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By Cathy Brandt

Her story broke my heart. A refugee from Syria, this precious woman told our translators and me that after her husband was killed in Syria, she and her three children escaped to a refugee camp in another country.However, in that place of “refuge” she was then raped by some refugee men.

As we gathered around the sobbing young mom, she continued, “I was able to escape with my children to another city where I found a job cleaning a home, but I was again raped by the man who owned that home.” Samira (not her real name) and her children finally found a very small, run-down apartment to rent. She was safe, but in need of many things.

Mike and I had traveled to the Middle East with a small group from Southern California to minister. We partnered with a local ministry and were led to visit in homes of mostly Muslim, Syrian refugees. We listened to stories similar to Samira’s and cried with fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters. Some were able to share how grateful they are to be safe but still grieve loss as the war rages on in their beautiful homeland.

ATW-Refugee-webMike was introduced to his new favorite hot beverage, chai with maramia (Arabic for tea with sage). We drank a lot of tea and strong Arabic coffee infused with cardamom as we sat mainly on cushions and pillows on the floor trying not to offend with our awkward, Western manners. The Muslims Mike visited with (mostly men) were very familiar with nearly all the stories and characters we shared about as we discussed spiritual matters, albeit their versions of many of the stories are skewed through the lens of the Koran. We shared stories about Jesus, the Healer and Savior. We shared our life stories and spiritual journeys, and we wove in the good news of what Jesus has done for them through His death, resurrection, and atonement.

Most of the visits were seed-planting or seed-watering visits. In the Middle East a Muslim is very guarded when it comes to Christianity; following Jesus has many consequences. But on three occasions Mike and I had the privilege (honestly, SUCH an honor) to pray with these precious people as they put their faith in Jesus.

Samira was one such woman. After the translator, using a simple bridge presentation, shared the gospel with her, this dear woman without hesitation said “yes” she wanted to follow this Healer of the broken. The local believers left her with the Bible on a flash drive, which she can listen to as she is illiterate. They also set up a time to meet with her the following week so they could continue teaching her the gospel.

Mike and Cathy build relationships with Muslims at a neighborhood picnic.

Mike and Cathy build relationships with Muslims at a neighborhood picnic.

Mike and I were thrilled to see Samira and many others we had visited later that week at an event for women and children hosted by a local church. Some of the men also came around and brought the children. Samira brought her children and visited a clinic operated by a local NGO in conjunction with the church that meets there. I spoke at the event while Mike was “lucky” enough to have our son assist him in making a couple hundred balloon animals at one of the stations our group manned. How wonderful to see Samira’s smiling face there at the church-sponsored event and to hear that she was listening to her Bible and in the care of local believers.

ATW-Refugee2-webAt the end of our Middle East trip, Mike and I returned home to San Diego with a renewed desire to minister to refugees, a desire we had when we first started our missionary journey. Before we received our call to Papua New Guinea in 1986, we felt drawn to Muslims. We had actually applied with a missions agency to go to Macedonia to live among Albanian Muslims. During that interview with the recruiter in our home in Des Moines, Iowa, our then five-year-old son interrupted us and said, “No, Daddy. God wants us to go to New Guinea!”

Now twenty years later that same son is studying Arabic and loving Muslims on their own turf while we are surrounded by them here in California in our own backyard. Shortly after returning home from our trip, we were invited to a picnic for Syrian refugees. We were thrilled to see how our experiences in the Middle East and our little bit of learned Arabic opened doors. (Arabic is actually the third most spoken language in California.)

There is no doubt that God has brought Muslim and other refugees to America where they can hear the good news of Jesus. We have the nations on our doorsteps and unending opportunities to be salt and light to broken and hurting people like Samira.

Cathy-Brandt-authorboxoCathy Brandt and her husband, Mike, are Open Bible missionaries. The Brandts are on furlough until the beginning of 2018.

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