Nisreen came to a Centre of Hope in Qamishli, Syria, supported by Open Doors, looking for a food package. She left with the greatest gift that can be given: the hope found in following Jesus.
“Let the world see that I love the Lord Jesus. He said whoever is ashamed of Me, I will be ashamed of him in front of My Father. So why would I be ashamed of Him? He is my refuge and the shelter of my children!”
Nisreen, Qamishli, Syria
These are the powerful words of Nisreen, a believer from a Muslim background in Qamishli, northern Syria. If you received the latest Open Doors magazine, you might recognise her smiling face from the cover. She is clearly filled with the love of Christ – and Jesus has clearly been calling her since she was young: “The love of Christ was planted in me since I was little,” she says. “I used to see how Christians behaviour is better than ours. I’ve always liked Christians and I used to say to my parents, ‘There is something connecting me and Christians’.”
But Nisreen had yet to fully encounter Jesus and choose to follow Him. That happened when she came to a Centre of Hope in Qamishli, run by Open Doors partner Pastor George and supported by your gifts and prayers.
Like many Syrians, Nisreen’s family were facing a great deal of financial difficulty even before the pandemic. Almost a decade of conflict has made the economy extremely unstable, and many Syrians face poverty. She came to Pastor George’s Centre of Hope looking for food.
“I was in desperate need at that moment,” she remembers. “My children had nothing to eat. I was very tired, I was emotionally exhausted.”
She met with Abu Farid*, a volunteer at the church, and asked for a cup of water while she waited for the food package – which the centre distributes to vulnerable members of the community whether or not they are Christian. When he pointed out that it was Ramadan, and asked if she was fasting, she said she was not.
“Don’t you believe in God?” he asked.
“I have faith in God and feel that He is always with me – but not in the way Islam teaches,” she replied.
“Abu Farid talked to me about Jesus for an hour and a half,” says Nisreen. “At the end, I asked: ‘You talked about Jesus and you said that He came for all people, is it possible that I can become a Christian?’ He replied ‘Of course, Christ came for the whole world!’.”
Nisreen left with the food package she’d gone for. But she also left with something far more precious. She puts it simply: “I met Jesus.”
Being a Christian makes a big difference for Nisreen. “It is indescribable, millions of things have happened. Faith gives me strength. I am not afraid of life anymore.
"Faith gives me strength. I am not afraid of life anymore." Nisreen
"Years ago, I even tried to commit suicide. The most important for me now is Jesus in my life. I see also the difference it makes in Bashar’s, my son’s, life. He was so nervous in the past. The Bible helped him to become calmer. Every time he gets upset, he opens the Bible and calms down.”
Abu Farid is encouraged by seeing Nisreen in church. “It gives me joy. I can see the fruit of the Spirit when I see her. In these hard times of persecution, we see that a lot of people come to the church and we can share the gospel with them.”
Thanks to your prayers and gifts, Open Doors partners in Syria like Abu Farid are able to offer hope to their community. That includes persecuted believers who have fled from elsewhere in the country – but they also offer the good news of Jesus to people like Nisreen, who have never properly heard it before. And they stand with believers from a Muslim background after they have decided to follow Jesus, because they are often the most vulnerable to persecution. Often believers from a Muslim background are ostracised from their families and communities, targeted with violent persecution or even killed.
Nisreen has been luckier than many of her spiritual brothers and sisters who have converted from Islam to Christianity. She hasn’t faced the same levels of opposition from her family that many do – only her mother-in-law thinks she shouldn’t go to church. But Nisreen certainly isn’t protected from the economic devastation that has faced many Syrians, and which is only getting worse during the pandemic.
Your support enables Centres of Hope like Pastor George’s to give vital food, clothes and medical care to people in their community. And, just as importantly, your prayers and gifts mean that hope can be kept alive – and the good news of Christ can be celebrated in a strong, resilient and hopeful church in Syria.