Disillusioned by the war, famine, and terror around them, Syrian refugees living in Turkey are embracing Christianity after experiencing the love and compassion of missionaries in the region.
According to a report from the Christian Aid Mission, thousands of traumatized refugees continue to flow into Turkey in desperate need of aid. Currently, Turkey hosts more than half of all registered Syrian refugees, with at least 2.7 million residing there according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
However, some arrivals are not able to access the official camps to benefit from government assistance, forcing many refugees to live in unofficial, makeshift tent camps that do not provide adequate food, water, or medical assistance.
"Every time we speak with refugee newcomers, we find another sad story that sometimes makes you wordless," an indigenous ministry leader in Turkey who provides aid to such camps told CAM. "We have spoken with a family that has three kids. The husband's wife was captured by ISIS, and they wounded him when he stood against them to try to stop them from taking his wife away from her children. He showed us the scar."
Due to the limited amount of supplies, the ministry sets priorities for distribution, and last week gave out cards indicating who could receive aid. The ministry workers revealed that when members of their team arrive at the camps, refugees come running up them, begging for help - mothers pleading for diapers, baby formula and medical care.
He recalled one particularly heartbreaking story, where the missionaries came upon a 7-day-old newborn who was not moving.
"The baby was just sleeping without moving, and the father and mother said the baby had epilepsy, and that the hospital told them that they have to change the blood," he said. "They are village people, they have no idea what to do, and the mother of the baby kept begging for us to help them with the child."
"They said they have eight children, and they are suffering, and they didn't know how to feed them," he said. "We have to do something for them immediately, and for other suffering families, too. They have been desolate, on their own; they said, 'You see we are dying in front of the Turkish government and people, but nobody cares about us."
Despite such pain and suffering, many refugees are embracing Christ after witnessing the love and compassion of the missionaries, who provide both physical and spiritual care. In a visit to the camp earlier this month, the team went to 200 tents with the aim of providing medical attention to babies and children and proclaiming Christ.
"Our God gave us this opportunity, and we had the opportunity to touch people's hearts; thanks to God, they're asking questions to get to know Him. This opportunity is a treasure for us," the ministry director said.
He added, "We entered each tent and listened to their stories. It leaves us really heartbroken when we listen to their stories, and the living conditions in the camps are becoming worse each day, and we become speechless. But today the good news is that three Syrian refugees accepted Jesus Christ, which is God's miracle, showing us everything is possible for Him."
After experiencing atrocities at the hands of Islamic extremists and the dismissive attitude of Turkey's government, many of the refugees have begun asking about Jesus and Christianity
The ministry director recalled, "We were telling them the difference between Islam and Christianity, and when they heard the difference, they said, 'We didn't know the way of Christianity that you are telling us about.' We are so glad that the Lord is using all of us to reach them, to correct their way and to redirect them. Please pray for us so we can reach more people, and we are also praying for you all so we can assist them in their suffering lives."
The director of another ministry in Turkey told the organization that they were able to provide 150 food boxes, 90 heaters, 200 blankets, 120 boxes of clean water and 100 pairs of shoes to refugee camps, but he confirmed ongoing needs.
"When it was finished, other refugees kept saying, 'We want also; we need, as well,'" he said. "We said, 'Pray for us so God can give us some that we can deliver for you.' They kept saying, 'We are forgotten people here, no one is taking care of us; the government and other organizations have left us on our own.'"
To learn how you can help, visit the Christian Aid Mission website.