Helping Mend Shattered Lives in the Middle East

The following article is from Open Doors, a ministry to persecuted Christians worldwide. Open Doors is involved in training youth workers, pastors, refugee workers and others in the basic s of trauma counseling to help suffering Christians in the Middle East.

Living and working in the Middle East means living and working in the midst of wreckage. Wherever you travel in the region you find the traces of conflict. The landscape is marked by whole villages that have been razed and destroyed, by refugee camps that are filled with fear and uncertainty and with the remnants of grandeur that the last titan or dictator has left behind. Amazingly people go on.

They pick up their children, wipe off their tears and try to hope for the future. But when the day is done they are tired and weary. The men show you the scars on their bodies, the woman can't find any sleep and the children grow up haunted by nightmares of the next raid coming to take away their family.

 If you have time to listen, they all have a story to tell. Their stories are wrought by pain and loss. Their stories are blurted out and you can taste the frustration, the bitterness and so often the sheer hopelessness of their souls. There is such a depth to the pain that it is not easy to just sit there and allow it to pour out. So many questions remain unanswered. Why did all these things happen? Where was God? Why does life continue to be so hard? Even as we speak families are picking up what they have left and are leaving. They want to get away from the region and get away from the pain. They want to leave it behind. Even those that are blessed with big houses, healthy sheep and lush olive groves say that they just want to get away from a place that is filled with broken dreams and an uncertain future.

To minister to the church in the Middle East, means to minister to a church that is broken hearted and struggling to survive. Some needs are visible on the outside. Christian villages have been destroyed; churches burnt and other buildings are in decay. But the worst damage is not visible. You don't have to speak to many people to feel and see that spirits are quenched, that the souls are troubled and that faith is something most are desperately trying to hold onto, while they wrestle with a God they do not understand.

Church leaders struggle to lead their flocks and tend to the wounded to inspire hope. But more often and not they are desperate themselves, having faced tragedies so many times that their joy has worn thin. You can see it in their eyes and in their faces. As they visit the families that still remain and the survivors of yet another attack their hearts cannot bear to hear of yet more suffering of yet more leaving them behind in a hostile environment. If you sit with them for 10 minutes they sound impressive and maybe angry; when you sit with them for half an hour, you can hear their pain and their concern; if you sit with them for an afternoon you hear their helplessness and the keen awareness that the church is over challenged with all they are doing.

If we truly want to serve the church in the Middle East we need to help to minister to the brokenness of these people. They don't need simple pat answers or easy solutions. They need people bold enough to listen to their stories, grieve with them about the losses, walk beside them as they ask God "why" and pray with them as they wrestle to forgive. The doors are open. They desperately long for us to come and speak peace to their hearts and to gently weep with their souls. This is the ministry of those that are laboring there.

Would you pray for God to use trauma counselors and to multiply them? The need is great, but the workers are few. We need to see God release more people into our region that are equipped to bring healing and that would minister to the pain of a church that is brokenhearted.