aska,* is an ASAP Bible worker. Each week she visits six to eight refugee families, giving Bible studies and sharing her testimony, in addition to leading a youth ministry program. Already three families have been baptized as a result of the couple’s work and more are asking for Bible studies. Please keep these faithful workers in your prayers.