Powerful testimonies of Christian transformation and salvation are emerging from the war-stricken Middle East in what is reckoned to be the largest refugee crisis in history.
Nearly five million people have had to flee their homes in Syria, but charity Leading The Way has been one of many at work to help those in need. The charity now report several stories of those who have found hope not only though the practical help provided, but through giving their lives to Jesus.
One such story is that of Rima (name changed), a Syrian mother whose name means "hope". Rima's home was destoryed and her husband went missing, leaving her and her sons who fled to seek refuge in Lebanon. She walked through freezing cold temperatures for seven hours to the Lebanon border, where she found limited shelter in a sparse, basic apartment. Leading the Way cites "incredible circumstances" that led one of their teams to visit Rima in her home and provide help.
Leading The Way's Help The Persecuted ministry coordinator Mary described her shock at Rima's living conditions: "What we saw was very heart-breaking. There were no windows, no doors, no heat, no electricity, nothing."
The team that visited her were able to provide essential support, including warm clothes, medical supplies, and a stove as Rima's ten-year old son had become ill with a fever.
They also provided spiritual support, giving Rima one of their Navigator Audio Bibles, but the greatest gift they could give, says Mary, was Christ.
"I asked her if she knew Jesus, that God sent us to her.
She said: "I know that because you are all here," and she could tell that we were going to help her. From there she was just so open. She said, 'Yes I believe in Jesus' and I asked her if she wanted to pray and she said 'yes'."
Rima's story and prayer of conversion can be seen in this video, which includes emotional reactions from Leading The Way's executive vice president Joshua Youssef.
Youssef says that Rima's story of salvation is one among many: "We drew so much hope from the volume of people coming to the Lord. We went to one church where there are 400 Syrian Muslims who've come to Christ, the next church there's 250, meeting five times on a Sunday. That's just two churches.
"You think maybe the Lord is turning this crisis in a way that would benefit the future of Syria in that they're coming to know the Lord and could go back into their countries and re-populate Syria with newly converted Christians. That to me is the most exciting thing about this issue."
Leading The Way's senior director of international operations Allan Guinan said: "These are the stories we don't see in the mainstream news. We see this happening a lot, with people calling our follow up teams and wanting to know about the Lord Jesus. This is an unprecedented opportunity as we're seeing more Muslims coming to Christ than at any other time in our ministry."
The news comes after the Bible Society last week announced "good news from Syria". They reported testimonies about closed streets reopening, the return of the displaced, and she sharing of Bibles bringing joy to many in a time of crisis.
Gaith, a Bible Society source in Syria, said: "We have had very peaceful weeks in Aleppo, where suddenly all the barriers and walls separating us from one another were dismantled. We could suddenly walk through areas – less than five hundred metres from our Bible House – which had been cut off from us for years. There we were walking those streets that had been part of our childhood and tears were streaming down our cheeks."
Syria has not only been desolated by civil war, but remains a site of intense persecution for Christians. Stories like those of Rima, Gaith and many others offer light in an increasingly desperate time.
Gaith adds "So many questions were asked and even though so many are still without answers, we are looking ahead with a lot of hope."