Hana is an Open Doors partner in the Gulf. She travels and meets Christians who are desperate for food and aid, and are often overlooked when it is distributed - on top of the ostracism and persecution they already face.
"It's painful to see the despair in their eyes," Hana* says. "But at the same time, it's beautiful to see faith beaming from their faces.”
"It's painful to see the despair in their eyes, but at the same time, it's beautiful to see faith beaming from their faces.” Hana* says.
Hana is an Open Doors partner in the Gulf, and she has grown used to both those looks as she travels, delivering vital food and aid to persecuted believers. Here, she is speaking about two Christian men who had met together to pray and to think about what they could do to help their families survive. After their time with the Lord, they were still desperate. With no practical answers to their prayer, they were afraid to return home. By the time they got there, Hana's team had visited them with supplies!
An example of the food relief being taken to persecuted Christians in Asia
Hana also visited another family, where the husband suffers from mental health problems as a result of a brutal beating after he was falsely accused of theft, and tortured. They’re the only Christian family in the area, and were targeted for their faith. The family depend on the wife for income – and she received vocational training through Open Doors partners, enabling her to provide for her family.
"This is such a special and precious family,” says Hana. “Because of the lockdown, they are all confined to their home and have no income. When we got to her house, she sat down, called all her children and gathered around the bags we had brought. Then they all thanked the Lord for His provision and they prayed for us, and we for them.
“Our teams have a bold prayer. We ask God to supernaturally multiply whatever we bring, just like He multiplied the fish and the loaves of bread in the Bible. And it was so beautiful to hear this woman pray the same words. She wants to share what she has received, not just with her next of kin, but with others in her community."
The distribution has to be done in secret, however. "If people know there's food in one house, they may break in and rob the family. So every time I leave, I pray a prayer of protection."
Everywhere Hana and her team goes, it is a reminder of “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news” (Isaiah 52:7). She doesn’t come only with food and essential aid – she brings Christian community for some who seldom meet with other believers, particularly during coronavirus restrictions. She shows these believers that they are loved.
"Yes, we don't just bring rice or dahl. We bring a message of hope. Every bag of rice says that there is hope,” says Hana. “The Christian families know that we are standing with them. This makes a massive difference. Even people receive food and vitamins, they function better and make better decisions. We are building their dignity too."
There are thousands of mini-stories like these. One pastor's wife was by herself because her husband was doing work elsewhere. She had to take care of the church. “If I leave and someone comes for help or counselling and nobody is there, they will never trust the church again.” She couldn't even go to the shops, knowing all food would soon be sold out. She didn't starve because Open Doors partners brought her a relief package.
"We know that situations can change instantly. That's why we make sure that we bring large quantities, so that in case the supply chain breaks, they have something to live off,” says Hana. “We bought lots of flour, for example, and that was a good thing. Now it's very hard to buy flour. All the flour you can get is of bad quality, with lots of bugs in it."
This crisis can also be hard on Open Doors partners, who are risking both virus and persecution as they reach those in need. How is Hana personally coping?
“Work has tripled. It's hard. At the same time, it's very special to see how God has prepared this team. The team members are like an arrow and a bow. He's just letting them go. They are showing tremendous strength and capacity."
In another area, team members go out at night to clean benches, tables and cash machines, so that homeless people and people who need money from their bank accounts can be safer. "I'm praising God for them. They have been really courageous. They even printed stickers with Bible verses and phone numbers and leave those in the public areas. That way people who have been challenged can call them. They do phone ministry this way."
The partners also understand how important prayer is, and they get in their individual cars every week, park them near the hospital and just pray for some time. "Nobody knows about these secret prayer meetings,” Hana says. "Only the Christian staff in the hospitals. And they are so encouraged... You can't explain in words how happy they are. They can look out the window. They won't see us, but they know we are there and that we are talking to our Father about them and the patients."
Hana, her team and all Christians in these Muslim countries need a similar praying force behind them. The tragedies they hear about every day are immense. “The brutalities that are happening are too gruesome to be put in print”, she says. “And we are being watched and have to protect the people we work with.” When those brutalities happen to Christians, they are usually ignored by the police.
Hana herself has received her fair share of discrimination and contempt. “I contacted an agency that’s responsible for distribution and asked them to supply Christians with rations as well. The man on the phone blatantly refused. ‘This food has been paid for by Islamic taxes. Besides, we hire Christians to do the distribution.’” Christians are often chosen to do these deliveries, because they are seen as more dispensable than Muslims. Hana investigated how poorly equipped and paid these believers are. “They are thankful they have jobs but they know they could get the disease any time and die.”
One young man told Hana, “But this marginalisation has been the story of our lives; why should we think it would change today?”
That's why restoring dignity, showing care and love are a top priority for Hana and other Open Doors partners – just as important as the food they bring.
Hana adds: "There is one thing you should know about this crisis. Here, in this country and area, we're not suffering because of a virus, because of a lockdown or even because of hunger. We are suffering for the sake of Jesus. This has nothing to do with social or cast differences. This is religious persecution."
And that's why Hana is so grateful for the prayers and financial support she gets from brothers and sisters around the globe. "It has meant so much. You don't have to help us, yet you do it. You help the nations and spread the love of Jesus this way.
“Thank you for those of you who are praying and giving. My team also prays for you. We pray the first verses of Psalm 25 for you: 'Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion which cannot be moved, but abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore.'
“The strength that comes from the Lord for me and you is unshakable and unbeatable. We are so thankful for you. You are truly standing with us."
*All names changed for security reasons.
Every £56 could mean a Rapid Response team can courageously bring emergency aid to a family of persecuted believers.